blog article with tips on how to be the problem solver at work not a problem finder

Since I started my first blog a little more than a year ago, I have rarely ventured into the more philosophical areas of Career Management.

My aim has been to provide concrete, more technically based thoughts about how to successfully navigate through the modern work place. 

My previous foray centred on the benefits of resilience, which came to me when I was recovering from a double break in my leg and a smashed knee. Lo and behold, I am now recovering from breaking my hip last week (!) and I find myself musing once again on the EQ aspects of thriving in a career.

This time, I am taking up the issue of where to focus your energy in managing day to day work events throughout your career.

One of my young family members is in his first serious role after many years of “gap year” type jobs and a late completion of studies.  In his private life, Josh is amazingly assertive and mature in his relationships with others.

Yet, last week, for the second time, he entertained me with some amazing stories about the bad behaviour of one of his work mates.  Without going into too much detail, it was clear that Josh had no intention of trying to “solve” any of these issues, even though they were making him miserable and even though the behaviour of his work mate had the potential to damage him at work.  Josh’s focus was on eliciting sympathy from his listeners. 

Where am I going with this?

Most of us need a sounding board at work, someone we can trust, someone we can offload on.  Apart from this one person, however, I recommend that to everybody else, you have the reputation as a Problem Solver not a Problem Finder. 

Problem Finders suck the emotional energy out of those around them. Their favourite phrase is “Yes, but…” generally followed by a reason they CANNOT do something. And, after a while, people avoid them.  They lose respect, with the accompanying damage that causes to their career.

Many years ago, during Adelaide’s awful recession, I worked with someone who took ages to find another job.  His situation was quite dire, but no matter how I presented it, he struggled with the idea of Networking as a job search strategy. I thought that it might be partially caused by some deficit in my counselling skills, so I went off and studied William Glasser’s Choice Theory.  I found it very beneficial in many ways, in particular in relation to the issue of control.

Coming back to Josh, I asked him a simple question, “Can you control what your work mate does?” Somewhat reluctantly, he answered “no”.  I then asked him to think through three actions HE was prepared to take to solve his problem.

If you talk to friends, family and colleagues about solutions you propose, you will generally find a huge amount of support and suggestions to help you implement them effectively. Start with small, low risk steps, and over time it gets easier.   At a minimum, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you behaved bravely and with skill.  And, it usually works.

From a career perspective, others are more likely to recommend you for interesting roles as they arise because their reputation will be tied up with you, who are viewed as a positive, can-do type of person.

Meanwhile, I can control what I’m going to do about recovering from this broken hip … Just call me the Rehab Queen!

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