Receiving Bad News Early Is Good News

My friend Austin recently thanked me for some advice I gave him 10 years ago that he still uses to this day. We teach it in our sessions, and I tell someone the same advice at least once a week. Receiving or finding out bad news early is good news. Getting to “no” can have as much value as getting to “yes”.

Here’s an example:

I just joined a team and they had a job recently that had been open for 6 months. I asked the team, “did anyone internally apply for the job?” Their answer, “if they wanted us they would have just given us the job.”

Sounds reasonable, but this is a great example of how bad news early is good news. For now I know that they didn’t have what I wanted in a teammate, even if I did put one of them in that new role. I want a go-getter who doesn’t wait to be asked, someone who would raise their hand and say, “I want it.”

After another 2 months of working with a recruiter I finally found a great candidate. The only minor challenge was they would have to relocate. So, we made the candidate an offer. The recruiter contacted the candidate, and reached back out to tell me, “I have bad news, they have another offer, it’s a company only about an hour from where they live, but if you’ll increase their offer by $5,000 I think they’ll take yours.”

Now, $5,000 for a great candidate is nothing in the grand scheme of things, as essentially, they’d be working on $100M in business and potentially improving profitability by $5M+ a year. However, I chose to say, “No, we’re going to stick with our offer.”

The Recruiter said, “What! Are you out of your mind? You’re willing to lose them over $5k?” I replied, “No, I want to test their decision making. They have 2 different offers, similar jobs, but different companies and bosses, and one an hour away and they would have to relocate their family. If $5,000 is the deciding factor for them, when will someone else come along and offer them another $5,000 more, which will leave me back in the same boat. They either want the job for all it is, or they’re the type that chases only the money.”

The result was that they ended up taking the other job. However, after another month of recruiting we found an outstanding candidate who did a phenomenal job for us.

Bad news early (in this case finding out someone wasn’t a good fit), is good news.

The takeaway lesson here is don’t be in such a rush to GET TO “yes” that you overlook something.

Read more about Negotiating Salaries and Job Offers in our recent blog.