How to Deliver Bad News

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

Is there a right way to deliver bad news to an employee?

We’ve had an advisor with us for 10 months. The expectation was that he was joining us as a “rain maker” to bring new AUM. I understand COVID has changed things, but now he tells me his favored approach is to circulate with high-net worth individuals in person. He says he doesn’t do as well virtually and I should lower my expectations.


I don’t agree. If you know how to grow, you ought to know how to do it in all conditions. How do I tell him I’m extremely unhappy and his time with us might be limited if he doesn’t change his tune quickly?


Dear S.A.,

These times are challenging on so many fronts and for many people in the way they are used to being successful. I conducted a four-day training this week and when we asked about obstacles to success, many of the participants noted how challenging it is to interact with prospects and clients virtually when they are so used to, and skilled at, doing it in person. I share this because before you go full board criticizing him and putting him on notice, consider how you could help him make a behavioral shift and take his in-person skills to the virtual world. I have another client whose entire sales force was an in-person, go to the office team and now they are relegated to the phones. They are seasoned, savvy salespeople, but they are struggling because it is very different and they need to learn new behaviors.