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How does it feel to deliver bad news at work?

Monday 17 December 2012

Workplace experts Acas has launched new video guidance to help employees who have to deliver news of redundancies.

'Envoy' is the term used to describe the person - usually a line manager or HR manager - who delivers the news. It's a role that can last weeks or months, from delivering the initial announcement to providing counselling and offering advice and support to colleagues at risk of losing their jobs.

The new video, Breaking bad news at work - the role of the redundancy envoy, offers employers practical advice to help managers deal with the emotions, tensions and difficult decisions of downsizing.

It includes an interview with Dr Ian Ashman from the Institute for Research into Organisation, Work and Employment at the University of Central Lancashire's Business School. He studied the experiences of envoys, or tellers as they are also called, across the public and private sectors for Acas.

Dr Ashman said:

"The Acas guidance helps employers recognise the role that line managers have in dealing with these sensitive situations. If we look after the managers, the managers will take better care of those on the receiving end of bad news. And if those who lose their jobs are treated with dignity and respect, then those who remain are more likely to feel engaged with the organisation going forward."

Acas Senior Guidance Editor Adrian Wakeling said:

"Managing the emotions of everyone involved has to be a real priority for the organisation. You can have all the plans, policies and procedures in the world but when it comes to that face to face meeting, what you need most is the kind of emotional intelligence that only comes with the right training or experience."

Research shows that many first-time tellers are often unprepared for the range of emotions they experience and the psychological impact they have on them.

Acas advises:

  • Provide the right training and mentoring to help tellers cope with the demands of letting people go
  • Think carefully about who should break the news and involve them early on in the downsizing - it will make those having to break the bad news more understanding and better communicators
  • The closer the relationship the teller has with those facing redundancy, the more difficult the process is for them, as they still have to work with those affected for some time to come

Ideally, a teller should have previous experience and at the very least should be supported in how best to deal with the situation, including being given a thorough briefing on why redundancy or redeployment is necessary.

To view the video visit

Further support and guidance on the role of the teller can be downloaded  free from the Acas website. You can also download the free advisory booklet on redundancy handling, as well as other free advice and guidance on redundancy and restructuring, having difficult conversations and managing change.

Visit for more information. Alternatively, you can speak to an Acas helpline adviser on 08457 47 47 47.

Notes for editors

  1. Acas' aim is to improve organisations and working life through better employment relations. It provides information, advice, training and a range of services working with employers and employees to prevent or resolve problems and improve performance. Acas is an independent and impartial statutory body governed by a council made up of members from business, trade unions, academia and the law.
  2. You can access the video at
  3. The new Acas guidance for employers on the role of the envoy can be found at
  4. Dr Ian Ashman is from the Institute for Research into Organisation, Work and Employment at the University of Central Lancashire.
  5. The research, pdf  Downsizing envoys: A public/private sector comparison [278kb] involved interviews with fifty envoys drawn from nine public sector organisations and eight private sector organisations and included two consultants who had experience of downsizing in small and micro-organisations. Interviews took place with public sector envoys between January and March 2011 and in the private sector between October 2011 and April 2012.
  6. An earlier study published by Acas and undertaken by Dr Ashman explored the role of envoys in the public sector: pdf  ‘The nature of bad news infects the teller’: The experiences of envoys in the face to face delivery of downsizing initiatives in UK public sector organisations [288kb].
  7. The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has developed an enviable reputation as an institution that innovates, evolving its course portfolio to over 500 undergraduate programmes and 180 postgraduate courses.  The University has an established research reputation within the areas of Business, Health, Humanities and Science. In the recent Research Assessment Exercise, all 17 subject areas submitted were rated as containing research of international excellence while 11 areas were assessed to be undertaking research which is world-leading. In 2012 UCLan was awarded four stars in the QS Stars Development Road Map, indicating a University that is highly international with excellence in both research and teaching.  UCLan has approximately 35,000 students and indirectly contributes close to £300 million into the regional economy every year. Over the past five years UCLan has invested more than £100 million on new buildings and facilities to support teaching, learning and leisure activities.
  8. For Acas media enquiries please contact Clare Carter/Shumon Rahman, PR and Media Manager (jobshare) on 0207 210 3688 or Lou Owen, Media and Marketing Officer, on 0207 210 3920. For out of hours media enquires contact the duty press officer on 07825 691093.
  9. For Uclan media enquiries contact Chris Theobald, UCLan Senior Media and Communications Officer, on 01772 894423 and