News & Insights

Using Humor to Deliver Bad News

By February 22, 2022March 7th, 2022No Comments

When was the last time you presented bad news as the leader? Did it go the way you were hoping, or did you see confused and angry faces looking back at you?

Thankfully, the act of stating bad news doesn’t always have to end with you getting the short stick. Bad news can be presented in many ways depending on your style, situation, or goals for the conversation. One of these ways is with the use of humor. While this may not seem like the conventional choice, humor is a great way to change your employees’ mindsets, emotions, and responses.

If you have tried playing with different methods of delivering bad news and none of them have gone well, it may be time to look at humor to help.

Why You Should Consider Using Humor

Most comedians need to write a script in order to construct a funny joke or string of jokes, understand timing, know their audience, and use the proper vocabulary. These same steps can also be applied when giving bad news at work. Instead of going in blind, it could be wise to plan out how to present the information. It may seem like a lot of steps just to say a sentence worth of information, but it can change your employees’ reactions and responses to something more manageable. If you spend time thinking through your delivery, it will pay big dividends when you’re actually delivering the news.

A crucial point to keep in mind while writing your “script” is that not everyone will find the same topics funny. The idea of humor can vary from person to person. To ensure you are connecting with your workers in the ways that count, make sure to keep anything offensive, such as race, gender, sexuality, or any other possible discriminatory factor, out of your words. This will help keep the jokes clean and overall easier to swallow, even though you are presenting bad news.

The One Time You Can Be Brutally Honest

One of the defining characteristics of jokes is how brutally honest they can be. Comedians don’t hold back, and that is why they get laughs and why their audience connects with them. If they beat around the bush, their audience wouldn’t understand the reason for the gag or they might risk their audience taking it the wrong way. This can also be true of delivering bad news. When you construct your speech with the humor you want to use, you don’t want to leave any wiggle room to allow your employees to take it in a different direction. Your main goal is to get your point across.

Getting Laughs Instead of Frowns

If you choose to use a comedic angle to help deliver bad news, you are causing your employees to instinctively laugh as well as take in the information you’ve given. Laughing can make their minds shift perspective on the subject and look at it from a humorous angle instead of a negative one. This could cause them to be more open to the ideas being presented and show them not everything needs to be considered a downer. Humor helps create a connection between you and your employees while also getting your point across. It could help defuse tensions after the news is stated and leave them a bit more understanding instead of upset.

How Humor Can Help Your Employees Process the News

Many people already cope with bad news by laughing. If you think a coping mechanism is needed in your circumstance, you can start your spiel with the bad news while connecting it to whatever joke or funny outlet you plan to use. You could even end with a positive outlook on the bad news. By adding something cheerful, you can help not leave a sour taste in the mouth of your employees and keep them motivated to continue the day.

Accepting The Tough Crowds

Humor is a great way to get across some not-so-fun news and give your employees a little laugh at the same time. However, you are still revealing lousy information to your workers in the end. Some may not react how you were hoping, or you may need to do some more explaining. Just like comedians have audience hecklers, you may still have some employees who react negatively. It is important to remember to get your point across the best you can and keep your employees properly informed. Honesty wins in the end.

At Wickham James, we love finding solutions to big problems in the workplace. We strive to create stronger internal communication systems to help improve the connections between employers and employees. To discuss what this could look like in your business, we encourage you to reach out to our team.