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Problem-Solving Methods to Avoid When Managing Employees

Problem solving is a skill that all managers need to do well. But there are some problem-solving methods that can create conflict that you should avoid when it comes to developing your employees. Moving projects forward, meeting deadlines, and getting some tangible results under your belt are all seemingly reasonable justifications for fixing a mess yourself instead of putting the onus for solutions on employees.

But being a good listener, mentoring employees, and fully investigating the source of problems takes time. When there’s a ton of work to be done, time is of the essence and you may have developed a few survival tactics that are causing strife among your employees.

Avoid the following approaches to solving issues because they could be giving you more — not less — to do.

Talking instead of listening

If you’re guilty of pulling out a soapbox and spouting your view before fully investigating a conflict, consider a change. Even though you’re expected to handle flare-ups as they arise, be sure you really listen to what your employees are saying before you make decisions that don’t consider their needs. If your only focus is on telling your team what you want to see rather than listening to what’s happening, you miss out on key information and opportunities to improve the overall work environment. Asking questions to understand gives you a better view of what’s happening, so you can implement a strategy that reduces future conflict and increases productivity.

And, while you’re at it, fake listening isn’t a good idea either. Don’t spend time asking your employees what they’d like to see happen or what ideas they have for viable solutions (making them feel as if they’re part of a remedy) if you’ve already decided what’s going to happen. You’ll add another layer to the conflict — even if you have the best of intentions.

Being judge and jury

Being the judge and jury inadvertently creates a dependence on you as the only decision maker in the group. Over time, employees either resent you for not letting them be involved in solving their own problems or become completely paralyzed when faced with a decision.

Work with individuals to come up with their own answers. People are capable of solving their own problems — sometimes they just need some assistance. Be a sounding board by listening to your employees’ concerns and then ask questions to help them consider options.

Rescuing instead of coaching

Occasionally, an employee in the center of a conflict may tug at your heartstrings. Taking on the role of caregiver every once in a while isn’t unusual, but feeling sorry for or empathetic toward an employee’s social awkwardness or lack of training keeps a conflict going. Telling his co-workers to overlook his need for development shortchanges everyone and doesn’t solve anything; it can actually make the situation worse, by creating resentment in the employees who end up doing more and limiting the potential of the person you’re trying to rescue.

An employee who wants and expects you to fix the situation for him may actually end up resenting you. He may even get angry when you tell him that you won’t do for him what he can do for himself. Plus, you run the risk that you’ll be put in a bad spot if things don’t go well. The very person you’re trying to help can easily turn on you if he doesn’t get what he wants.

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