Problems

It's All in the View

Every problem contains within itself the seeds of its own solution.

Tight Deadlines. Irate customers. Impossible workloads. Troublesome co-workers. Does this list of problems sound familiar? Do you sometimes wish for a problem-free week--or day? You’re not alone. Most people dread problems. They resent and avoid them. An excessive amount of time is spent complaining about and avoiding problems. But wait a minute. Is that the right approach for ambitious people? Hardly. Strange as this may sound, successful people have learned to be grateful for problems.

No work situation is problem free. There are always misunderstandings, feelings of being overwhelmed, communication issues, and unexpected surprises that are difficult to plan for. Those with poor problem response skills become negative and end up wasting valuable time commiserating with others. Taking a more positive approach is certainly a more admirable choice. As Henry Kaiser stated, "Problems are only opportunities in work clothes."

Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, makes the following point, "It is in the whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has meaning. Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom; indeed, they create our courage and our wisdom. " What a refreshing outlook! Who wouldn’t want more courage and wisdom? Just like precious diamonds that can be formed only by friction, people who possess these valued qualities developed them by experiencing some level of discomfort.

Welcoming problems as growth opportunities is not a common human reaction. Rather, our first reaction is often to dwell upon the injustice of it all. "Why me?" is a typical response. Avoidance of problems is a common but unhealthy choice. As Charles Swindoll points out, "This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness."

The following story illustrates two different reactions to a problem in the workplace. Rita, a billing administrator was responsible for releasing several hundred invoices to lawn care customers. The deadline was firmly set at the 15th of the month. An unexpected computer glitch occurred one month, and it appeared very unlikely the bills would produce on time. Rita’s reaction was to blame technical support area and management in her department. She complained about the situation loudly. Meanwhile, her colleague, Wanda, quickly went into a problem-solving mode. She offered her assistance to the technical support area, recommending a trouble-shooter who had previously sorted out a similar problem. She alerted her boss of the situation and did a quick cost-benefit analysis of hiring temps to manually produce the bills, versus waiting for the computer-generated bills.

Who do you think impressed management as a problem-solver? Rita and Wanda were both faced with the same problem, yet their reactions were totally different. Rita chose to berate the unfairness of it all, slipping quickly into negative thinking and blaming. Wanda, on the other hand, saw the problem as an opportunity to demonstrate her customer commitment and creativity. Both made a choice as to how they confronted the problem, but Wanda’s approach was much more constructive and admirable. She recognized that her worth to the company depended on how well she anticipated and reacted to inevitable bumps in the road.


Consider your attitude toward problems. Does it need some fine-tuning? You have a choice as to how you react and manage problems in the workplace. Viewing them as opportunities is a huge first step. And, above all, don’t give up! One wise individual put it this way,

"When a man makes up his mind to solve any problems, he may at first meet with dogged opposition, but if he holds on and keeps on searching, he will be sure to find some sort of solution. The trouble with most people is that they quit before they start."

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