Expecting a workplace problem to go away? Don’t fall into that trap.

This little guy has been making a home under our driveway for months. We knew he was around, but even after starting to see the driveway crumble, we didn't think much of it until one day when a two foot sink hole appeared. Even with physical evidence staring us squarely in the face, we did nothing, apparently expecting the problem to go away. It didn't, in fact it got worse!
This little chipmunk has been making a home under our driveway for months. We knew she was around, but even after starting to see the driveway crumble, we didn’t think much of it, until one day when a two-foot sink hole appeared. It wasn’t until the physical evidence showed the magnitude of the destruction before we took action.

There will never be a shortage of issues that crop up in your workplace. And it makes sense to focus on the big ones, doesn’t it? Nope! Don’t fall into that trap.

If you delay dealing with smaller issues, you’ll find yourself with big ones. In fact, if you’re always facing big issues, it’s likely that you’ve been missing the opportunities to fix (or prevent) problems at the right time. And that will keep you on a hamster wheel of constant fire-fighting, never able to get off.

The early signs came with the smaller hole towards the back of the picture. Without us taking any action, a bigger, and much more dangerous hole, appeared. A car tire would easily get stuck in that! And who knows how much bigger the next hole would be.
The early signs came with the smaller hole towards the back of the picture. Without us taking any action, a bigger, and much more dangerous hole, appeared.

Take our little chipmunk problem as proof of the importance of understanding how big a problem can become. For weeks, we’d seen this cute critter scurrying around the driveway, and eventually, hurrying in and out of a small hole that had developed through the pavement. Prior to actually seeing the chipmunk, I’d noticed the hole and on occasion, had poured small gravel in the opening to plug it up. That worked — for a while.

But the hole always came back. And each time a little bigger. Then we saw the chipmunk digging, working diligently to push out unwanted stone and make her tunnel the perfect dimension. What we didn’t realize, is that she was creating a network under there, eroding the solid foundation, filling it with lightweight nuts and bedding material. And one day as I walked to my car, a two-foot sinkhole had developed! It took months, but this tiny ball of cute fur had successfully ruined our driveway. There was no way to avoid repair now; a car tire could easy get stuck and we were headed on a course of complete collapse of the retaining wall. The tiniest of creatures had created a large-scale problem, including an $800 repaving bill.

Grace knows the chipmunk was here. The tricky little fella found a defect in the trap and escaped, after enjoying a peanut butter and cracker snack!
Grace knows the chipmunk was here. The tricky little fella found a defect in the closure of the door and escaped, but only after enjoying a peanut butter and cracker snack!

Fixing the pavement was the first step and my husband wisely realized that we weren’t done with our problem resolution. Our busy resident rodent was still around and we’d need to remove her if we wanted to remove the problem. As you can see from the pictures, this has not proven to be so easy. She’s found a way to escape the Havahart trap after enjoying her peanut butter treats. But we’re not ignoring the situation and with any luck, we’ll be able to relocate her to a safe place far away before more driveway damage has been done.

Problems in our workplace are exactly like this. You see a thing or two that you know is not quite right, but it’s not really a big deal, and nothing bad is happening at the time. There are more pressing matters on your plate, so you don’t worry about investing time and energy into exploring the potential impact.

Instead of putting your head in the sand, I suggest you take these steps:

  • Be observant. Even if you aren’t looking for a problem, are there signs that you should be taking note of?
  • Assess the risks. Maybe everything won’t result in a big hole, so don’t panic and assume that every little thing will result in disaster. However, once you are clear about what could happen, it allows you to make better decisions about whether to let it be or work towards elimination or reduction of the problem. Assessments are perfect sources of data to help you understand some common workplace problems, like hiring and managing decisions.
  • Explore possible solutions. It’s good to have a plan at all stages of the game.
  • Take action. If you know the possible risks and how to solve it, you can confidently assign the resources, whether it be time or money, to address the situation you are facing.

It’s easy to avoid a problem. But take it from Chippy. You will end up in a trap with that approach!

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4 comments

    • Robin Eichert says:

      Karen, sorry for the delay in responding, but we are troubleshooting and I’ll let you know when we get it back to normal. Thanks so much for alerting us to this and sorry for the inconvenience!

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