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Bad news not necessarily bad for employee engagement

March 28, 2016
by Nicole Stempak, Senior Editor
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You don’t need to sugarcoat the news to keep employees engaged.

In 2015, Michelle Gielan conducted a study with Arianna Huffington and researchers Shawn Achor and Brent Furl to see how people react to bad news. They found that watching or listening to just three minutes of negative news in the morning can lead to a 27 percent higher likelihood of carrying that disempowering mindset to work.

Avoiding bad news altogether isn’t a solution, so the team did a follow-up study to see how to separate bad news from having a bad day.

They found that simply telling the bad news makes people feel like they can’t change the outcome. But, if the problem is discussed along with potential solutions they could implement themselves, people are empowered to think creatively about how they could make a difference.  

"Reminding the brain that there is a path forward allows you to import that empowered mindset to other challenges," Gielan, author of "Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Postive Change" writes in Harvard Business Review. "Additionally, being solution-focused made people feel better."

Study participants were inspired to keep focusing on solutions long after they finished reading. Their problem solving on subsequent unrelated tasks increased by 20 percent. They reported feeling, on average, 19 percent less agitated and 23 percent less uptight.

Read more about how to deliver bad news without delivering a blow to morale here