Openness about problems, as well as work well done – Creating a Healthy Work Environment

Feedback is actually desired by workers in the workplace today. Research data indicates that people want to know when their performance needs to improve and also want to know when things are going well.

Some employers think, “Well, if I don’t tell her/him that something is wrong, they should just assume that things are ok.” Well, that’s just not the way things are, in reality. People want and need feedback.

Addressing a problem in a constructive manner is healthy for the employee, the employer, and the organization. A problem can only be solved if it is identified in the first place. If a person never knows there is a problem, they will never have a chance to resolve the issue. This can be devastating. This can go both ways: if an employee is not performing adequately but is never knows that—and is never given a chance to improve, they may be fired for poor performance—but may never have known that they were under par. On the other hand, an employer might lose a quality team member because there is a problem but the employer never knew it. If the problem had been identified, there may have been a chance for resolution. But if a person quits and you never know what was wrong—you never have that chance. Terrible loss.

Develop and keep open channels of communication where people can be honest about their joys and concerns. Every organization—and every person—will have problems from time to time. No one escapes that reality. When you have a problem address it to the right person and in a constructive manner.

Schedule a time to meet privately with the person. Right off the bat, identify the purpose of the meeting. Present your concerns in a non-threatening manner. Address the specific behavior or performance issue that is unacceptable—or that needs improvement. Use what is called an “I” Message (Gordon) to introduce the conversation. For example:

“Mary, I’m disappointed in the number of broken appointments and no shows we are having in the schedule. When we have so many openings in the schedule, our productivity slips to unacceptable levels which is very stressful. Plus, we know these patients need the care we have prescribed and I am concerned for their health.”

That’s the “I” Message: what you are feeling, the specific behavior or issue that you find unacceptable, and the concrete negative impact that is having on you, your performance, or on your business.. Give the other person a chance to respond. They might become defensive. If so, listen to their issues without judgment. They have a right to express themselves. And, while you express respect by listening, resend another “I” Message—perhaps a bit stronger, until the other person hears your concern.

This is the beginning of problem solving. It is not the final answer. Nothing has been solved—but the door has been opened for a constructive discussion. Remember, you do not want to hurt the person, stir up conflict, or have them quit. But you have a problem and need to address it.

The first step of problem solving is to identify the problem in terms of the needs of both parties. This takes courage and commitment. But, also remember that not addressing a problem can lead to bigger challenges—like a person leaving without ever knowing why. Or, becoming constantly stressed because performance is falling behind acceptable levels. Neither option is a good one.

In my next Creating a Healthy Work Environment blog, I will continue the lessons on problem solving—and, also, how to deliver constructive positive feedback.