Are there unpopular decisions happening in your organization? As a leader how are you communicating them? How is your team responding to the news?

When I talk about unpopular decisions, I’m talking about things like:

  • Senior leadership deciding not to move forward with a major initiative your team has invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears in because it’s not projected to deliver the desired ROI.
  • Your team no longer having full decision-making authority when it comes to hiring outside partners – instead they’ll have to follow a new company policy and engage and align with the procurement department to ensure the company isn’t over spending on services.

“No matter what the unpopular decision – it’s our job as leaders to understand and have empathy for how our team might be feeling about the decision and to leverage that understanding and communicate the decision in a way that helps the team understand it so they can ultimately support it.”

How can you as a leader handle the communication of unpopular decisions?

Getting everyone to understand and support every decision is absolutely challenging, yet as a leader there are several things you can do to make it happen.

Make sure you yourself understand why the decision was made and work through any of your own anxiety or stress about it.

It’s imperative you get yourself to a place where you’ve accepted the decision – because if you haven’t, your team will know you’re not bought in and so they likely won’t buy in either.

Accept it’s a normal part of life for people to be frustrated and resist unwanted or unpopular decisions.

Be sure not to label their resistance as a “negative or bad thing”; rather see it as something normal and something you’re expected to manage as part of your leadership responsibilities. It’s only when you’ve accepted this that you can truly work through it with a positive mindset.

Think about and work through the frustrations and resistance the team is likely to have and listen to their perspective.

Take what you know about each team member and put yourself in their shoes – and ask, “how is this person likely to respond to this decision?” This may take some time to do but don’t take too long – you want to make sure your communication is timely enough to minimize misunderstandings or gossip.

And don’t be afraid to simply sit down, listen to them and have a conversation about how they’re feeling. Often people want to know their leaders understand things from their perspective – validating it’s absolutely ok for them to feel the way they do can go a long way!

Help your team see the big picture by painting a clear picture of how they or the organization will benefit from the decision.

Try and demonstrate how the decision will positively impact their and/or the organization’s future. For example, maybe the decision to not move forward with an initiative the team has really invested in means the team will now be able to focus their efforts on a new, even more exciting project.

It’s important for teams to feel heard and understand why decisions are made as this lets them know people care and gives them context about what’s going on around them.

By using the above approaches, you, as a leader can successfully help your team accept any unpopular decision!

If you have to communicate an unpopular or unwanted decision and you’d like a sounding board to talk it through with, send me an email anytime at: and we’ll get a conversation started!