You don’t need a lesson in Buddhism to know the value of compassion in solving problems in the workplace. When facing stress on the job, an employee oftentimes holds their emotions in for a long time before coming forward. When the flood gates open, be prepared to understand how they feel; realize the fear that kept them quiet for so long.
Here are a few tips on turning down the volume and forging an agreeable, quick solution.
- Pause. Let them speak. Information is power.
- Allow emotions to release. If they are ranting, allow it for a few minutes. Let them purge the pain. Stop them when they begin repeating the same point.
- Get the facts. Focus on the facts only. Avoid letting the employee revert to emotion. We’re at the problem-solving stage now.
- Assess the facts. How serious is the problem? Do you need a specialist? An investigation?
- Hire outside professionals to investigate any cases of sexual harassment, bullying, racism or LGBQT bigotry.
- Resolve inhouse if the matter involves people not getting along, lack of cooperation, dysfunction between departments. These issues can be resolved quickly if you can get all parties talking. When they are face to face with the manager, in a relaxed environment (outdoors if the weather is good). You can isolate the problem, encourage staff to interact with their ideas to solve it. Keep quiet as much as you can. A pregnant pause gives birth to chatter. If ideas come from them, as opposed to an HR authoritarian directive, it is more authentic and they get the credit for solving it. They feel empowered. You just opened the door.
- Learn from conflict. When the employees involved also show compassion toward one another, it triggers cooperation of among all parties.
What if you are the problem?
- Listen. Acknowledge the feedback. If you are silent, people often keep talking.
- Be Switzerland. Stay neutral. This is not a family criticism where you can be defensive, get mad and your partner still loves you later. You have one shot to get this right. Keep your emotional distance. Think before you speak.
- Do not take it personally. Do not hold a grudge. The best outcome is a positive solution that satisfies everyone.
- Ask them what they would do if they were you.
- Assure them you will assess the information they’ve given and you will rejoin them in no more than 1 week to discuss an equitable solution. Don’t ignore it or you’ll break their trust and alienate them forever.
- Follow-up the next week to see how the plan is going.
- Encourage them to be kind to themselves and speak up earlier rather than hold frustration in. Let them know that you are there for them. You are rooting for their success.
- Assure them there should be no fear of consequences for speaking up. Every problem has a solution.
By empowering staff to solve problems with a little guidance from you, you are building mutual trust and facilitating a culture of openness and freedom of expression. When you infuse fun team training games into the mix, authenticity flourishes. Fun breaks the tension and people can be their true selves.