It’s early March and it is New England, so waking up to another snow storm is not a surprise, nor unusual. But that doesn’t make it less irritating for some people.
The same holds true in our workplaces. Many of the things that happen on a daily basis shouldn’t surprise us. But it can still aggravate us.
You can’t tell Mother Nature to stop the snow. And most of the time, you can’t tell your co-worker to change her ways. (You can try, and many people do, but I’m guessing you know that the probability of anything happening isn’t on your side.)
So what’s a person to do? Years ago, a mentor shared some wisdom with me when I was in a situation that was highly frustrating to me — a situation that I could clearly see was headed to disaster but no one was listening to me. This person said to me: You always have three choices:
1. Like it.
2. Leave it.
3. Change it.
That advice has helped me, mostly because it reminds me that I am always the one in control of a situation — even when I’m not. She didn’t mean that I would always have power to change the other situation. But she did mean that I would have power to change my own reaction to it, and therefore change the dynamics — often in a way that turned things around in a positive way.
Back to the snow. I heard on the news this morning that the town of Jaffrey, where we live, was getting the jackpot totals for the state — 9″ as of 7 a.m. and still falling strong. Yesterday’s forecast was calling for 3″ to 6″, perhaps a bit more in the higher elevations, where we are, but definitely looking like quite “a bit” more. Facebook was heavy with cries from friends of “no more shoveling!” “Enough already!” and “I’m so ready for spring!”
Several inches of heavy, wet snow presents many inconveniences. There is the clearing of walkways and driveways, messy and dangerous commutes, cancellations of events, the list could go on. The first time or two is a novelty and you deal with. Then after it starts to become a routine, there is a tendency to get gnarly about it. But that accomplishes nothing, which is where I’m headed with this.
I, too, am anxious for spring. I am not really excited about spending more hours shoveling, anticipating sore muscles, taking time away from other things I’d rather be doing. However, there is almost a foot of snow outside my doorstep and I know my choices: I can like it, leave it, or change it.
As a manager, you have those same choices. Are you facing a situation where you’re fed up? Tired of the same ole, same ole? Then I’m guessing that the first option (liking it) isn’t going to happen. The second option (leaving it) could be tempting, but perhaps is not practical, especially in the short-term (that snow is not going to shovel itself). So let’s look at the third option a bit more closely.
Regular readers will know that I don’t believe it’s a manager’s role to change someone. That responsibility belongs to each individual — and may not be the best option anyhow. However, a manager should make an employee aware of the impact of a situation, and work alongside the person to figure out options. Here are steps to help you move through the process:
- First state the problem. If something is happening routinely that is not acceptable, put it on the table. Don’t make judgments or try to solve it immediately. Get consensus on what the issue is. If this step is skipped, you won’t make any progress towards changing it.
- Ask the employee (or co-worker or even your manager!) what ideas they have to create a different outcome. Let them own the situation and be creative in how to address it. Set a timeline for action and follow-up.
- Do what you can to help remove obstacles. What role are you playing in the problem? Remember, it takes two to tango and any resolution is going to take all interested parties to participate in any change. If there is a restraint that just can’t be moved (and it’s very possible that will happen) be clear on why. Have open and truthful dialogue.
- Hold the other person and yourself accountable for whatever was agreed upon. If it’s not working, go back to the second point, and try again.
Being proactive about a problem is the best way to resolve it. You are always the one to decide which of the three options you choose for a situation. My choice for today’s snow is to enjoy it. I’m going to appreciate the beauty of it while I’m shoveling. And I’m going to plan to put on my snowshoes this weekend and get the benefits of what nature has offered for this winter-white playground.
What other suggestions do you have for dealing with persistent issues? Leave a comment to share your ideas! Grace and I would love to hear from you.