It’s a pretty tired, old cliché – “Don’t shoot the messenger.” I think that its overuse has left more messengers in need of bullet-proof vests.

Think about it a little. Almost all of us do it. When someone tells us something we do not want to hear, what do we do? Usually, protest in a loud, or at least more serious, voice, all the while looking right in the eye of the person delivering the news. Much of the time, this person has little or nothing to do with who or what caused the bad news. The manager in staff meeting discussing the new, severely employee-unfriendly policy was not in the meeting with the HR bureaucrats who haven’t spoken to a rank-and-file employee since the Clinton Administration where the decision was made. But the beleaguered manager has to listen to the rest of us rant and/or yell. The worker that publishes the monthly status report, with information gathered from 12 other people, is the one that gets the heat if an error in the data is discovered. This is especially true if the status report is distributed electronically. No need to check the source of the data, just hit reply and ask the sender, “what’s wrong with you?”

What should we do? If being delivered bad news face-to-face, and you know the messenger is not the cause, don’t look him/her in the eye if you start to vent. Make sure you say out loud, “I know this isn’t your doing, but I need to vent a little frustration.” If you receive bad news electronically, and you know the sender is not the cause, do what you should do before you send ANY email reply – THINK (AND RESEARCH) BEFORE YOU SEND! Make sure your feedback is going to the appropriate place.

No one likes getting bad news, and no one likes giving bad news. If you’re on the receiving end, don’t make it harder for the giver than it already is. Don’t shoot the messenger.

And let’s see if we can come up with a better euphemism……