Processing Bad News

Yesterday, I received some bad news about someone on our team. It has nothing to do with health, or any other external circumstance, thank goodness. Rather, the news is that their role, and the hours worked, need to change because of some external factors. 

This post will explain the things I did the last twenty-four hours to deal with the change. My preferred course would be for this person to stay in their position as is. This transition is not preferable for me, but out of care for them, I have to find a mutual path forward. 

Isn’t that what leaders do?  

First lesson: I have been taught that anger can be an emotion that covers up either fear or sadness. In fact, I have frequently written this blog about how I find it helpful to ask myself what am I afraid about, or sad about, when I feel angry. In this situation I feel both fear and sadness. I fear losing a top performer in the position they are in and I am saddened to lose them as well. Acknowledging this has been helpful because I am not really angry about the situation. What I am feeling is a little fear and probably more than a little sadness. Yet, I was acting angry yesterday afternoon when I learned about it, so this clarification helped. 

Second, something I heard Colin Powell advise in a talk that I attended years ago helped me yesterday when I learned about the situation. The line was this: “Things will look different in the morning.” I think what Colin was pointing out was that our minds can think more clearly after a good night’s sleep. So, after thinking about this news for several hours, I put it in the “Do Not Disturb” part of my brain and went home. Confession: this part of my brain has a VERY WEAK door, meaning things usually do not stay in there long! This is why I could not stop here.

Three, I shared all of the above, especially my emotions, with my wife, Sarah. I am a verbal processor, so Sarah hears it all! I am the complete opposite of most guys that I know in that I have to talk things out. Otherwise, my thinking will go into over-drive (and the door of the “Do Not Disturb” portion of my brain will be blown off its hinges). Had I been on the road yesterday, I would have had to journal about the situation to get it out of my mind. The point here is that until I talk about it, or write about it, I will think about it. This may be the one thing you take from this post: get whatever is in your mind onto a piece of paper, or talk about it with a trustworthy person. This will help settle your brain and will help you think clearly about an issue. 

Fourth, I prayed about the situation. This is not a token gesture, I pray multiple times a day. So, with Sarah, I prayed through the acronym I use (C – confess, H – honor God, A – ask God for help, T – Thanksgiving). I confessed my fear, and even my lack of faith. I also confessed my selfishness, meaning I had only been thinking about the situation from MY perspective, not this person’s needs. I asked for wisdom. I also asked God to bless this person and give them wisdom to handle the troubling external situation they were in. Finally, I thanked God that this was the problem I was dealing with. What I mean by that is that this person is a great person on our team, and the problem is not a health problem, or something really dire. So while it is still a problem, it is one that can be dealt with. 

Fifth, after prayer, I drank a glass of good wine with Sarah and watched a light-hearted T.V. show to wind down. Do not miss this step, especially the wine! 

Sixth, I got up bright and early the following day, did my Bible reading, prayed again, and then went to the gym. I worked out hard, which allowed me to further get out of my mind. I had music blaring and got in a good sweat. An hour later, I was ready to tackle the day. 

Finally, I went to work. 

You know what? Things DID look different than the day before. 

I do not know how this whole scenario will play out, but I wanted to use this week’s post to share what I have done the last twenty-four hours to process this “bad” news. I use quotation marks because after doing all the things listed above, I have gained some perspective. While I do not prefer this news, it is not the worst kind. In fact, I think there is a mutual path forward where everyone will win. 

Thank God for his wisdom.  

I will eventually talk to the person I am keeping confidential. I will close by saying this process has allowed me to get back to a place where I am FOR them and not against them. Yesterday, I was in a place of fear and sadness that would have shown up in anger had we talked then. That would not have ended well. I am praying I can lead myself through the fear and sadness, with the Power of God, and build this person up as we, together, figure out what the next steps are.