I posted The Proper Care and Feeding of People Who Cry Wolf on Planning Startups Stories a while ago, in praise of the metaphorical boy who cried wolf in a business:

Crying wolf means sounding false alarms. Saying something isn’t working. The messaging is wrong, production is faulty, customers are getting the wrong idea, the parking lot is icy, or whatever. And I’ve learned, in some 30 years managing people, that you should treasure the employees who care enough to sound the alarms. And in business, not fairy tales, a false alarm isn’t such a bad thing because it wakes you up, makes you think, keeps you alert.

What brings this to mind today is Be Grateful For Complainers, They Alert You To Real Problems on Business Insider. Post author Judith Aquino retells it from a different angle, focusing on complainers among your customers. She writes:

The out-loud complainer has done you an enormous favor. By breaking the silence, he or she has given you a fighting chance to find and fix the problem before the complaint spreads to other customers and potential customers.

Maybe one test of your management skills is how people on your team deal with delivering bad news. Do they wait before they tell you, maybe double check? Are you good at receiving bad news? Do you respect false alarms?

If I’m in charge, I want the bad news immediately. Don’t wait. Tell me quickly. What about you?

(Image credit: Feng Yu/Shutterstock)

Tim BerryTim Berry

Tim Berry is the founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software and Bplans.com. Follow him on Twitter @Timberry.