Problem solving at work; 8 steps to do your best job at it.
This morning you arrived at your workplace and were surprised by a deafening racket. Next, to the meeting room, a group of workers was jolting in a circle. Inside the circle, two of them were facing each other armed with a pen in their hands.
This scene probably reminds you of an episode from the Simpsons (only with monkeys in the role of fighters), but it doesn’t get too far away from what can be found in some particularly tense work situations. And what can you, as CEO, CIO, CCO, CMO, CTO, CFO, manager, big boss or small boss, do to solve it? Buy yourself a whistle? Putting on boxing gloves?
Fortunately, there are better ways to approach it. In this article we’re going to look at a little script for you to master problem solving at work before pens, markers and post-it pads start flying around the office.
– Prepare the performance.
Before bringing people in conflict together, you will find it helpful to have extra information. Try to find out how the situation came about. Ask other colleagues what has happened and what their point of view – if they have any about the conflict – is. There may even be material evidence (documents, for example) that proves the case to one side or the other, or that can be used to address the problem. Put on the Sherlock Holmes cap and try to find them.
– Place people in a suitable context.
It doesn’t matter if you have found your team members in conflict or if the tension is latent. Once you have prepared the meeting, find a suitable space for dialogue – if possible quiet, comfortable and away from prying eyes and ears – and generate as much relaxation as possible. Even a joke can be the best way to start lowering the tension.
– Let them explain themselves in an orderly fashion.
The time has come to get to the heart of the matter. Each of the conflicting parties – usually two, but there can also be more people – must explain their point of view. They shall do so in an orderly manner, one after the other, and respecting each other’s turn to speak.
Take as much time as necessary (think of all the time you can save if you are able to solve the problem) and allow each part to express themselves calmly, without interruptions, and in detail. Try to take notes about the different opinions and approaches that are in conflict; they will be of great help to make a short script that allows you to understand the situation and lead the problem solving later.
– Identify the conflict.
Once everyone has explained themselves, you will need to have enough insight to identify what the real conflict is, which will not always coincide with what the parties believe it is. It may be strictly work-related, but it may also have to do with personal discrepancies. Identifying the conflict will be key to start delimiting the debate. Once this has been achieved, it will be much easier to look for solutions and not to deviate from the real problem.
– Clear the debate.
Once the conflict has been identified, it is time to resolve it. It makes it clear to all parties that the reason why you are meeting together is to seek a solution to the problem, so issues that hinder this objective must be set aside.
If the conflict is of a personal nature, allow those who disagree to vent and get their emotions off their chest, but always with respect. Knowing that an expression or insult has affected the other person can help remind them that all of us have feelings, which should generate empathy. Make them see that people’s ways of being can be different and there is nothing wrong with that, as long as you work with respect and professionalism.
– Make them come up with solutions.
At this moment, with the conflict identified and a cleaner debate of emotions, those who disagree should no longer circle around a problem that has already been explained, but should move on to propose solutions. Again, let them do it orderly. If they are not able to find viable solutions on their own, you can propose them yourself, but it is better that they emerge from the conflicting parties.
– Decide the solution to the problem.
Of all the solutions proposed, one must be chosen. Let participants make the decision, do not intervene unless the positions are irreconcilable and strictly necessary. It will be much better if the solution adopted is not the one proposed by either side, but an intermediate solution that is adopted by consensus and satisfies both sides.
– Take note of what happened.
In order to avoid the repetition of conflicts, it is very convenient that the solution adopted be recorded in writing. Memory can be very volatile – especially if there are feelings involved – and it is possible that new discrepancies may arise around the solution to be decided, so it will be necessary to have a source to go to clarify which was this one.
To conclude, remember that each person is like a whole different world and that your role must, first of all, be conciliatory, pragmatic and neutral. Try not to take sides with any of the parties, and if you do so – for example, because the proposed solution seems to you, from a rational point of view, much more reasonable – try to make it as unnoticeable as possible. And don’t forget that the aim of problem solving at work is not only to fix present problems, but also to avoid conflicts in the future.
Have the office supplies for your workplace stopped being weaponized? These are some basic ideas for problem solving at work that can help you, but it is very likely that in your work experience you have already had to mediate in this type of situations and want to share some good ideas with all the readers of the blog. So, you can leave your ideas in the comment box just below.
And if that’s not the case, you can always get to know Integria IMS anyway. Do it here!
Alberto is one of the translators of Integria IMS. He is also a singer-songwriter and he also can play the guitar and the piano.