How to Write a Business Letter That Delivers Bad News

Updated on February 3, 2018

Sometimes in business, you simply cannot avoid writing a letter that has bad news. However, you can try to write the letter in such a way as to maintain a good relationship with the recipient, as well as breaking the bad news in the easiest way. You don’t want to burn any bridges in business, so it really is to your advantage to write an effective bad newsletter.

When writing the letter, your objectives should focus on:

  1. Minimizing damage to the relationship: Bad news should not define the relationship.
  2. Showing that the decision is fair and reasonable: Imagine yourself in the reader’s shoes, and try to offer the best explanation possible.
  3. Stating the bad news clearly and firmly:
  • The opening should have a buffer to minimize any damage to the relationship. Use a positive or neutral opening to maintain goodwill.
  • The body should include reasons to help the reader see it from your point of view. You want to show that you are being both fair and reasonable. Be clear and firm about the bad news, but also be brief, positive, and low key about it.
  • Closing should contain an appropriate gesture of goodwill, and perhaps a potential solution for the reader’s problem.

Bad News Letter Example #1

Dear Bill,

Your invitation for me to act as chairperson for BCCJ’s upcoming Annual Auction Dinner is an honor. I enjoyed serving in that role last year. Your members are an excellent group with great ideas, and it was a privilege to work with them.

This year I am involved in developing a new department here at the clinic that is taking up all my time. As much as I would enjoy working with BCCJ again, I am afraid that I wouldn’t be able to give the duties the attention the project deserves.

Perhaps I may suggest one of my colleagues who would have the time to do the job the way it ought to be done. Give me a call if you are interested, and I will be happy to suggest some names for you. We want the industry to be well represented.

I wish you and the committee great success in achieving this year’s goal.

The letter was straightforward and polite. The writer provided an excellent reason for the refusal of the position, but also left the door open for a future relationship. As well, the writer provided a possible solution at the end.

Bad News Business Letter Example #2

Dear Ms. Hodges,

Thank you for ordering our professional Chinese wok set. You will find that wok-cooked foods are both delicious and quick to fix.

We have sent you an added bonus: 2 extra inches of cooking area, thanks to our supplier’s generosity. This 16-inch wok is more efficient than the advertised 14-inch wok. Now you can create Chinese meals with a professional flair with this package that includes cooking racks, chopsticks, a rice paddle, and a steel turner, in addition to a wok base and lid. To complete your collection, the skewers and cookbook will arrive by April 22.

Remember that Figby’s offers specialized items for all your cooking needs. Please stop by on May 10 for a free demonstration on preparing Japanese sushi. You may also want to take advantage of our special prices on Japanese cookware, which will only be available that week.

Sincerely,

Harry Figby

This bad newsletter covers the fact that the wok Ms. Hodges ordered is not available by upgrading it to a better, bigger wok. As well, it is so positive in tone that the reader might not realize that the entire set she ordered hasn’t arrived on time, as two pieces of it will arrive later. This bad newsletter did not focus at all on the negative, but delivered its message in a positive way. Harry Figby also extended an opportunity for a future relationship by informing Ms. Hodges of upcoming sales and events.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        ham 

        13 months ago

        good picture

      • profile image

        Andy 

        5 years ago

        Thank you so much.

      • profile image

        abdenour 

        5 years ago

        Very Useful letters with real life examples

        thanks

      • profile image

        khalid 

        5 years ago

        good informtion

      • profile image

        kiran 

        6 years ago

        its great example n help full too :)

      • profile image

        Gulshaan Maqsood 

        6 years ago

        very nice and great lgic use by writer

      • profile image

        H H RAI 

        6 years ago

        GOOD INFORMATION ABOUT HOW TO DELIVER BAD NEWS

      • profile image

        Muhammad Yasir 

        6 years ago

        Nice to see the examples. In bad news letter , there is no "No Word " directly but off-course indirectly . Thanks for sharing.

      • profile image

        Ghansham 

        6 years ago

        I really appreciate from these two examples I got a lot of knowledge from these examples thanx sir

      • profile image

        sneha 

        6 years ago

        good example of gooddwill

      • profile image

        sneha 

        6 years ago

        good example of gooddwill

      • profile image

        ghulam ali pitafi 

        6 years ago

        good explanation is given.

      • profile image

        samira sultana 

        6 years ago

        Exellent example.all are good epecially the cheese burger formet is great.

        thanks a lot for creative structure to share ....

      • profile image

        sameer 

        6 years ago

        gud example

      • profile image

        umair ilyas 

        7 years ago

        burger example is very usefull

      • profile image

        Dhruvang 

        7 years ago

        Very helpful post

        Thank you very much

      • profile image

        zoha 

        7 years ago

        thanks it help me allot in my studies

      • profile image

        George White 

        7 years ago

        Any sample on how to deliver a bad news email letter to customer who's device warranty expired?

      • profile image

        Wahid 

        7 years ago

        There are outstanding first example along with also second example bed news letter. it was very consequently words and proper form just like burger type position

      • profile image

        Former CSer 

        7 years ago

        As previously mentioned, the second letter is very well written, but is not an ideal letter to send unless you know your recipient and their needs quite well. It is imperative to explain the situation to the customer, to keep them from feeling tricked or mislead. If I were to receive that letter, I would immediately know that something was wrong with my order, and would then have to reach out to get to the bottom of the issue - if it had been stated ahead of time, I would simply let the situation be.

        This is obviously not true of every recipient, but during my time as a Sales Consultant and Sales Supervisor, I have seen enough emails and letters to know that many customers would send back an anxious or angry reply. Like the previous commenter said, size especially is often a huge factor in the purchase of an item, especially a kitchen item; the customer may need that specific size for their dishes or stove to, and may not appreciate feeling as though their order was disregarded and not listened to.

      • profile image

        Barbie 

        7 years ago

        Hi, I deeply appreciate the cheese-burger example. It has made the content interesting, systematic, and easy to understand.

        Thanks for sharing your scholarly ideas.

      • profile image

        kolo pachinko 

        7 years ago

        thnx very useful

      • profile image

        Mlika Azhar 

        7 years ago

        jzak Allah for very useful information and examples

      • profile image

        dave is correct 

        7 years ago

        I wouldn't do business with Figby's ever again. That "bad news" letter is garbage; obfuscation. How 'bout fessing up, just a little.

        Thank the Lord I don't have to deal with people like that.

      • profile image

        siamirza 

        7 years ago

        very thankful information i learn a lot

      • profile image

        sona & tammy 

        7 years ago

        it was awesome ,it really help us to answer the question of our mam

      • profile image

        minhgiau@yahoo.com 

        7 years ago

        It's very useful advise. Thank you very much

      • profile image

        Finda 

        7 years ago

        Thanks, the cheesburger example has been helpful.

      • profile image

        funky23 

        7 years ago from Deutschland

        i belive i saw that on the register today

      • wpexplorer profile image

        wpexplorer 

        7 years ago from USA

        I liked this article a lot. I feel that most the time people like to write about the things "we should do" and not the things "you shouldn't do". You did a great job here. Very useful - thanks!

      • profile image

        banuel 

        7 years ago

        Reading this i finally took a break from my job. This post just gave me a few minutes of relax =] I tried to find a rss feed on your site so that i could subscribe for some more. Ill be sure to come here more often from now on =]

        Business Loan

      • profile image

        ghazala 

        7 years ago

        very useful and very well written

      • profile image

        qamar abbasi 

        7 years ago

        thanks,i learn a lot

      • profile image

        Mava 

        7 years ago

        Quite useful,

        Thanks

      • profile image

        marva 

        7 years ago

        good idea

      • profile image

        zainab 

        7 years ago

        examples are good but not related to academic point of view.i need a sample of refusal letter from educational institute..............thanx

      • profile image

        YNi 

        8 years ago

        It is a great help for me to unfortunately I have an exam of managerial communication, it helps since i couldn't get it on any books that I refered...

        Thanks a lot

      • profile image

        Dheen 

        8 years ago

        I like the communication style and good formatting.Useful Idea.

        Thanks

      • profile image

        hammad 

        8 years ago

        thanks i got the main idea from example 1......

      • profile image

        adnan  

        8 years ago

        oh i got assignment of bad news that's why i like to remmeber the chees burger structure in my mind while delivering presentation on bad news letters.

      • profile image

        ALI 

        8 years ago

        A VERY HELPFUL INFO . V.NICE

      • profile image

        cici 

        8 years ago

        i just want to know the reason why we should choose a beast way to tell a bad news

      • profile image

        Hiba 

        8 years ago

        Great example.. Thankyou!

      • LeanMan profile image

        Tony 

        8 years ago from At the Gemba

        Good hub, loved the burger illustration, BUT; what about the lettuce???

      • profile image

        merja ndiili 

        8 years ago

        great examples.... using it for my english notes. i see good marks comin my way

      • profile image

        cecilia 

        8 years ago

        good materials. it will do great help to us

      • profile image

        asra liaquat 

        8 years ago

        thanks for given this information and i like burger example this is very easy.

      • profile image

        Frank Crandell 

        8 years ago

        Good set of standard letters with which to draw from the next time I need to share some bad news.

      • profile image

        MerryBaloch 

        8 years ago

        Really! if every bad news would be written on this format than there won't be damages in relationships..........

      • profile image

        rahim aman  

        9 years ago

        hay thanks for such kind of information really its great

      • profile image

        mr's farrukh rai  

        9 years ago

        very great informations

      • profile image

        roheel 

        9 years ago

        great information. very useful.thanx

      • profile image

        fatima shaika 

        9 years ago

        thanks for giving the best example.

      • profile image

        Shadman khanzada 

        9 years ago

        thanxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx i got what i want to know through the above sample

      • cashmere profile image

        cashmere 

        9 years ago from India

        Love the burger illustration. Really great hub.

      • ontheway profile image

        ontheway 

        9 years ago

        How to Write a Bad News Business Letter

        very good, I support you, come on , welcome to my hub!

      • profile image

        iMindMap 

        9 years ago

        Thanks for the key point to be more effective in writing.

      • profile image

        Josh Chandler 

        9 years ago

        This hub gives the bad news in a good way, a great way to show how exactly to set out a "bad business letter", I have certainly learnt a bunch from the information you have provided on this page, thanks a lot!

      • livelovecoffee profile image

        livelovecoffee 

        9 years ago from Georgia

        These are great tips and it is very informative! Great hub

      • Ken Devonald profile image

        Ken Devonald 

        9 years ago from Edinburgh

        Thanks for the tips! Will come in handy!

      • businessbooster profile image

        businessbooster 

        9 years ago from Somerset UK

        Where i used to work we called the cheeseburger structure the s**t sandwich!

      • profile image

        Vietnam 

        9 years ago

        Thanks for your useful information

      • profile image

        Amit 

        9 years ago

        Good Information. Great example...Thanks

      • profile image

        amoxicillin 500 

        10 years ago

        Great and useful information. Thanks for sharing it with us.

      • BizzyMuse profile image

        BizzyMuse 

        10 years ago from Southern California

        Stacie - great hub with a lot of useful information. I find myself having to write more of those bad news business letters lately. I'm going to keep the cheeseburger in mind!

      • Stacie Naczelnik profile imageAUTHOR

        Stacie Naczelnik 

        10 years ago from Seattle

        Thanks Jim! Glad to hear others in the field find it applicable.

      • crashcromwell profile image

        crashcromwell 

        10 years ago from Florida

        Hi Stacie! I teach Contemporary Business Communications for the University of Phoenix online, and we actually have an assignment related to this subject, which is why I chose to read this hub. You handled the subject impeccably well. As I would say to one of my students, you hit the ball out of the park!

        Jim Henry, aka crashcromwell

      • misterpm profile image

        misterpm 

        10 years ago from Netherlands

        Thx! I like the cheeseburger structure

      • greathub profile image

        greathub 

        10 years ago from Earth

        I liked the burger's example. Great example!

      • johnleybolt profile image

        johnleybolt 

        10 years ago

        i got a piece of bad news letter :-)

      • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

        Jyoti Kothari 

        10 years ago from Jaipur

        a very good, bad news letter. I really apreciate it. I would like to join ur fan club.You are needed in the business forum.

        I am ur fan now.

        I have written some hubs on business you may check this and advice.

        Thanks,

        Jyoti

      • RyanRE profile image

        RyanRE 

        10 years ago from Bellingham, WA

        Nice Hub. Nobody likes to hear bad news. I bet you are pretty good at the "breakup" speech too. LOL...

      • rainmakerrain profile image

        rainmakerrain 

        10 years ago from United States

        I've used the approach of the second example many times--and its success really depends on the products you offer. Size, for example, is a very important feature for most people, and you should never assume that larger is better. In the second example, I'd first let the customer know that the product is unavailable and offer a solution - the larger product. Sending a product of different size without notice might create a lot of problems, especially with shipping, refunding, and losing goodwill no matter how positive you are.

      • Veronica profile image

        Veronica 

        10 years ago from NY

        Great Hub! Great ideas! The organization of the letters really facilitates the point with professionalism, positiveness and flow. I like how you broke it down, then gave the two examples. Really well done.

      • Joel McDonald profile image

        Joel McDonald 

        10 years ago from Denver, Colorado

        Excellent hub Stacie!

        I often have to deal with confrontation, and sometimes, it's EXTREMELY hard to start off in the positive, but you're absolutely right -- whenever I do things that way, the dialogue goes much smoother.

      • stevemark122000 profile image

        stevemark122000 

        10 years ago from Southern California

        Very useful information, thanks

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