There’s an art in how to resolve problems at work without creating more problems. If you’re in the 70-something percentile of people who are disengaged at work (as reported by the Society of Human Resources Management) and you know your reasons are directly related to your work environment, you probably wonder if there is anything you can actually do about it that will turn your situation around.
There are some things you can do so consider your choices. You have three: you can suck it up and live with it (least desirable option!), you can start looking for another job, or you can talk to your boss and/or someone at work who can help you.
Despite the issues you’re having, if you otherwise really like your job, it’s definitely worth a shot at attempting to resolve the problems before you throw in the towel. In many cases you can – you just have to know the right way to go about doing it.
Talking about work issues at work can get messy if not done correctly. Typically, that means you probably won’t be able to say what you really think without there being some risk involved. That’s not very encouraging but unfortunately, that’s how it is for many people because addressing issues at work is more like an art than a skill because you have to know how honest you can be and how to say what you want to say without digging a deeper hole for yourself.
Perhaps you feel like you can’t address your issues because you fear your boss (or someone else) will retaliate against you or worse yet, you will get fired. These are very legitimate concerns.
Your ability to be successful at this, however, depends a lot on where you stand at work. If you have a history of performance or attitude related issues, you will have less success with this than if you’re an employee who has a record of outstanding work performance.
If you do have performance issues because of the issues you experience at work, it’s a good idea to tie them together in your conversation so that it explains your performance issues.
The resolution tactic that you must consider first is directly talking to your boss or to the person who is the cause of your problem. It’s the most professional way to handle it as a first line strategy. Immediately going above that person’s head or to HR could (but not always) significantly worsen the problem. People tend to get upset when others go around them or above them instead of dealing directly with them.
How Do I Start The Conversation?
Here are some examples of ways to start a conversation around the most common issues employees have at work:
Problem 1: Conflict With Boss Or Co-Worker
“I feel like we have been having some communication breakdowns lately. I’d like to work with you to try to resolve these issues.” Never accuse that person of things by constantly saying “you do this, and you do that.” That will make the person feel defensive. Start all your sentences with “I” and mix in a lot of compliments with your concerns (e.g. “I think you have a lot really great ideas but I feel like I don’t know how to ask for your assistance without upsetting you. Can you help me understand what I am doing that upsets you?”)
Problem 2: Feeling Undervalued Or Unappreciated
“Can you let me know what your expectations are for my job? I love what I do here and I am doing everything I can to make sure that I do it right however, I do not feel like I am getting the feedback I need for me to effectively measure whether or not my work is valued here.”
Problem 3: Long Work Hours
I would advise against raising this as an issue if you’re working the exact amount of hours you agreed upon when you accepted the job – unless something drastically changed in your life. Otherwise, if this is your situation, it’s likely time to start looking for a job elsewhere.
However, if your hours increased significantly, you can start a conversation like this: “I am struggling a bit with the long hours I have been working lately. I will do anything I can for this company but lately these long hours have been having a negative impact on (my family, my school work, etc.). Is there something we can work out where I can have a better work/life balance?” Even suggesting doing work at home can be an option here.
Problem 4: Low Pay
In this scenario, I would not raise the issue unless you did not get (or did not get enough of) a promised or expected (annual) pay increase. If that’s the case you can state, “I think I was expecting a (bigger) pay increase. Is there a problem with my work or something I should be aware of that I can work on?”
Problem 5: Lack Of Training
“I really want to do a good job here and would really benefit from some training in (subject). Can we talk about some ways I can get additional training?
Problem 6: Passed Over For A Promotion Or Job Transfer
“I was really hoping to have the opportunity to move into that new role. Can you let me know what I can do to have a better chance of achieving that role in the future?”
The key in all these scenarios is to be prepared to handle the responses professionally. Remember, you’re trying to resolve the issue and not escalate it. You must remain professional even if the other person does not. If the person responds in a very accusatory manner and you find you’re about to blow your top, excuse yourself from the conversation before you say something you might regret.
Blowing your top can have serious consequences, including termination of your employment. Walk away first!
If for whatever reason, you absolutely believe you cannot talk directly to the person in question, then you should consider discussing your issues with someone in the Human Resources Department. You should be able to discuss your issues and get advice in complete confidence.
However, in some companies, this is not the case. Not all HR employees are untrustworthy but so you have to go by what you know and/or have heard. If that’s the case and you truly can’t talk to anyone at work, then it’s time for you to put together a plan to move on.
It’s absolutely possible to work out some of the most common issues employees have at work. However, your issues will not resolve by themselves. The worst thing you can do is run around talking about them with your co-workers. Second to that is just sitting and stirring with them. That will just cause you to become more disengaged, which can lead to performance issues and/or termination.
In actuality, you really only have two options when it comes to work-related issues: you must directly address them or make the decision to move on. Sucking it up and living with it isn’t a good option but sadly is one many people take.
Don’t be one of them because in most cases you will get to a point where you eventually say or do something out of anger that gets you fired. Or you get so upset you just up and quit one day without much thought and then realize afterwards you really couldn’t afford to do that.
Start to think this through now and put a plan together on what actions you will take but do yourself a huge favor and make the decision to do something today!
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