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

bad news

I got some bad news the other day from a vendor we 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 this 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 exactly 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 is a lot shorter now.

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. People in general are very understanding. If it only happens occasionally, and if you communicate honestly and proactively, more often than not, they will understand.

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

Have a great day.

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Photo: Damian Gadal


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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.