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"I Have Good News and Bad News:" The Effects of Power Imbalances and Physical Distance on News-givers' Use of Blended News Delivery

  • Author(s): Legg, Angela M.
  • Advisor(s): Sweeny, Kate
  • et al.
Abstract

People dislike giving bad news, and one strategy they use to ease the process is to pair bad news with some good news, a phenomenon called blended news delivery. Often, blended news arrives from people in power positions such as physicians, managers, or teachers. But followers also find themselves needing to give bad news to those in higher power positions. Similarly, people can choose how they deliver bad news, such as in person or over email. The current study brings much needed empirical attention to this phenomenon and the way power imbalance and physical distance may influence blended news delivery. Participants completed the study alongside one confederate whom they believed would receive personality test results at the end of the session. Participants completed personality measures and then participated in an origami task in which they were randomly assigned to either a leader or follower role (the confederate played the other role). After the origami task, participants were randomly assigned to deliver the confederate's test results in person or through email. In person interactions were video-recorded. Participants then completed one final questionnaire about the experience. Trained research assistants provided ratings of the news-delivery videos and emails. Although power did not influence how people delivered blended news, physical distance affected the news people began and ended with, whether they sandwiched bad news, and the relative emphasis placed on bad news compared to good news. The way people delivered blended news also influenced ratings of warmth, social skills, directness and bluntness. These findings suggest a number of considerations and recommendations for people who deliver bad news.

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