Facing-up, rather than Face-booking
I admit that I did not always relish some of these face-to-face interactions. Early in my work life I was responsible for (fantastically unreliable) ‘bespoke’ computerised accounting systems. Having to inform user managers that processing would be interrupted for a period of time, or that data input errors had been found which required recovery, was a regular occurrence.
There were four managers in my immediate group of internal customers: at least two of them were notoriously irascible, especially when it came to systems problems.
I had little choice but to walk down the corridor, see if they were free, and tell them the bad news face-to-face. I could have phoned, and probably did on a few occasions if time was pressing, but generally the in-person visit was the most effective method of delivering the news, and managing their reactions.
This last point is quite important. I am certain that the reaction I received was significantly moderated if I delivered the news in person.
Usually, after an understandable explosion of frustration or irritation, they would become more reflective. They would move on to question me about the reasons for the service interruption; our contingency plans for recovery; what impact they could expect on the work of their teams; and how we were going to ensure this didn’t happen again.
Bizarrely, more often than not I would leave these encounters being thanked by them – for delivering the bad news personally.