Developing Your Career


Problem-Solver or Complainer? Three Ways to Know When It’s Time to Ask for Help

By Lee Hecht Harrison on March 24, 2015

Managers want problem solvers on their team, not complainers. But sometimes conflicts with co-workers are not easily resolved, obstructing organizational productivity, innovation and collaboration.

So when is it acceptable to take an issue to your manager without compromising your reputation as a competent, mature problem-solver? When is it okay to say you’ve done all you can and now you need help? Ask yourself the following questions before approaching your supervisor and heading down that tricky road:

  1. Have you been proactive? Start the conflict resolution process as quickly as possible so that bad feelings aren’t left to fester. Write down what you’ve done to resolve the problem on your own along with the response you received. This will not only help your manager understand the situation, but will illustrate your conflict resolution skills and provide the manager with the opportunity to consider alternative solutions.
  2. How is the conflict affecting the business? Never let your emotions get in the way and don’t speculate as to motives. It’s more professional to say, “When Linda doesn’t return my calls it slows down the orders and our customer complaints increase as much as 40%” than to say, “Linda has a bad attitude, so she won’t return calls.”
  3. How can your manager help? Offer some suggestions for resolving the situation. Remember, however, that if someone’s performance is damaging the team, it’s the manager’s responsibility to put a plan in place to rectify the situation.

While conflict in the workplace is common, addressing it can be very uncomfortable. When dealing with conflict, practice “Truth Talk” by providing honest, forthright feedback that describes the behavior you are addressing and includes specific examples of the impact this behavior is having on you. Remember, conflict provides a great opportunity for honing communication skills. It takes bravery to have the kind of open and honest conversations that lead to resolution. This is a skill that will pay huge dividends in your career.


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