Bad News Doesn’t Get Better with Time

When I was in Officer Candidate School in the Army, one of the trainers told us over and over that bad news doesn’t get better with time.  He meant that when we came upon a difficult or bad situation, the best possible course of action was to run it up the chain of command immediately, and start seeking solutions instead of hiding the problem and hoping it went away. (Because problems never just go away.)

I was reminded of this again in my time in South Korea along the DMZ. A colleague couldn’t find one of his soldiers after a military exercise and he waited EIGHT HOURS to report the problem to his commanding officer. They eventually found the missing man, who had connected with another unit to get out of the field, but the officer in charge was relieved of duty for failing to have accountability of his men. If he’d reported the issue immediately, that wouldn’t have happened. It was a striking lesson in crisis communication for all of us. And a painful one for him.

Fast-forward 10 years. When I started in logistics brokerage, I realized very quickly that the lesson of “bad news doesn’t get better with time” was a critical differentiator for me in the field. My customers got used to hearing from me the minute something went sideways, with all the information I had and every possible solution outlined. They came to trust that I would always shoot them straight, and that I would never surprise them with a problem that had grown from a minor issue to a major crisis because I ignored it.

Now that I have a team of Problem Solvers to train, and a company’s reputation to uphold, I’m constantly on alert for red flags on their accounts. When I see one, we go in to action mode, making sure we are providing information, solutions, and clear, effective communication. It’s one of the hallmarks of Legion, and one of the things our customers point out time and time again in their testimonials for us.

Let me be clear, though, that I’m not advocating hysterical after-hours calls to customers, freaking out about a late truck or a breakdown or a weather emergency. I am advocating getting as much of the information as you can, formulating a strategy to solve the situation, and calling your customer calmly to outline exactly what happened and how you are going to fix it. Giving bad news doesn’t mean pushing a problem back on someone else. We are in business specifically to SOLVE problems, not pass them off.

So the next time something in your life doesn’t go the way you want it to, take a deep breath and remind yourself, bad news doesn’t get better with time. Communicate through the problem, solve it, and you’ll emerge a hero in your customer’s eyes.


by Tony Coutsoftides, CEO & Freight Guru