The real reason managers shouldn’t ignore a problem

Grace and Dodger like to pretend that they are ignoring each other. But each is well aware of the other's presence. They just don't like to admit it.

Grace and Dodger do their best to ignore each other. But each is well aware of the other’s presence. They just don’t like to admit it. In the workplace, we know when an issue exists, so you aren’t fooling anyone by trying to act as if everything is perfect. It only creates a higher level of frustration, and ultimately a disengaged workforce.

The perfect employee. The perfect manager. The perfect workplace. Wouldn’t it be nice if that existed?

When it comes to managing people, one of the best things we can do is to realize that nothing will ever be perfect. There will always be problems. There will always be conflicts. It’s how we deal with them that matters the most.

What’s the real reason that managers shouldn’t ignore a problem? Because it won’t miraculously go away.

There are a host of other reasons, too, including these:

  • The problem only gets worse
  • Frustration levels increase
  • Productivity suffers
  • Complacency sets in
  • You aren’t fooling anyone, people know there is a problem!

All these things are extremely troublesome for your workforce, especially if it become pervasive throughout the organization. If employees know that you aren’t going to address an issue they raise, they shut down. They might remain in the chair at the desk, but they may as well have checked out of the building. They start to see you as the problem, instead of the problem itself.

Dealing with issues is not fun nor enjoyable, and is often uncomfortable. Here are some suggestions for making it easier on yourself — and your employees:

  • Start small. Open up a simple conversation, perhaps just to set the stage that you are aware of the situation.
  • Find time in your day to talk to employees about topics that aren’t a problem. That makes talking about the tough stuff easier.
  • It’s critical that you move forward with some action, even baby steps are important. If the problem is huge, don’t try to solve it all at once. Break it into parts and work on one at a time. You will probably find that one improvement will ripple out to other areas naturally. (This is directly related to how things don’t go away on their own. Don’t ignore a problem!)
  • Work to solve the process, not change the person. Focus on finding ways to alter the workflow or process as opposed to demanding a person change who they are. Be clear on your expectations for what is needed for the job and allow the employee to find ways to meet that expectation.
  • Use an objective tool to provide support to your plan of action. Assessments can help uncover the root cause and provide ideas for a constructive outcome.

If you’re facing a tough situation with an employee (or manager!), remember that opening up the conversation is the only way to improve the situation. Ignoring the problem is not a solution. Even if the discussion is difficult, it starts the ball rolling to resolution as opposed to staying stuck in the same rut.

What other ideas do you have to help work through a challenging situation? Let’s talk! 

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  1. Karen Johnson on April 26, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Thanks! Even in our small organization, I can see how this plays out.


    • Robin on April 26, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Great point, Karen. Sometimes it becomes even more challenging to confront a problem in a smaller organization for fear of “rocking the boat.” However, as I’m sure you’ve seen, ignoring the issue doesn’t help in the long run. Thanks for adding your thoughts here!

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