Don’t Break Bad News To Your Boss Until You Have A Solution To The Problem

Don’t Break Bad News To Your Boss Until You Have A Solution To The Problem

When something at work doesn’t go right — be it a delayed project, an angry client or your own personal cock-up — it is imperative that your boss knows about it. After all, they should know about incidents within the business and it’s their responsibility to make the decision on how to fix the problem. But don’t just charge into their office, announce that there’s an issue and then expect them to clean up the mess for you.

Curious boss image from Shutterstock

Yes, it’s your boss is responsible to be the face of the company when things go wrong and they’re the ones that make the executive decisions on what happens in the event of a screw up. But that doesn’t mean they enjoy doing it. When a problem arises, the worst thing you can do is dump it on to them and expect a solution.

Being the former CEO of General Electric and the founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute, Jack Welsh has a wealth of management experience under his belt. When it comes to breaking the bad news to your boss, here’s what he has to say in a recent blog post:

“[W]hen you walk into your boss’s office with a troubling situation, always walk in with its solution too, or, at a minimum, a route to its solution. And do that sooner rather than later; denial and delay only make matters worse.
“The truth is, bosses have to hear bad news. It’s their responsibility. It’s their job. And they know that. But your star will certainly rise if you embrace that it’s your responsibility and job to take the lead in fixing the bad news you’ve delivered.”

Things can go wrong at work. It’s part of every business. Just don’t do a dump and run at your boss when a screw up happens. Be prepared to stick it out with them and find a way to remedy the mess. Your boss will thank you for it.

[Via LinkedIn Pulse]


  • Some bosses will thank you for it. Others will dither for months until it gets much much worse.

  • Depends on their ego. Most of the time it works.

    I’ve had one think I kept them in the dark to save my own arse. I took advice from Dilbert. Arrive with two solutions, even if one is patently absurd, because some managers want the choice all to themselves. Just don’t shoot yourself in the foot later and mention you actually used Dilbert to handle your boss to your boss like I… I mean my colleague did.

  • Disagree. Don’t wait so long that your boss hears the bad news from someone else.

    If you can’t come up with a solution quickly (say, before close of business), you’re already in over your head and you should definitely bring it up.

    (Edit: Seriously though, if you can’t take a few seconds to come up with some potential routes to at least investigate as solutions, and your line of reasoning for each, then why are you even handling this type of job? “I have literally no idea how to fix this.” “Well, do you know who to start asking, at least?” It really is this simple.)

  • If the solution involves something the boss has to do then I’d be very careful in how you present the idea.

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