How to communicate when something goes wrong at work, no matter what your job title is

You should come up with a plan to rectify any mistake before you communicate with a boss, but don’t waste time if you can’t.

Whether you’re a manager telling employees the bad news, or an employee who has to tell your boss what they don’t want to hear — but need to know — there are ways to take the edge off. Here are three ways to do so.

Maintain a serious tone

This should be a no-brainer, but a refresher never hurts.

Rhett Power, an author and co-founder of Wild Creations, writes on CNBC.com that managers shouldn’t “joke around” at this time.

“When delivering bad news, cracking jokes is disrespectful and comes off as rude. It may be difficult for some people to avoid because it’s natural to want to lighten the mood in uncomfortable situations with humor, but you must avoid doing this at all costs to avoid coming off as insensitive,” he writes.

Talk to them face-to-face

This is always a good idea.

Jeff Haden, an author, ghostwriter, speaker and contributing editor to Inc., writes about this on the site.

“Maybe, ultimately, it was not your decision to cut jobs. Maybe you had no input but are still the person required to enforce a major shift in policy. When you are in charge, you deliver all bad news,” he writes. “And do so in person. If you have bad news to deliver to a group of employees, get the group together. Or if there are individual repercussions resulting from that bad news, talk to each person separately. If you can’t do it in person, do it by video or phone. Never choose a method that makes the communication one way.”

Just be honest with your manager

Dawn Rosenberg McKay, an author and certified Career Development Facilitator, writes in The Balance that you should “present your boss with a plan to correct the error.”

“You will need to come up with a plan to rectify your mistake and present it to your boss. Hopefully, you will be able to put something together before you first approach her, but don’t waste time if you can’t. Reassure her that you are working on a solution,” she continues. “Then, once you know what you need to do, present it. Be very clear about what you think you should do and what you expect the results to be.

“Tell your boss how long it will take to implement and about any associated costs. Make sure to have a ‘Plan B’ ready, in case your boss shoots down ‘Plan A.’ While making a mistake is never a good thing, don’t miss the opportunity to demonstrate your problem-solving skills.”

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.