Some managers are Scrooge-like in their glee at delivering bad news to employees, but that isn’t you. You wish there were some impersonal way to let your employees know that they’ve been demoted, or that raise isn’t going to happen, or they aren’t going to be part of the wonder-team, or whatever it is. But just like it’s extreme bad form to break up with someone via text, it’s utterly impossible for anyone other than your reluctant self to deliver said bad news. It’s in your job description.
Other than going British and adopting a stiff upper lip, what can you do?
Be transparent about the process by which the decision was made. People are generally more satisfied with the outcome, even when they don’t particularly like the outcome, when they believe that the outcome has been fairly arrived at. It’s what’s called “procedural fairness.” So explain how the decision was arrived at, who weighed in (if appropriate), what their considerations were, and what different factors came into play.
I think of it as “showing your long division.” Don’t just give your employee the result of the process, take them through the process itself. You don’t have to defend the process, or what went into the decision-making. Be factual, don’t take sides. Your objective is to describe the process, not argue any pros or cons.
Your employee may still not be thrilled at the news, but they will be at least reassured that the decision wasn’t arbitrary, and you will have a better way of delivering bad news than just stiffening your upper lip.