Sometimes it’s your job to communicate the bad news. It might be one of the toughest things you have to do.

There are plenty of resources which give great advice for doing this in personal circumstances, like when you have to say that a loved one has died. But I’m surprised that there isn’t as much help for doing this in the work context.

Over the years I’ve had to both receive and give bad news on the job, sometimes on the same day. I thought I’d share some principles which have helped me.

Start by getting your own thoughts in order and thinking through the likely reactions. This is probably going to be an emotional wringer for YOU, but you don’t want to make things any worse than they need to be.

Describe what is changing, and the impact you expect it to have on people. Explain why the change is happening – the bigger picture – as well as some details about its implications.

Always tell the truth as you understand it. If there’s something you don’t understand yourself, admit it, and work to follow up if necessary.

If there’s something you’re not allowed to say, admit it. If you are able, say why (in general) you are blocked.

Every person has their own reaction, even ones which may strike you as irrational. It’s OK. People generally aren’t very good at handling emotions in the work context. Be as empathetic as you can.

Be clear about what is NOT changing. I find that people often assume things far worse than you imagine.

As a leader, it’s your role to take responsibility for what’s happening. Even if you don’t fully agree with your boss’ decision, you’re going to need to implement it.

After a big announcement to a large group, it’s time for follow-up confidential discussions with each individual. Don’t disappear for a week because you “have a lot of hard work to do.” People will feel abandoned and the rumor mill will emerge in full force.

Finally, realize that you may be weeks or even months ahead of your people in the emotional journey. YOU may have had time to think things through and settle down, but this announcement may be a total shock to your folks. Help them navigate through those turbulent waters.