3JM Company Inc.

Published Articles by David Balovich

Published in: Creditworthy News
Date: 10/2/98

A reader writes: "Some of my supervisors feel that I need to be shielded from bad news. They think they are doing me a favor when they keep a problem from me that may go away before I find out about it. As a result, I've had to deal with some big problems in the area of customers and employees that could have been easily handled had I known the situation early on. What can I do to change this?"

Simply telling your supervisory staff that you want to hear bad along with good news is not enough. They have to be reassured that they will not be the unfortunate messenger who is shot for bringing bad news and that you, as the boss, can handle negative information.


Asking the popular boss question "How are things going?" will not encourage a flood of information good or bad. The typical response to this type of question is optimistic and uninformative. Ask questions that deal with specifics:

How is the new cash application person working out?

Is the new credit scoring system improving our application processing as much as we thought it would?

Have our new follow up procedures improved Amalgamated's payments?

Questions such as these convey that you are familiar with the operations and not just asking questions to seem interested.


In the 70's and 80's management programs taught us to only accept problems if they were accompanied by solutions. The idea was if there is no solution there is no problem. This thinking, although correct, has prevented us from finding about problems simply because not everyone subordinate to us is capable of finding the solution. Recognize that your experience and grasp of wider possibilities can have a positive effect on the problem solving ability of subordinates. It is one of your functions to teach.


It is not easy to be joyful when receiving bad news, but it is possible to downplay the glumness of the moment. Rather then reacting in a negative manner upon hearing bad news try:

I'm glad you came to me with this now rather then waiting any longer.


This could have been worse but now we have the opportunity to fix it before it can create some real damage.

The chances of getting negative information timely is determined by the relationship you promote between you and your subordinates. A hostile and remote relationship promotes the with holding of information. A friendly and approving relationship encourages employees to come to the boss with whatever they feel is important, good or bad.

I wish you well.

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