Negative Messages


Jovina Ang

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Most people think that if we send out a coherent negative message to stakeholders, everything will be fine. But, as Associate Professor Gregor Halff points out, the reality is very different. During a critical situation, there will be more people talking about you than with you.

Halff shares in this enlightening video that the key to a successful outcome is to be truthful. He brings up the need to be honest without compromising the relationship between message sender and recipient.

Start – 02.23 minutes: Introduction

02.24 – 04.55 minutes: Inflexion point in communication

04.56 – 09.33 minutes: Structuring an effective negative message

09.34 – 16.03 minutes: Delivering negative messages to customers

16.04 – 19.34 minutes: Delivering negative messages to superiors

19.35 – 23.37minutes: Delivering negative messages to employees

Negative messages

Using the Qantas case where the company had to deal with flight disruptions, Halff highlights how a company can effectively manage a negative message. It is also important to be aware of inflexion point—a point in which many more people want to have a say about the crisis situation.

What’s the best way to deal with this? The essence of sending an effective negative message is honesty. Halff stresses that bad news should never be disguised as good news. At the same time, the company’s interests must be looked after, and communicate that resources are assigned to address the problem.

Another important aspect is ensuring that the recipient reads, understands, and accepts the message. As Halff succinctly puts it, “We try to avoid negative messages”. Whether in the form of anti-smoking advertisements or negative appraisals, people do not like listening to bad news. This enhances the difficulty in delivering a negative message.

Different Stakeholders, Different Approaches

Halff talks about the importance of stakeholder management and expectations, and the importance of adapting your message delivery for the different recipients in corporate situations: customers, superiors, and employees.

When it comes to giving bad news to your customers, Halff has valuable advice. This negative message should be structured around maintaining the relationship, and taking your customers’ perspective. He advises students about not using clichés such as “due to circumstances beyond our control”.

The approach towards giving negative messages to superiors should be focused on the solution rather than the problem.

As for your employees, they are often the recipients of the two most difficult negative messages: poor performance appraisals, and layoffs. Messages of this sensitive nature require tactful delivery.

Associate Professor Gregor Halff delivers an enlightening and engaging guide about the effective delivery of negative messages. This 23-minute video identifies all the vital aspects of communication, and teaches how to overcome the common obstacles. Halff also addresses the aspects of communication that enhances your and your company’s image, even in the most trying of times. As Halff points out, effective negative corporate communication is “not only ethically correct, it’s also beneficial to your reputation”.


Business | Business and Corporate Communications

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