Solving problems at work is a good thing, but it can also get good employees on the naughty list. Did you know that?
You might think doing excellent work will earn you accolades, awards — and promotions. But before you get too excited about pushing innovative ideas and solutions, think twice, and survey the lay of the land. Better say, take the temperature of your company’s political climate first.
You might ask, “Why would I do that?”
Here’s the reason. Some problems exist and persist because they make some colleagues look busy and needed. Removing these issues will rob those colleagues of their influence and status in the company.
See, I’ve learned this the hard way, but want to share it with you to spare you the trouble of making the mistakes that I made.
My advice? Before raising a problem and pushing for solutions, investigate the following factors to avoid hurting your career.
Factor 1- Does management and your boss want to solve the problem?
To find out and ask the right questions and collect some data.
For instance, pause the following questions:
- Does management want to solve the problem?
- What steps did it take to improve the situation?
- Who is in charge of finding the solutions?
- What resources are dedicated to the process?
Collecting good adequate data should tell you whether the company is serious about solving the issue or not.
For example, suppose you find a lack of interest and motivation to change the situation. Your next step is to investigate how the problem shapes the power dynamics within your department or company. That leads us to factor # 2.
Factor 2- Who benefits from the existence of the problem?
Doing your homework will reveal who needs the problem, and why they want to leave it alone. Once you have this information, it’s time to make your decision. In other words, ask yourself, ” Is it worth dying on that hill?”
Once you reach that point, the choice is yours to make.
But what should you be prudent when solving problems on the job? Let’s answer this question in the next section.
Here's what makes solving problems at work tricky
See, the famous consultant Peter Block discusses in his book, Flawless Consulting, why many managers do not want to solve technical problems. And he concluded that “Underneath all the technical and structural questions they had, they were worried about losing status in the political systems.”
As I said before, some problems give power and status and are vital for some managers’ survival and success. Therefore, eliminating those problems is like attacking the managers’ position of influence.
And we both know how that will impact your relationship with these power brokers.
What I am saying is, it’s great to solve interesting problems. But researching if folks in leadership positions want the change is also critical. Otherwise, you risk hurting yourself. As Deepak Kumar, “If you want to work in Corporate, then you should know how to play Chess.”
In summary, solve all the problems you can and keep your boss happy, but choose your battles wisely.
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