The Co-op tell it how it is

As you probably know, the Co-operative Group has been having a pretty bad time of it lately. And the day before the Easter break, we found out just how bad. Losses of £2.5bn, mostly down to the Co-operative Bank, which had to be bailed out by its own bond holders. In short, the worst results in the Co-op’s 150 years.

So how to break this badder-than-bad news? Well, the Co-op’s CEO, Richard Pennycook, just came right out and said it. ‘A disastrous year’ is the headline he gave the press, the savers and the analysts. And there’s the d-word again in his annual report intro – he uses it three times. No ‘weathering adversity’. No ‘working to restore confidence’. Just disaster, plain and simple. And you can bet the honesty will have earned the Co-op respect and probably a few friends just when they need them.

Of course, there’s a lesson for everyone here. If you’ve got bad news, don’t sugar-coat it. Even if it’s not as galactically bad as the Co-op’s. People know when they’re being spun to. And they won’t respect you for it.

(Okay, people also know when organisations time their announcements to limit damage. All of us on the sidelines went away for Easter and promptly forgot all about the Co-op. So consider this bit of bad news exhumation our way of helping you fight your inner sugar-coater.)

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