Work Interventions and Problem Solving

    Paula Fulghum

    In the life of all companies, there comes a necessary time for change. Companies aren’t able to survive if they don’t adapt to needs of their employees, customers, or other stakeholders. Your company’s relationship with your employees is vital. A company is dependent on the employees’ contributions and performance, so focusing time and energy on making sure employees are working hard and being adequately reciprocated is important. When problems arise that interfere with work performance or employee well-being, leaders need to intervene. Interventions at work can come in a variety of forms such as team-building training, stress management workshops, or institution of new policies. Other more minor problems may simply need a group or individual conference to address concerns. An intervention to correct a problem or institute a change can be great for a company if you do it in the right way. If a company has a poor approach to their intervention, however, it can be disastrous.

    So how should you go about fixing problems or starting a change at work? A simple, yet often neglected, place to start is the framework of how you address a problem and propose a solution. Think back to when problems came about in High School relationships. There was always that classic line of, “It’s not you… It’s me.” While we might all think this is a cheesy way of trying not to sound like a jerk, there might be more to it than that. While we all hated to hear that phrase, it made us feel a little better than someone saying this is entirely your fault. The same thing can apply when dealing with our workers. For example, what if your sales have dropped marginally in the last month and you need to do something about it immediately? What do you think will happen if you go out and tell your employees, “Your sales skills are terrible.”? That won’t produce the outcome you are searching for. Changing your approach to, “Our company sales have been lower than usual. Let’s brainstorm what we can do to help you improve”, your employees will not feel as negatively about the situation and be more open to suggestions and motivated to do something about it.

    Taking the causality further …No one likes to be the cause of a problem, and in the business world most problems don’t have one single point for blame. There is so much more that attributes to an individual’s performance than just their personal strengths and weaknesses. Social and economic forces can be strong in many industries. Co-workers, supervisors, and other important people outside of the office can also be influential. So take the necessary time to really think about the problem going on in your office. If your manufacturing company isn’t producing enough products, think through the issue and peel the onion. Are there situational constraints, such as equipment getting old and faulty? Ask your employees about it to gain their perspective. You might discover there are organization-wide issues… like incivility, feelings of injustice, or lack of teamwork that need to be addressed.

    Whatever you find is the root of the problem, getting the full picture and taking perspectives of those involved will result in a much more effective way to intervene to fix it. It is critical to keep in mind all of the factors within and outside of the company that can affect individual employees. And when you are in doubt of what is really going on with an issue, ask the employees. They should know what’s going on in their day-to-day jobs better than you do, so they can be an invaluable reference point, often overlooked by executives. Whether the problem is decreased sales, negative interpersonal interactions, or production errors, pay attention to the issue and take action if necessary. Organizational issues will rarely disappear on their own, so don’t ignore the need for adjustments or change. When you see an opportunity to fix a problem or enhance the employee or customer experience, take advantage of it. Beyond problem-solving, be proactive when you have an idea that could really boost production and employee well-being. Even the most modest of adjustments can help the organization grow and thrive in the changing world.

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