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LESSONS & TOPICS

2.4 Develop Processes for Identifying and Addressing Issues, Concerns and Problems Identified by Team Members

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2.4 Develop Processes for Identifying and Addressing Issues, Concerns and Problems Identified by Team Members

As a manager, an integral part of your job is to address the issues, problems, and concerns of your staff. Although the three terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference in their meaning on the basis of your relation to them.  

A problem is a matter that you care about being resolved, and it generally concerns you and is something you can identify as your own. A concern is a matter that involves others. Though you are not directly affected by it, it is something you care about being solved. Finally, an issue is generally someone else’s problem. It does not actually concern you, but you can recognize why it is considered troublesome. To further illustrate the difference between the three, an example may prove to be useful:

  • Problem: One of your team members is late for your monthly meeting.
    • This is a problem that directly affects you as you cannot start the meeting without them.
  • Concern: One of your team members is late for their meeting with a client.
    • Although this does not directly affect you, their tardiness may negatively affect your organisation’s working relationship with your client. You are, therefore, concerned.
  • Issue: One of your colleague’s team members is repeatedly late to their team meetings.
    • It may not be your problem or concern, but you can recognise why this situation causes alarm and needs to be addressed. Thus, it is considered an issue.

Discussing these matters is never easy. However, it is crucial to do so and to do so effectively. Here are suggestions that can help make their identification and resolution more pleasant and productive:

1. Give the staff member your full attention. 

Keep in mind that dealing with staff member’s problems and concerns is your work and not an interruption to your work. Avoid doing other tasks such as taking phone calls or continuing work on your computer and focus on listening to your staff member. Failure to give the staff your undivided attention sends the message that their concerns aren’t relevant to you. 

2. Listen to your staff member’s explanation without interrupting.

Unless they are just endlessly rambling on, you should allow your staff members to finish their story. However, if you sense that they are chattering unnecessarily, you can respectfully interject by saying, ‘Let me just stop you for a minute to be sure that I understand.’ After this, summarise what you were able to hear so far.

3. If the problem is unclear, ask, ‘How can I help?’ 

Sometimes, people simply don’t explain things well. If you find that you have no clue what the issue is, ask your staff. Finding out what they expect from you will make things clearer for both of you.

4. Display understanding, but not necessarily agreement with your staff member.

It is important to be empathic and to show that you understand the problem at hand. However, you have only heard your staff member’s version of the situation so far. Agreeing with them at the onset may, therefore, be hazardous and should be avoided. Instead of saying something like, ‘That’s awful. you must do something about that!’ it’s better to say something like, ‘I can understand why you’d be upset about that.’

5. Remain neutral regarding issues involving others.

You especially want to avoid picking sides when it comes to issues that involve other people. It is unwise to jump into conclusions about others’ behaviours until you have spoken to them about it or learned sufficient details about the situation.

6. Ask questions to get a full picture.

Sometimes, people who are at the height of emotions – especially those who are upset or angry – fail to provide all the relevant details regarding an issue. They tend to be focused on their point of view and may end up excluding all others. It is, therefore, crucial that you try to understand the entire situation before deciding what is to be done.

7. Explain what you will do, then do it. 

After discussing a staff member’s concern, there must be an explicit agreement regarding what happens next. There may be actions that you want the staff member to do, such as provide supplementary information or speak directly with a colleague. As the manager, you should be crystal clear about what you can do about the situation and what, if any, your next steps will be. 

8. Seek permission to involve other staff members.

If the staff member’s complaint is about a colleague, that person often becomes part of the conversation to resolve the problem. However, you shouldn’t assume that the complaining staff member has considered this. Unless the complaint is a legal issue (see below), you may need to help the staff member realise that they have a choice of either involving the other party or living with the situation.

9. Raise legal issues to the appropriate people immediately.

If the staff member mentions discrimination, financial mismanagement, sexual harassment, threats of personal harm, or other legal issues, you must run to your Legal or Human Resource department. Immediate action is required for legal issues, and delays may create serious problems. Do not attempt to investigate these issues yourself.

10. Set a time for the staff member to get back to you.

The staff member is probably more concerned about this issue than you are. However, this is not an excuse for you to let the issue slip your mind. Their problem is your problem, after all. In order for you to ensure that there is no delay in taking action to address the issue, it’s essential for you to make time for the staff member to get back to you. Ensure that the follow-up is mutually agreed upon by both of you. Moreover, it would help if you set it up in both your calendars to ensure synchronisation in your schedules.

11. Keep information confidential.

Some problems may be so odd or interesting that you are tempted to share them as amusing anecdotes. However, you must bear in mind that people resent sharing personal issues with others who shouldn’t be involved. As the manager, you must keep the details of your staff members’ problems and issues confidential at all costs.

12. Resolve the issue or explain why you are unable to.

Whether or not you can help your staff members solve their problems, you must inform them. Don’t leave them wondering if or when their issues will ever be resolved. If you cannot help them address their problem, make it a point to clearly explain why. Generally speaking, people recognise that managers have limited power too.

13. Arrange a time to follow up (if necessary).

If it’s a situation that will take a while to improve (e.g., an interpersonal conflict with a co-worker), determine when you will be able to touch base with your staff member to see how things are progressing.

14. Don’t reward staff members for complaining.

It is important to address valid concerns. However, some people complain endlessly about everything. After a while, these staff members will just wear you out and use up all your energy. Chronic complainers thrive on attention, so it is crucial that you don’t encourage or reinforce their behaviour by being sympathetic and listening to their rants.

Once you have a clear understanding of the problems from the perspective of the team member, it’s time to help them find a solution. Several processes can be useful here. These include:

  • Brainstorming options with the team for addressing concerns 
    • Brainstorming creates an open environment that encourages participation, welcomes and builds upon quirky ideas, and allows participants to fully contribute, helping them develop a rich array of creative solutions.
    • In the context of problem-solving, brainstorming banks on the team members’ diverse experience. It increases the richness of ideas explored, meaning you can often find better solutions to the problems at hand.
    • The process can also help you ensure buy-in from team members for the solution chosen. After all, they’re more likely to be committed to an approach if they were involved in its development. What’s more, because brainstorming is fun, it helps team members bond, as they solve problems in a positive, rewarding environment.
    • While brainstorming can be useful, it’s crucial to approach it with an open mind and a spirit of non-judgment. If you don’t do this, people ‘clam up,’ the number and quality of ideas plummet, and morale can suffer.
  • Creating a matrix of issues and concerns and distributing for comment
    • In Decision Matrix Analysis, you list your options as rows on a table and the factors you need as columns. After this, you score each option/factor combination, weigh this score by the relative importance of each factor, then add these scores up to give an overall score for each option. The option with the highest score wins.
    • While this sounds complex, this technique is quite easy to use. The usual decision matrix would look like the following figure, where each factor is scored out of 5, with 5 being the highest. In this example, you are trying to determine which of the given options for upgrading your office computers is the most viable choice. 

Decision Matrix – Upgrading Office Computers

CriteriaComputer AComputer BComputer C
Cost342
Operating System253
Reliability334
Total8129
Through this decision matrix, you have determined that Computer B is the most viable option.
  • Discussions with individuals regarding their concerns 
    • The underlying principle for any performance management process is that giving feedback is crucial in working with people just as it is an element essential to learning. As such, it is important to encourage open discussions with employees to seek and give feedback regarding their concerns. The feedback they may share would help better understand how their true sentiments, giving you a better idea of how to go about a problem.
    • On the other hand, giving your own feedback can be motivational for them. Positive feedback gives a sense of achievement and understanding, while negative feedback provides an opportunity to improve any shortcomings. Ultimately, giving effective feedback, which is well-timed, constructive, and done in line with the staff member’s needs and character, can not only help solve problems but also improve their performance and increase their commitment.
  • Distributing drafts for comment with a range of options for resolution of concerns
    • Drafting is a vital part of any undertaking. In terms of resolving problems, drafting proposed resolutions proves to be an effective method of ensuring that you come up with the best possible issue resolution method. By seeking the feedback and comments from others, you will be able to determine areas for improvement you may not have initially considered. 
    • In making your draft, compile your options and add all the necessary details for each one. Once you have completed the draft, provide a copy by an appropriate means to all team members for discussion. 
  • Training and development sessions
    • Training can be useful to address gaps in the knowledge of team members which cause concerns within the team. Primarily, communication training and other ‘soft’ skill training can contribute to team building.

Gaining Agreement

In coming up with ways to address issues, concerns, and problems within the team, coming to an agreement on what course of action would be adapted is essential. However, this is not so easily achieved. There would be instances when a resolution is unable to be achieved by the team. When this happens, you and your team must prepare to take the necessary actions.

Meeting with your Team

Setting up a formal meeting is an effective way of addressing most any matter – not just issue resolution. Given this, you ought to note the different types of meetings that exist. These are:

Types of Meeting

  • Information briefings
  • Program/project planning or review
  • Trust building/team-building
  • Decision-making
  • Generating new ideas or approaches
  • Dispute resolution
  • Strategic planning
  • Problem-solving/crisis resolution
  • Commitment-building

In planning your meeting, you must first be clear about the type of meeting you ought to have. For the purpose of this topic, you are likely to call for a meeting on decision-making, dispute resolution, or problem-solving/crisis resolution. The type of meeting and its subject matter informs you who needs to participate and what kind of interaction is necessary to accomplish the meeting purpose. It also provides context for the selection of group process techniques.

Steps in the Decision-Making Process

  1. Define the problem or opportunity (this may include defining criteria for acceptability or success)
  2. Generate alternatives
  3. Evaluate alternatives
  4. Select a course of action
  5. Define the implementation plan
  6. Establish mechanisms for determining whether or not your approach is working.

Coming to a decision usually requires several discrete steps (e.g., defining the problem, generating alternatives, and so on). Sometimes, all those steps occur in one meeting. When it comes to major decisions, however, these steps (outlined below) are often sequenced over several meetings. 

At every step, different behaviour is required from the participants, so the meeting planner must specify where in the decision-making process this meeting (or this agenda item) is.

Have a clearly defined series of steps that the group uses whenever they make decisions. It doesn’t have to be the one above, so long as it works for the kinds of issues people in your organisation are addressing. What does matter is that it is used frequently enough so that people develop a common language and a common set of expectations for each step in the process. It is recommended that you post these steps in each meeting room so that participants can refer to them at a glance.

Here is a summary of some issues at each step in the decision-making process as well as some useful group process techniques for each step:

1. Define the Problem or Opportunity

The biggest issue with this step is getting people involved. Groups have a knack for skipping problem definition and going straight to thinking about possible solutions. Moreover, groups have the tendency go straight to the solutions they already know how to do (e.g., if your organisation makes widgets, you’ll gravitate towards a solution involving widget).

The problem with this behaviour is that you are likely to come up with an excellent solution for the wrong problem, or you won’t think through the fundamental issues and come up with something that is merely a patch on top of existing patches.

Here are some techniques for helping groups define problems:

  • Force Field Analysis
    • Have the group brainstorm two lists: 
      • Forces that are ‘driving’ for change
      • Forces that are ‘restraining’ change
    • After this, discuss strategies to eliminate the restraining forces and capitalise on the driving forces.
  • Relationship Diagrams 
    • Write a short statement regarding an issue on a card (or large post-it), and stick it on a wall. Provide everyone with cards and ask them to identify the factors that affect the problem, noting one idea per card (make sure they are easy to read). Move the cards around so the factors that are related to each other are located together. Analyse the relationships. Use coloured tape or strings to show a cause-effect relationship. The cards that are most frequently perceived as a cause (having the most tape or strings attached) are likely to be the root cause of your problem.
  • Immersion
    • Hold a session in a facility that allows the group to move around, break off into small groups, or even work alone. Before the team gathers, create a ‘high stimulus’ environment containing anything that might be related to the issue – articles, books, pictures, (even toys that can be used to diagram or model ideas, e.g., Lego). Form smaller groups and ask these groups to go through any of the materials they want. Give them a deadline to report anything they’ve found that may apply to the problem. After these reports, agree on promising trends and provide teams new assignments related to these. Only after you have immersed yourselves in thinking about the issue through various perspectives does the team attempt to reach agreement on the problem definition.
  • Invent the Problem
    • After ‘immersion,’ state the problem as though you know its outcome, but don’t know how you got there. For example, a car rental executive may say, ‘Picture this. You have no central reservation system, and things are running very well. The workload is up, but the costs are way down. How did you do it?’

2. Generate Alternatives

During this step, the real challenges during this step are to:

  • Help people suspend judgmental ways of thinking
  • Help people step out of old ways of thinking about the problem
  • Separate ideas from personalities.

For example, If Bill has identified ten ideas, no specific idea should be associated with Bill. This is to avoid others feeling the need to support or oppose the idea simply because it is Bill’s, and they hold certain biases towards or against him.

Most people who work in research and development (R&D) and creativity fields stress that people ought to be in a playful, even joyous, mood to be optimally creative. In fact, some R&D companies even provide water guns, have toys on all the meeting room tables, and encourage food fights – anything to engage people and get them out of being too adult.

A few simpler techniques for generating alternatives merit discussion. These are:

  • Brainstorming 

Get people to generate lots of ideas. List all of them on a flipchart or whiteboard. Don’t allow evaluative comments (even positive ones). The creative ideas are likely to emerge once you’ve flushed out the old ideas, so push for quantity. 

  • Analogies (Synectics) 

Work through analogies to get people to identify viable options. You’ll end up with statements like:

‘If our organisation were a biological system, the way we’d solve this problem would be…’

‘If it were a virus, we’d….’

  • ‘If I Had My Druthers’ Fantasy

Create fantasy solutions with no rules or ‘givens’ including physical laws like gravity or market realities. You’ll end up with statements like:

‘If I had my druthers, we’d all communicate using ESP. Then, you wouldn’t need…’ 

After several fantasies, discuss ways to solve the problem as you did in your fantasy solutions while addressing the physical or market realities (i.e., use cell phones instead of Extrasensory Perception (ESP)).

3. Evaluate Alternatives 

If you use the techniques mentioned above for generating alternatives, you might have ended up generating so many alternatives you don’t know how to evaluate them efficiently. Sometimes, it is better to put off the evaluation for a later meeting so you can have a work group analyse the alternatives between your meetings.

Here are some techniques for evaluating alternatives during meetings:

  • Straw-votes 
    • If you are evaluating brainstorming ideas, one of the fastest ways to determine which items justify group discussion time is giving each participant a fixed number of coloured dots or gummed stars (usually five to ten). Upon giving each member these, ask them to indicate which ideas they feel deserve further discussion by applying their coloured dots or stars to the wall or flip chart sheets next to the item.
    • They can typically use their dots however they want (e.g., If they want to use all dots on one item, they can). Voting should occur once everyone understands what each item signifies and all similar ideas have been combined (so votes aren’t split between the same idea worded two different ways).
    • Another variation of straw-voting involves having everyone pick the five ideas which they think are most significant or deserving of discussion and placing these in rank order, giving five points to their highest ranked item, four points to the next highest, and so on.
    • Straw-voting is an effective way of reducing the number of options, but it will still leave you with several ‘finalists.’ As such, you ought to use another method in choosing among these. 
  • Screening 
    • Sometimes, it may be possible to screen out ideas by using decision rules related to cost, feasibility, logistical considerations, and even environmental impact. A sample rule might be: ‘total initial investment can’t exceed $1,000,000.’ 
    • The screening technique reduces the number of options, but it ultimately won’t make a decision for you. In the final analysis, you would need to ‘formulate’ the best solution, often drawing from pieces of the earlier ideas.
  • Decision Analysis
    • Several ‘decision analysis’ techniques are widely used. Most of these are variants of what is described in academia as ‘multi-attribute utility analysis.’ The underlying concept is to:
      • Evaluate alternatives based on critical attributes (e.g., aesthetics, cost, performance)
      • Have all key decision-makers identify the relative value of each attribute (e.g., ‘cost is twice as important as aesthetics’)
      • Analyse which of the alternatives best satisfy the identified weights. (Note: The answer may be different for each decision-maker since each one assigned a different relative weight to the attributes.)
    • For example, there are several attributes you take into account when you choose a new computer (e.g., price, brand reputation, storage, and operating system). First, you ought to establish where each alternative computer fits on the scale for each attribute. Then, you must weigh the attributes, that is, you may think the price is relatively unimportant, while the accounting department thinks it is all-important. Use this analysis to identify key areas of agreement and disagreement. The more sophisticated versions of these techniques will also allow you to do sensitivity analysis (e.g., If you doubled the priority you gave to cost, would it change which computer you selected?).
    • It is important to note that this kind of analysis can be handy in identifying the differences in priorities and understanding which alternatives best match particular priorities. However, unless everybody gives the same weights to the attributes, (i.e., your team and the accounting department both give the same weight to price, brand reputation, storage, and operating system– an unlikely event), this kind of analysis will not make the decision for you.

4. Select a Course of Action 

It is imperative to recognise who is responsible for making any decision. Some decision-makers make decisions based on intuitive ‘Aha’s,’ while others depend on detailed quantitative analysis. Sometimes, it is ‘the boss.’ Sometimes, it’s a decision based on consensus. Sometimes, it may even be a consensus decision unless the group can’t agree, in which case the boss decides. Any of these approaches can work; what doesn’t work is having the groupthink that it is making the decision when the boss is the one who will make it. Expectations must be clear and well-defined.

5. Define the Implementation Plan 

This is the stage wherein the group thinks through all the tasks necessary to implement your solution and assigns both responsibilities and deadlines for completion. The implementation plan you come up with is essentially a compilation of all the strategies you have come up with this far. Further, it simplifies your ideas and distributes the work among the members. It is broken down into parts that everyone can easily understand and follow as necessary.

The use of PERT charts would help teams visualise the components of a successful plan. PERT stands for Program Evaluation Review Technique; it simplifies the tasks within a project to enable easier analysis. Likewise, the PERT charts is a management tool that is used to coordinate, schedule, and organise these tasks. To implement this method, the group needs to work on either a large whiteboard or wall to be able to visualise all the parts. One meeting centre even has magnetised pieces of a metal whiteboard, cut in the shape of PERT chart symbols, which will stick to the walls and can also be moved around on the wall.

If you have a SMART Board and digital projector, you can use a flow-chart or project management software application then project it on the whiteboard. Your team can use all the tools from the software application, then download your conclusions into a laptop. Additionally, the Meeting Pro software that comes with your SMART Board also allows you to move items around the board without erasing. It also has a way of recording assignments and deadlines. You can download all this information then send everybody their assignment lists via email.=

6. Establish Mechanisms for Determining Whether or Not Your Approach is Working

The team must establish a way of determining whether its plan is solving the problem with which it started. When you have a defined process for evaluating performance, you can adjust your plan without resorting to the ‘blame game,’ (e.g., trying to pinpoint who’s responsible for a failure). Without such a process, the plan often has to break down entirely before anyone takes action. When this happens, you’re stuck not only with the original problem but also all the bad feelings and ill-will that result from failure.

Working on the Walls

Almost all the techniques described above require recording participants’ comments on flip chart sheets posted on walls or a whiteboard. Some meeting rooms will allow the entire walls of the room to be plastered with papers and used as storyboards. Others are surfaced in the whiteboard. Groups like to ‘think big’ like this.

The only problem is getting the information down from the whiteboard so members can walk away with it. This is the advantage of using digital whiteboards like SMART Board. The other advantage of the digital whiteboards is that you can project a graphic template of a group process template on the board, have the group fill in the blanks, then download both the template and the group’s responses.

If you don’t have a digital whiteboard, think about laying out your whole process on a large continuous sheet of butcher paper, leaving space for the group’s responses. Not only does your butcher-paper template guide the group through the process, but you can fold it up and walk away with it at the end of the meeting.

Consensus

A major step in resolving issues, concerns, and problems is deciding what course of action ought to be taken. As mentioned in the previous chapter, decision-making done by a team is superior to that done by an individual. In order to reach decisions on a team level, however, a consensus is often necessary.

Consensus is agreement on a particular decision. Reaching a consensus does not mean that everyone feels like the agreed-upon decision is the best. Rather, this means that the team agrees that the decision is ‘the way to go.’ The steps to gain consensus are:

  1. Make sure that everyone understands the idea or issue at hand. The main reason people cannot come to an agreement is that they don’t fully understand what is being discussed. A dissenting opinion can often be swayed with more information on the proposed action. Ask the dissenting member/s what they don’t understand and address their concerns.
  2. To solidify the team’s agreement, you must call for consensus on the issue being discussed. This means that you ask the members to signify their consent. The fastest and easiest way to do so is to ask if anyone disagrees. If no one does, the team is in consensus. However, this step works only if the team has agreed that anyone who disagrees must speak up. Otherwise, someone may quietly disagree but be too afraid to voice their dissent. Passive-aggressive individuals often use silence to demonstrate disapproval. As such, using this technique must be done with caution to ensure that everyone truly agrees.
  3. Should there be concern about how someone might be silently disagreeing without speaking up, you may visualise the members’ positions. Call for a visual vote so you can see where people stand. This is best done with thumb signals (i.e., a thumbs-up signal would indicate agreement, a thumbs down signal would signify disagreement, and a sideways thumb signal would indicate uncertainty with the idea or proposal at hand). 
  4. Once each member’s position has been identified, ask the minority if they can accept the decision of the majority. The function of this step is to expedite the process if the dissenting minority can live with and support the majority’s decision. Interestingly, many would easily accept others’ opinions when they are asked if they can. During this step, members of the minority must decide whether the decision is significant enough to be adamantly opposed or if they can learn to live with it so the team can move forward.
  5. If any member with a dissenting view cannot accept the majority’s decision, you must start with the majority as you open up the issue for discussion. There is a big possibility that the majority is right. If such is the case, then a few additional explanations from this side may sway the minority opinion and convince opposing members to consent to the decision.
  6. After allowing comments from the majority, you must ask if any of the dissenters have been swayed. If everyone is in agreement, you have reached a consensus. If such is not the case, you must continue the discussion. In the process of this discussion, you must ask if anyone in the minority has been swayed.
  7. If there is anyone who has yet to be swayed by the majority’s explanation, you must first get the opposing opinion then hear from the wafflers. Wafflers are those influenced by thumbs down or thumbs up arguments. Let the team discuss the issue in a point versus counter-point fashion, and encourage wafflers to participate in the discussion so they can add points to either side.
  8. Ask the team members to use their thumbs to indicate when they have been swayed. Once all thumbs are either up or down, you have reached a consensus. Always keep in mind that consensus does not indicate full agreement from everyone; some team members may consent because they can live with the decision and support it.
  9. If a team member finds it difficult to agree to something everyone else has already accepted, ask if they conceptually agree with the idea or proposal. Sometimes, a person would agree with the concept but not the particulars of an idea. In such cases, they may seem to be in complete disagreement when they are, in reality, having reservations due to a few minor points. By getting them to agree conceptually first, you can easily work out the kinks of the minor points of contention.
  10. A technique similar to the one mentioned above involves determining how close a person is to being in agreement. Ask the dissenter how close they are to agreeing to the proposal (in percentage). Someone who is ’90 % there’ will be a lot easier to sway than someone who is ‘not even close – maybe 10%.’ Usually, the person who is close to agreeing can easily be swayed by being asked what they need to give their 100% support. On the other hand, it would likely take a great deal of discussion or revisions to sway the person who is far from agreeing to the proposal.
  11. Another method for swaying dissenters is using a ballot system to gather all the team members’ votes. Identities can remain anonymous by not writing down any names in the ballots. By remaining anonymous, the possibility of any member’s vote being swayed by another person’s influence is reduced. This ensures that all decisions made are based solely on the individual member’s choice. After gathering all the ballots, the team leader can then tally all the votes. The majority vote will be the decision that the team will proceed with. 
  12. Sometimes, a consensus discussion gets stuck because people disagree with a step that comes much later in the process. The fear of a future roadblock compels them to oppose the idea in the present. For instance, they may argue against a proposal because they think it will be difficult to implement. Instead of agreeing that the proposal is the right thing to do, they worry about how hard it would be to implement it and shut it down completely. In such cases, discuss and agree on the steps of the proposal in order; allow only the discussion of one step at each point in time and get consensus at each step. This eliminates the need to worry steps ahead when you are just in the first step. Ultimately, it will help the team avoid making a detour on the right road just because they fear the possible speed bumps up ahead.
  13. Make the right decision first. Sometimes, members know that a decision is right but fear its consequences. For example, as a team discusses a significant reorganisation within a company, the need for everyone in the room to relocate to another state emerges. Some members then begin to express dissent because they do not want to uproot their families. As soon as it becomes evident that this dissent was due to personal reasons and not because they believe the decision would be wrong for the business, it becomes necessary to get them to prioritise making the right the choice and temporarily set aside their personal objections. After this, the consequences of the decision and how its personal impact on the team can be minimised may be discussed.
  14. If the team still cannot come to an agreement after using all the above-mentioned techniques, it may be time to table the decision temporarily. This would give people time to think about the proposal and further weigh out both the points and counter-points in a less heated setting. However, you must remember to return to the issue at the first available opportunity, most likely during the next time the team meets.
  15. If someone continues to hold a dissenting view after the rest of the team has given their consensus, there are only two possible reasons they cannot agree with the decision. They either have a valid or a personal reason for doing so.

Issue Resolution Strategies

When problems in the workplace arise, there are many ways to approach and address them. Among these, however, eight foolproof strategies will enable you to effectively and efficiently resolve most any issue that emerges.

1. Understand the situation.

The truth is, very few situations turn out to be exactly how they seem at face value or how others present them to you. A key strategy in resolving issues is, therefore, fully understanding the problem and predicament at hand. Before you even try to settle any conflict, it’s best to ensure that you have investigated the issue from all possible angles and considered all sides of the story. This ensures that any decisions made about the issue would be one that was not made lightly or one that favours only one side.

2. Acknowledge the problem. 

One primary source of unnecessary conflict is the inability to recognise an issue or realising its existence a little too late. Although something may seem like a negligible issue to you, someone else in your team may regard it as a major problem. It is, therefore, important to always acknowledge that issues affect you differently, and it’s normal to feel frustrated when it comes to dealing with these. Moreover, you must bear in mind that the successful resolution of any issue is based on a key acceptance of the problem at hand.

3. Be patient and take your time.  

The adage, ‘Haste makes waste,’ has more truth in it than you realise. When it comes to resolving problems, a key strategy is to employ patience in attentively and carefully evaluating all the information at hand. If you are in a hurry to come up with a resolution, you may end up missing crucial details that may lead you to assess the situation incorrectly. As a result, you may end up making the wrong decision and further worsen the issue.

4. Don’t resort to coercion and intimidation.

Although emotional outbursts and manipulation may temporarily stop the problem, these methods are mere band-aid solutions that do not target the issue at its roots. Because these are not a long-term method, the problem they have ceased will likely resurface in the future. These ineffective strategies will only increase your problems because once the issue emerges once more, you will have to deal with it and the negative feelings that have festered below the surface during the interim. Go for healthy and proactive solutions that don’t hurt others in the process.

5. Focus on the problem, not the individual. 

Most people have known at least one ‘problematic individual’ during their work experience. When it comes to issue resolution, however, it is best to avoid pre-conceived attitudes towards individuals. Person X may not be the most agreeable individual, or perhaps Person Y has a personality conflict with your staff member. Either way, this does not mean that they do not have a legitimate concern. As a manager, you must stick to the issue at hand and let go of your personal biases and prejudices. If it, through your thorough analysis, you find that the individual is indeed the problem, then you can focus on investigating them in relation to the issue at hand.

6. Establish guidelines. 

A formal meeting between or among concerned individuals is a key strategy in resolving conflict. However, the effectivity of this method relies on pre-established agreements and guidelines. Before conducting any such meeting, parties involved ought to agree to a set of rules that will ensure that the meeting will effectively resolve the problem at hand. Sample guidelines include asking the parties to: 

  • express themselves as calmly and as unemotionally as possible
  • try and understand one another’s perspective

Moreover, it is best to strictly implement these guidelines and inform the parties that a violation of these will result in the dissolution of the meeting.

7. Keep the communication open. 

Ultimately, the goal of conflict resolution is to successfully allow all parties involved to settle the problem between or among themselves. As such, a key strategy is to ensure that communication is open for everyone and that no one party is dominating the conversation. Parties must be allowed to express their viewpoint. Along with this, however, you must attempt to facilitate the meeting and serve as the mediator, sharing your perspective and helping them pinpoint the real cause of the conflict at hand.

8. Act decisively. 

Once you have carefully gathered information, spoken to all parties involved, and reviewed the circumstances surrounding the issue, it is vital to make your decision. To effectively resolve any issue, you must act decisively. It does not benefit anyone to leave the matter in limbo, and taking too long in making a decision could also damage your credibility and reputation. Although not everyone will agree with your choice, at least it will signify where you stand.

Further Reading

Feedback is an integral part of developing and facilitating team cohesion. Whether you are a subordinate or a superior, learning how to effectively provide, request, and accept feedback is an invaluable skill you ought to learn.

To learn more about the process as well as find some practical tips and techniques in doing so, you may read the guide provided by the ACT Government. The Art of Feedback: Giving, Seeking and Receiving Feedback