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To Solve a Problem at Work–Ask; Don’t Assume

Conflict Remedy Blog by Lorraine Segal

A friend of mine who is an HR professional was facing an uncomfortable situation at work. She and other people who worked in the office were still able to work from home and have flexible schedules, but the people who actually worked on the line producing their product, had to be at the facility and couldn’t flex. She knew they were feeling unhappy and resentful and scared especially because of the resurgence of the pandemic.
She wasn’t sure what to do about it although she did have some ideas of what to change and some people she might talk to. I suggested that she start by asking the people in production what was going on. She could start by acknowledging to the line workers, “It looks like you’re not feeling happy about some of the things that are happening. Can you share with me what you’re feeling, especially what feels wrong or unfair?

Be curious.

Specifically she could ask:
What are the problems you’re seeing?
What do you think the causes of them are?
If you had the power to make changes what would they be? 
What do you think would make your work life better?

When you ask questions like this, it serves several positive purposes.
First, you are showing people respect and empowering them by asking them how they see the situation, and then listening with curiosity and openness to their responses. Second, you’re much more likely to get helpful actionable information if you talk to the people who are directly affected and have a close up perspective from the front line that you do not.

My friend’s intentions and concerns came from a pure, heart-centered place, which is admirable. But when she can listen with empathy and curiosity, her ability to help these workers will be enhanced.

                        author

Lorraine Segal

After surviving the 50's and 60's, as well as twenty years in toxic academia as a tenured professor, Lorraine Segal was inspired to started her own business, Conflict Remedy (ConflictRemedy.com), happily teaching, coaching, blogging and consulting around workplace conflict transformation. She is addicted to reading novels and enjoys walking and… MORE >

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