Recently a colleague told me that it just occurred to him, the more senior he got, the more bad news he seemed to receive. I jokingly replied “do you just realise that now? welcome to the club”
The reasons why this “phenomenon” happens are many but the common sense explanation is you are now the senior escalation point, for your teams, your clients and your partners. Things are often escalated when they are extremely good or bad in nature. People often don’t share things that are not “worth” sharing.
Receiving bad news frequently is not a fun thing. Sorry that is an understatement, hearing extremely bad news on a frequent basis could lead to many severe consequences to your mental health, productivity if you don’t know how to deal with them appropriately.
Before going into some of the solutions that I have tried, let’s discuss what could often happen when you are in senior positions, and receive bad news frequently.
At the minimum, it could feel lonely at times and you feel like no one understands what you are going through. Everyday is a struggle because you have to fight fire everyday. Personally when I go through days like this I often feel “spent” around 5pm. I dont have more mental bandwidth to do anything in the evening.
Also as the pressure you put on yourself is way too big, you feel stressed, which may lead to lack of sleep and other issues.
It could get more severely and you may feel depressed a bit and it shows. The entire team is getting affected by your mood. As a leader, especially a senior leader, you have an oversize influence on the mood of the entire office.
And after a while, you start thinking about quitting, just so that the pain could go away and you could start fresh again. Well at least this is one possibility.
What could you do about this?
Many if not all of what I mention below could sound quite common sense, but many of them would not be acted upon. When you are deep in it, it is quite hard to be rational and it’s alright. It’s part of the learning, growing process. There are certain things that you have to experience it to get to the next level.
You don’t have to deal with it all by yourself
Even if you are the CEO of the company, you don’t have to deal with all of these bad news by yourself. This may seem like a sign of “weakness” but my best remedy is often to talk about it with someone. It could be your mentor, another senior colleague or your life partner. You may be surprised, your colleague may be going through the exact same thing and you both could help each other out by listening and offering some advice?
Get your team to join in to find a solution
Similarly, don’t assume that you have to find the solution all by yourself either. Remember, as human being, we don’t like to be told what to do, we want to feel that we contribute to the solutions, or even better, we are the one that think of the solution. We feel more empowered And as we own the solution, we are more willing to go ahead with it despite difficulty. So again you have to do this tactfully but talking to your team, explain to them the full context and ask for their contribution to solving the problem are not bad things. It also helps you to build trust with your team. Ask the right question for everyone to get started and explore suitable solutions with them.
Have a sense of humor
Try a joke, get a good laugh, there is no harm in that and you never know, it may help!
Receiving bad news is still better than receiving no news
Personally I find it better to know the extremely bad news as soon as possible so that we could formulate a response. Also if your team does not feel comfortable enough to tell you the bad news early, you may have a bigger problem at hand, bigger than the bad news for sure.
So that’s about it from me. I am no expert in this subject so this post is more about sharing my own experience more than anything. Do you have anything to share/to add on? Feel free to drop your comments here or reach out to me directly.
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