How to Deal with Bad News at Work

I’ve received a lot of devastating news at work. A lot.

Last year it was at work where I found out my cousin’s 5 year-old daughter was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, then a week later I was at work when I found out she had passed away.

Just recently I was in my cube when my mother called to tell me my Great Aunt had died. And just a couple weeks ago I was told my friend had a miscarriage one minute before a big meeting.

We cannot plan on receiving bad news and we cannot control it.

We can’t tell our friends and family :: I’m sorry, I’m at work and can’t hear this right now because I have too much to do.

It’s just not how life works. Especially with social media it’s hard to keep personal life and work life separate. And is that even practical or right? Aren’t we living, breathing, feeling human beings regardless of whether we’re at work or home? Yes we are.

I believe we should always be able to recognize and experience our feelings.

Here’s how I’ve learned to cope with emotional rollercoasters of life with grace and authenticity while in my corporate job ::

1. Don’t Ignore Your Feelings.

Acknowledge them. Embrace them. Feel them. Don’t hide them under layers of protective armor – ignoring your feelings will only create a deeper cut, a greater pain, a nagging sensation of loss and frustration. The longer you discount the feelings the greater power they will have over you.

2. Be Honest.

I’ve found that even though it’s a bit awkward to tell other people that you are going through a rough time, it can set clear expectations and create a foundation of understanding and support. A simple email or chat with your manager can warn her of your distress – that way if you’re a bit distracted in a meeting or behind in a project she’ll understand. This can also create a stronger bond between you and your manager – honestly speaking of feelings is scary but is a very courageous and genuine way of being human and professional at the same time.

3. Try to Continue Your Day as You Normally Would (or go home if you can).

This might seem contradictory but even though I encourage you to feel your emotions, I’m not suggesting that you sit in your cube crying or yelling out in pain. If the emotions are that intense it’d probably be best for you to go home where you can openly experience each feeling, but if you’re determined to stay and work through the day try to remember that :: it’s OKAY for you to keep working. Yes, work might not seem as important at that moment but it’s OKAY to stay focused and dedicated to your job, even when you’re heartbroken.

4. Don’t Feel Bad for Feeling Good.

It feels wrong to smile when you’ve just lost someone you love. I understand that. You feel bad for not honoring and respecting their passing. But you can’t stop living your own life. You can’t make yourself miserable and block out all the good that there is in the world.

Minutes after hearing about my Great Aunt I heard that a coworker was pregnant and for a brief second I felt bad for my happiness. I felt bad for being excited about my friend’s good news. Then I realized that my Great Aunt would have been happy for her too. That she wouldn’t want me to ignore the joy around me, even during my time of sadness.

5. Make Time to Grieve.

Even though you’ve been honest with yourself and those around you about what you’re going through, it’s still important to give yourself the space and time to truly embrace your feelings. Time to connect with your sadness, grief, fear, pain, confusion, anger. Time to be honest and raw. Time to let down your guard and be vulnerable.

Once you realize that emotions are natural and meant to be experienced and expressed you take away the negativity and hesitation surrounding them and can be present and honest with yourself and those around you.

Our emotions are beautiful. Even the ones that we wish we didn’t have to feel. It’s all part of life, and by embracing each and every experience we empower ourselves, we strengthen our hearts, we expand our compassion, we increase to our ability to heal, and we grow and flourish.


undefinedErin is known for her radiant energy, bright smile and willingness to get real.

As a writer, life coach and Reiki Guide Erin is dedicated to supporting people in their journey to find clarity, direction and happiness. After moving past her own barriers to happiness she knew that she could help others though the same mindful yet bold approach she used to create a joyful, engaging life. Just recently she launched a video series: Creating Careers of Purpose that runs every Friday.

She believes in the importance of community, connection, compassion, and a good cup of coffee. 

Connect with her at Creative Soul in, through Twitter, and Facebook.

5 replies
  1. Jeanmarie Bills
    Jeanmarie Bills says:

    Thank you Erin for this great guest post! love this, “Our emotions are beautiful. Even the ones that we wish we didn’t have to feel.” I totally agree we may not welcome all our feelings but they are all part of our life and with each event in our life we have the power to give it it’s meaning and find the gratitude and good in every experience.

    • Erin Madore
      Erin Madore says:

      We do have the power. Even when it feels like life is out of our control (which it is) we are still in control of our thoughts, our actions, our experiences. It’s a little scary but totally empowering.

      • Nancy
        Nancy says:

        I like the ideas because in this day and age when everyone puts on a brave face we need support and time for ourselves to make sense of our losses and grieve in our own way.


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