Help the employee prepare to receive the bad news, try starting the conversation with a caveat acknowledging the conversation may be awkward. This will give the employee a warning that something is up. This helps demonstrate you care enough to show the person something is coming. You could also use warning phrases such as, “There no easy way to say this…”; “You’re not going to like what’s coming…”; “I don’t know how you’re going to react to this…”
Give the employee time to grieve. Usually when delivering bad news the employee is experiencing a loss, whether the employee is losing his/her job or being denied a request that was made. Show empathy to the employee in the situation, maybe say something like, “Go ahead and take a moment.”
Think about how you would deliver the same news to a friend and use that as a guide for handing the conversation with an employee.
HR Magazine September 2016, “Bad News Bear”, Christina Folz