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  • Writer's pictureNicole Provonchee

A Simple Tool That Revolutionizes Workplace Communications: SBAR

So you need to communicate a recommendation quickly to another coworker. Or you need to communicate something complex to your boss. In most cases, you will simply start talking and the person on the receiving end of the message will have to sort through your conversation to get to the core recommendation.

There is a better way: SBAR. SBARs were developed by the military and then adopted by clinicians in the healthcare industry to help relay critical information about patients or situations to others. The tool helps individuals organize information in a concise manner that helps the recipient - usually a decision maker - have all the information they need in one location.

Today, the SBAR has been adopted by the non-profit and business communities because it it empowers everyone in the organization with a tool they can use to successfully present information and decrease the time required to make decisions.

SBAR stands for Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation. In a business setting, SBARs are recommended whenever someone needs to present a situation and make a recommendation for action. This is especially helpful when presenting information to your manager or supervisor since it gives him/her all the information that s/he needs to make a decision in one concise email or document.

A popular use of SBAR in the workplace is within emails. You can list out each section within the body of the email, which helps the recipient follow your thinking and recommendation. You can also use an SBAR to help organize your thoughts for a conversation or a presentation.

SBARs are not meant to replace conversations - they are designed to consolidate all of the necessary information into one location so that all participants are working from the same information and decisions can be made more quickly. SBARs also allow a manager to fill in any gaps in your background information if needed, since SBARs help all parties be aware of grouping of facts you are using to make your recommendation.

Here are the four sections of SBAR:

Situation: This is the reason for the email, call or conversation. This is stated simply and helps the recipient ground themselves in the reason for the interaction.

Example - We have five employees that want to attend a conference on health insurance compliance that will be hosted in Nashville in January. With anticipated expenses, we only have the budget for three associates to attend.

Background: These are the core facts that the person you are speaking with/emailing need to know. These are FACTS, not OPINIONS (that comes later). The facts may include information that the person needs to know to reacquaint them with the problem or situation. Key, relevant, important facts are listed here - usually in bullet points. This is often the longest section, but still needs to be concise. State any key deadlines or budget numbers, including factual implications if the decision is or is not made.


  • The conference is hosted by ABC Training Company, a national leader in health insurance compliance. The cost is $1500 per person, plus the cost for parking, gas and lunch (about $50/day per person). We estimate the total cost to be $7,500 for the seminar and $250 for additional costs, for a total of $7,750.

  • Our training budget is $6,500 total.

  • Of the 8 associates we have, 3 attended this training last year and the other 5 wish to attend this year.

  • In their annual reviews, all 3 of last year's attendees stated they were able to apply their learnings to the job to improve outcomes.

  • We must apply for the training by November 15, 2018.

Assessment: This is where your expertise is leveraged. Based on your understanding of the situation and and the facts - and your expertise - this is your assessment of the situation. Benefits and risks that are rooted in your assessment of the situation may be listed here.

Example - Based on my work with the therapists that attended the session last year, we will more than make up the additional $1,250 investment through the skills these associates will learn in the training. We are investing in these associates, which I believe will further improve their engagement with our company.

Recommendation: This is required and the meat of the conversation. You have to recommend what you think needs to happen based on the background (Facts) and Assessment (Your understanding and opinions). Clearly state what you think needs to happen. This is not where you make your case - your facts and assessment should do this. This is simply what you want to happen. Be concise.

Example - I recommend that we move $1,250 from our employee engagement budget line to cover the additional training dollars needed.

SBARs allow you to quickly and easily communicate important information in a format that is easy for the recipient to understand - thereby decreasing the odds of miscommunication. SBARs can be an excellent way to "manage up" to your boss - meaning you manage him or her, rather than wait for them to manage you!

Good luck!

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