Which of the following applies to your company?
- An employee repeatedly misses deadlines or makes mistakes but doesn’t hear about it from the boss.
- A co-worker has ‘protected status’ and can pretty much do things how and when they want.
- A manager is blatantly incompetent but somehow survives again and again.
- All of the above.
Unfortunately, many people will probably answer ‘All of the above.’
The avoidance approach to problem solving has become an accepted practice. Workplace conflicts and problems are inevitable and often result from some combination of unclear expectations, poor communication, lack of clear authority and differing attitudes and skill sets of workers.
Subscribing to the ‘If I ignore it, maybe it will go away’ philosophy doesn’t solve anything and can actually lead to more problems. As painful as it might seem, addressing an issue or conflict directly will reduce stress for you and others.
You could start by clearly defining the problem (and making sure you are not part of it). Try to understand the ‘whys’ behind the problem and the people involved. Develop some creative potential solutions other than everyone else being fired except you. Then, discuss the situation and your ideas openly without making any personal attacks or assailing anyone’s character.
If your boss is part of the problem or allowing it to occur, you still need to take the time to assess the situation. Ask your boss for some time to discuss an idea you have that you think can help the team. Present your ideas and potential solutions and ask for feedback to learn what he or she thinks. At the least, you put the subject out there and make sure poor communication is no longer the issue. If you can start an open dialogue about the problem, you and others can begin working towards a solution. You might not totally agree with the end result.
But, one thing is for sure, avoidance is not the answer.
David M. Mastovich, MBA, is the president of Massolutions, a Pittsburgh based Integrated Marketing firm that focuses on improving the bottom line for client companies through creative marketing, selling, messaging and customer experience enhancement.