How to reply to an email with bad news

Table of Contents

Don’t Beat Around the Bush

• When delivering bad news over email, it’s important not to beat around the bush. Get right to the point in the first paragraph by clearly stating the bad news. Drawing things out or hiding the news in the body of the email just makes things worse.

Explain the Situation

• After presenting the bad news upfront, take the time to explain the situation. Provide context around why this decision was made or why this bad news has occurred. The more context you can provide, the better the recipient will understand the reasoning.

Express Empathy

• Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient. Express empathy for their situation. Phrases like “I understand this must be difficult news to hear” or “I can only imagine how frustrating this must be” go a long way.

Own the Outcome

• As the bearer of bad news, take ownership over the outcome. Use language like “I take responsibility for…” or “I apologize that this decision has caused…” to demonstrate that you own the consequences.

Offer Support

• After delivering the bad news, explain how you or your team can support the recipient going forward. Offer to have a phone call to discuss in more detail, connect them with an employee who can help, or provide resources to aid with any changes that need to be made.

Close with Next Steps

• End the email by outlining any next steps, if applicable. Conclude by expressing your appreciation for their patience and understanding.

• Replying to emails with bad news is never easy, but following these tips will help soften the blow. And if you ever get stuck on how to word a tricky response, check out the superReply Chrome extension. It provides email templates and AI writing assistance so you can quickly draft empathetic, well-worded replies.

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