Simple Advice: Don’t Go Silent When Bad News is Inevitable

Quite some time ago, we got some bad news from a vendor we used to work with. A major deadline was going to be missed, and a deliverable we were counting on was not going to arrive on time. We had discussed this deadline with our vendor openly and emphatically as being important to us. We needed the work from the vendor to complete an assignment for one of OUR clients. So the accountability was flowing downstream beyond us. By missing this deadline, the vendor was not only hurting The Latimer Group, but was also hurting our client. And we had communicated that multiple times. This was a big deal, and our vendor knew it.

And as the deadline approached, we began asking for updates, and our requests were being met with no response. We reached out again. Silence. Again. More silence…

Uh oh… We decided days before the deadline that it was probably going to be missed, so we began communicating clearly to our client that the schedule was going to need to be adjusted. They were NOT happy, but they understood and appreciated hearing from us early, so they would have time to adjust on their end.

And what did we get from our vendor? More silence. Right up until the moment they were putting the deliverable in the mail. Then, and only then, did we hear back from them… three days late, by the way.

We managed it on our end with our client, and there was no tangible negative impact to our client relationship. But our relationship with our vendor was significantly damaged. We gave them an extremely harsh rebuke, told them exactly how we felt, and specifically that we would not tolerate such behavior again. We made it clear that if it happens again, we would take our business elsewhere. Their credibility was injured and their leash was suddenly a lot shorter.

It didn’t have to be this way. They were running behind, they were busier than usual that month and they were behind on lots of things. Hey… it happens to lots of businesses, especially small ones. But the mistake was their silence. People will forgive an occasional missed deadline, as long as there is proactive communication and some explanation. In my experience, most people are in general very understanding. If things like a missed deadline only happen occasionally, and if you communicate honestly and proactively, more often than not, you will get understanding. But if you go silent, and don’t manage the expectations, the problem becomes a lot worse than the missed deadline. The problem escalates.

Just don’t go radio silent. That’s the worst possible thing you could do.

Have a great day.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.