How to Write a Business Letter That Delivers Bad News
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:
- Minimizing damage to the relationship: Bad news should not define the relationship.
- Showing that the decision is fair and reasonable: Imagine yourself in the reader’s shoes, and try to offer the best explanation possible.
- 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
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.
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.