The Grim Reaper Effect: Using Management Science and Research to Improve Communication of Bad News at Work

Date and Time

Starts:08/11/2021 9:00 AM

Ends:08/12/2021 12:30 PM

Event Type: Workshop

7 CPD - Training; 12 CPD - Skills Assessment Hour(s)

Online: Zoom


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Additional Information

Event Sponsor

Learning how to effectively deliver bad news at work can be instrumental in maintaining positive relationships with employees at work (at the individual and group level), mitigating reputational risk associated with communication of negative events, and reducing employee’s likelihood to engage in wrongful dismissal or bad faith-based lawsuits. This professional development session aims to help you maintain positive relationships with employees — both those whom you oversee and those to whom you report — and explore internal contradictions you feel during this process. The session will walk you through strategies for planning, delivery of bad news, and post-delivery management. 

Research shows that organizational agents struggle with the delivery of bad news in the workplace (e.g., poor performance reviews, dismissals, workforce reductions, business unit level changes, reorganization, non-selection for opportunities at work, etc.). However, there is little development, training, and investment in evidence-based best practices to guide communicators/leaders during negative events. The result is significant variations in what message is sent, how it is sent and how it is received.

In this intensive program, you will learn how to effectively frame, manage, and deliver bad news in the workplace. You will explore topics and engage in activities that are directly transferrable to your role in guiding employee performance improvement, managing dismissals, and restructuring.

Upon successful completion of both components of the training (virtual training sessions and Skills-Based Assessment), you will earn a digital badge in Communicating Bad News at Work.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the training, you should be able to:

  1. Dissect the communication process to develop a blueprint on how to effectively communicate bad news at work in a variety of contexts and situations;
  2. Apply techniques used in the communications process (pre, during and post) to effectively conduct bad news meetings;
  3. Use verbal and non-verbal communication strategies to favourably affect receiver perceptions of blame assignment, fairness, justice, equity, level of event negativity, legitimacy, accountability, and mistrust in management.
  4. Recognize and avoid contextual factors that can cause you to deviate from the primary message;
  5. Evaluate the limitations of your role and work within them, and;
  6. Practice methods to bypass or mitigate challenges presented.

Intended Audience

Designed for those working in Human Resources Management, Professional and Organizational Development Professionals, Organizational Leaders.

Program Agenda

Day 1

The Role of the HR Agent

  • Change Management
  • Catch-22 Perspective
  • Balancing Employee and Employer Needs
  • Employment and OH&S Reminders

Preparing for the Communication

  • Timing and Medium of Delivery
  • Decision-Making Considerations
  • Management Distancing
  • Power Perceptions
  • Rehearsals and Training
  • Mitigating the MUM Effect
  • Framing Effect

Day 2

Delivering the Message

  • Truth Telling and Information Disclosure
  • De-escalation Techniques
  • Employee Voice
  • Triggers to Information Seeking Behaviours
  • Account Giving: Messaging and Blame Assignment
  • Non-Verbal Cues
  • Speakers Tone

Post-Communication Concerns

  • Public and Employee Relations
  • Survivor Syndrome
  • Appeals and Negotiations
  • EAP and Outplacement Services
Delivery Format

Part 1: Training Session(s)

The training session will be delivered virtually over two days. Participants will spend 3.5 hours each day (with 15-minute break) participating in the virtual sessions. Sessions will engage in lecture and interactive small and large group activities and discussion that will promote practice and reflection.

The virtual training session will be held as follows:

Day 1: Wednesday, August 11, 2021 – 9:00 am – 12:30 pm ET

Day 2: Thursday, August 12, 2021 – 9:00 am – 12:30 pm ET

Part 2: Skills-Based Assessment

The Skills-Based Assessment is completed online via the University of Guelph’s CourseLink Learning Management System. Evidence of skill attainment will be demonstrated through a portfolio or scenario-based evaluation and include a reflective video or written component. The assessment will require approximately 8-12 hours of effort to complete.

Information on how to enroll to take the Skills-Based Assessment will be provided to you at the completion of the training component.

Due: Monday, October 11, 2021, by 11:59 pm ET

Skills Recognition: Digital Badge

Once you receive a passing grade, you will be issued a digital badge verified and recognized by the University of Guelph. The badge will confirm the specific skill/competency achieved, assessment completed, and issuing institution. You can download your digital badge and share your achievement on your social media networks and with your employer.


All learning materials will be provided in the training session and within the online environment for the skills-based assessment.

Technical Requirements

Zoom Requirements

This training uses Zoom for the virtual training sessions.  To participate, you will need:

  1. An internet connection – broadband wired or wireless (3G or 4G/LTE) 
  2. Speakers and a microphone – built-in or USB plug-in or wireless Bluetooth 
  3. A webcam or HD webcam -built-in or USB plug-in

CourseLink System Requirements 

The Skills-Based Assessment will be assessed through the University of Guelph’s Learning Management System, CourseLink. Please ensure that your computer system meets the necessary system requirements.

Speaker bio(s)
Nita Chhinzer, PhD., Associate Professor, University of Guelph

Dr. Nita Chhinzer is Associate Professor of Human Resources and Business Consulting at the Department of Management, University of Guelph. Her research is concentrated on Strategic Human Resources Management, with a strong focus on human resource management, specifically downsizing practices, procedures, employment law, workplace change management, management decision making, and corporate ethics. From 2012-2017 she was Fellow in Leadership, Work and HRM.

Dr. Chhinzer serves on the Advisory Board for the Canadian HR Reporter and the special Covid-19 Advisory Board for Governance Professionals of Canada (GPC). She is on the Board of Directors at both the Toronto Centre for Learning & Development and Hospice Toronto. She has been a judge at the Canadian HR Awards since 2017. She was the recipient of the 2019 Emerald Literati Best Paper Award (Education +Training) and in 2016, she was recognized as one of the top 25 HR Professionals in Canada.

She also co-authors Canada’s best-selling Human Resource Management in Canada textbook (currently in the 15th edition).

Professor Chhinzer is a well-recognized workforce management expert, frequently approached for industry and professional knowledge mobilization. Since 2020, she has been profiled in or lead:

  • 8 industry webinars: Corporate Secretary (New York), Governance Professionals of Canada, Guelph Chambre of Commerce, ConnectureCanada, Employment and Resource Development Canada, etc.
  • 7 professional/popular magazine interviews: The Canadian HR Reporter, Vice Magazine, Elle Magazine (Careers), Your Workplace Magazine, Benefits Canada, etc.
  • 58 newspaper/radio/TV interviews interviews: CBC, CTV, Global, Toronto Star, National Post, Talent Canada, , CityTV etc.

For more information about Dr. Chhinzer visit:



Twitter: @chhinzer