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

Lorraine Segal, M.A. is a Conflict Management and Communication Consultant, Coach, and Trainer. Through her own business, Conflict Remedy, Ms. Segal works with corporations and non-profits as well as governmental entities and individuals to promote harmonious and productive workplaces.  She is a consultant and trainer for County of Sonoma. And, at Sonoma… MORE >

Featured Mediators

ad
View all

Read these next

Category

Complex Civil Appeals

JAMS ADR Blog by Chris PooleMore than 90 percent of civil cases are settled without trial. By contrast, most civil appeals are briefed, argued and decided by the court. In...

By Jerome Falk
Category

Blurred Lines: Non-attorneys Representing Parties in Arbitration

Indisputably As an arbitrator and teacher of arbitration, I’ve noticed that legal issues are more frequently the focus in arbitration proceedings, both non-labor and labor. I have watched non-lawyer representatives...

By Sarah Cole
Category

The Negotiator’s Fieldbook Series: ‘Unforgiven: Anger and Forgiveness’

From Gini Nelson's Blog Engaging ConflictsI’m reviewing The Negotiator’s Fieldbook: The Desk Reference for the Experienced Negotiator, Christopher Honeyman & Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Editors (ABA 2006), through 2008 (it has...

By Gini Nelson

Find a Mediator

X
X
X