Problem-solving is a necessary skill for success in any workplace situation, but it’s especially important when you’re working with other people.
However, this skill seems to be a lost art nowadays. More and more employees—even some leaders—find it difficult to efficiently solve problems and navigate challenging situations.
According to professionals, here are good examples of problem-solving in the workplace:
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist | Philosophy of Global Leadership and Change Ph.D. Student, Pepperdine University
How are workplace environment problems assessed and evaluated?
Workplace environments problems are assessed and evaluated by completing an environmental scan conducted by an internal or external consultant.
The consultant assesses the workspace, employee interaction, culture, and leadership approaches to identify the problem and the elements supporting the issue.
There are methods and models associated with environmental scans that change experts and problem solvers use to conduct a thorough analysis of the organization for the purposes of change.
Using the effective method of Change Models
The consultant determines effective methods defined as “Change Models,” selected based on the organization’s objectives and strategic goals.
The consultant considers results from an evaluation process that provides a greater understanding of the organization on a micro-level by reviewing social, political, economic, legal, intercultural, and technology elements of the organization SPELIT (Schmeider-Ramirez and Mallette, 2007).
Implement the appropriate Change Model
SPELIT is one of several methods to use in the evaluation process of an organization. Once the consultant completes the evaluation and the problem(s) are identified, the next step is implementing the appropriate Change Model.
For example, an eight-step change model by Kotter is an easy-to-understand approach to identifying change steps in an organization (Kotter, 1996).
The Kotter model can be combined with a training approach, for example, Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training (Kirkpatrick, J.D., and Kirkpatrick, W.K., 2016).
Learn and identify the problem
An example of a learning problem could be a clinical setting needing to transition to electronic notes for client care and experiencing resistance to the change by the organization’s employees.
The evaluation is to identify if it is a:
- Reaction problem
- Learning problem
- Behavior problem
- Result problem
A consultant may start interviewing leadership, team manager, and workers to gain knowledge and comprehension of the problem.
Bloom’s Taxonomy (Bloom, 1972) can be used as a tool by the consultant to evaluate and identify the learning problem and the objectives that need to be implemented to create change.
The consultant will assess with surveys, interviews, discussions and design and implement training that supports the organization’s staff goals using electronic notes versus handwritten notes to maintain compliance with regulatory standards.
Bloom, B. S. (1972). Taxonomy of educational objectives: The classification of educational goals.
Kirkpatrick, J. D., & Kirkpatrick, W. K. (2016). Kirkpatrick’s four levels of training evaluation. Association for Talent Development.
Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Harvard Business Press.
Schmieder-Ramirez, J. H., D., J. S., & Mallette, L. A. (2007). The Spelit power matrix: Untangling the organizational environment with the Spelit leadership tool. Createspace Independent Pub.
Safety and Health Specialist, Nick to the Plus
As a Safety and Health Specialist in a million square foot warehouse with 200 material handling equipment on the floor, we have reduced our OSHA Recordable Injuries by over 70% in four years.
I would say keep it simple, trust your team, and know your leading indicators.
Keep it simple and trust your team — don’t overcomplicate problems and solutions
Many new “Leaders” in the workplace want to make an impression. While they are trying to make this impression, they overcomplicate problems and solutions.
They try to reinvent the wheel. Many times this will cause confusion, frustration, and double work.
An example of keeping it simple is (if you are a new Leader in a workplace):
- Know that your team are the experts and have seen many of you come through.
- Ask your team what we can do to make your process more accessible or better.
- Let your team know that you trust them by giving them ownership in their process, and that will foster trust in you.
- When your team comes to you with suggestions and/or problems, make sure you follow through with their requests.
- Crowdsource or mastermind the problem, let the team solve the problem, and provide the resources.
Know your leading indicators and how to measure them
A VP told me one time that you can improve something if you aren’t measuring. To solve problems in the workplace, you first need to know the issues and how to measure them.
For example, in safety, I know my leading indicators are:
- Have a Safety Team that meets regularly with a structured outline to follow.
- Are we up to date with safety training?
- Do we have leadership commitment? What are our follow up and follow through ratings?
- Are employees engaged in safety? Do they feel comfortable reporting hazards or injuries?
- Are we tracking near-miss incidents and correcting the hazards before it becomes an incident?
- Do we have consistent and clean housekeeping?
So in closing, keep it simple, trust your team, and know your leading indicators to solve problems in the workplace.
Attorney, Inc and Go
Give your good employees more face time with clients. Not all problems relate to clients or customers, but many of them do.
Give your workers the presence and authority to fix client problems
The first step to solving those as they come up is to give your trusted workers the presence and authority to fix client problems.
That means making your worker the company’s “face” to a particular client and giving them the latitude to make decisions. That can empower both the worker and the client to solve problems before getting involved.
Of course, you still need to be on hand for big issues, but those should lessen as time goes on.
Have fewer formal meetings
Nothing stifles creativity faster than another boring all-hands meeting. Throw in a PowerPoint Presentation and a long agenda, and your workers have completely checked out.
Sometimes meetings are necessary, but real problem-solving more often takes place in smaller, unstructured brainstorming sessions with the most personally invested in a problem.
It’s essential that you maintain personal relationships with your workers. If they are having trouble with a particular project or presentation, you can stop by their office for a few minutes to hash out a solution.
Give your ideas time to marinate
In today’s business environment, we often prize speed above all else. After you have brainstormed a solution, it’s often good to get it on paper and then let it sit for a night before coming back with a clear head.
That’s not usually a good recipe for creativity.
If your project is time-sensitive, at least take an hour before returning to it. Creative problem-solving often needs time to work, so when you give ideas time to marinate, you and your clients will probably be happier with the solutions.
Meet with your boss to evaluate the problem before it worsens
Problem-solving skills help you find the cause of a problem and an effective solution. In any case, how to reliably perceive problem-solving is very similar to its limitations, and the other related skills are significantly increased.
Problem-solving is a system that involves understanding tests and finding valuable solutions in the workplace. In everything that matters, every ally needs a worker with these qualities to consider their problem-solving skills and aid in a pleasant cycle in their everyday work.
Following are some skills for problem-solving in the workplace:
- Fully fixed duty skill
- Evaluation skill
- Research skill
- Imagination/implementation skill
Following are some examples of problem-solving in the workplace:
- Whether it be you or someone else, it promotes bad things.
- Overcoming management delays through problem-solving and response.
- Troubleshooting problematic or dissatisfied customers
- Overcome the problems associated with limited spending plans and now use creative problem solving to devise unusual action plans.
- Overcome the need to prepare/complete your workplace to deliver great work anyway.
- Exploring and solving apparent problems.
- Supervision and Dispute Resolution through Assistants.
- Solve all problems related to cash, settlement with customers, accounting, etc.
- Be truthful when other assistants miss or miss something important.
- Go ahead and meet with your boss to evaluate the problem before it worsens.
Christopher Liew, CFA
Creator, Wealth Awesome
Surprisingly, approximately 85% of American employees have experienced conflicts with peers and colleagues in their workplace.
It’s why we need to teach people problem-solving techniques in the workplace efficiently and effectively.
Use the consensus decision-making technique frequently
This type of problem-solving technique allows everyone to agree that a particular problem needs to be discussed thoroughly and needs to be solved immediately.
Ideas, opinions, suggestions, solutions, or violent reactions are voiced freely. The goal of this problem-solving technique is to make a list of recommendations that are acceptable to all members of the company.
After that, they further develop the best solution from one of the recommendations that they have all agreed on previously.
It can significantly increase group cohesion and team unity since the consensus decision-making technique allows everyone to participate freely without being judged harshly.
Use the devil’s advocate decision-making technique accordingly and moderately
This type of problem-solving technique allows the business organization to form a panel that will thoroughly scrutinize a group’s ideas and suggestions within the company.
The goal is to uncover weaknesses in the ideas and suggestions presented instantly.
However, this type of decision-making technique can only be implemented efficiently and effectively if the group presenting an idea, suggestion, or solution is open to receiving feedback and constructive criticisms.
It should be used moderately as this decision-making technique could sometimes add tension among group members within the company.
Senior HR Business Partner, Zety
Make the current process faster, more efficient, or more accurate
One of my all-time favorite ways of problem-solving in the workplace is making the current process faster, more efficient, or more accurate.
Personally, I call this “operation consolidation,” and despite the corny nickname, trust me, when completed, everyone will be appreciative (at least in the long term).
The level of inefficiency and room for improvement is never-ending.
Every dashboard, database, or process often grows in size and complexity over time as everyone is interested in adding that extra field, messing with that new factor without stopping and thinking, “Do we still need and are we using some of the original ones?”
Evolution is constant and makes sense; however, as the new fields are populated, and processes added, it makes sense to stop and do some much-needed spring cleaning.
This is similar to Coca-Cola’s recent culling of almost half of its portfolio (which only accounted for 5% of its sales). Likewise, every organization looks to subtract before adding on new ones.
So always look to simplify, cut in half, and get rid of the excess fat, whether meetings, overblown dashboards, or processes with too many layers and stakeholders – triage ruthlessly and watch the magic happen.
Founder, Assisted Living Center
Allow each party to voice their solutions to the problem through brain dumping
Brain dumping allows each party to voice their solutions to the problem. Most conflicts involve an offender, defender, and mediator who decides on a resolution.
But opening the floor to suggestions helps implicated employees feel heard and understood, even if you don’t settle for their idea in the end.
Some people prefer to express their preferences in private, so you may want to conduct individual discussions before regrouping to resolve the issue.
All suggestions can remain anonymous to avoid the appearance of bias
From there, all suggestions can remain anonymous to avoid the appearance of bias. Hash out each option with everyone and decide upon a compromise that works best for the majority.
Implement the 5-whys technique
Problem resolution can also take a coach’s approach by implementing the 5-whys technique. The 5-whys allows employees to discover the root of their conflict without directly involving the mediator.
Start the conversation by asking one party why they reacted to the situation offensively. Then, follow up their response by inquiring why they felt or thought that way.
By the time you get to the fifth “why,” everyone should have a clearer picture of how things unraveled.
It can transform the conflict into a collaboration development exercise
This technique can transform the conflict into a collaboration development exercise by allowing colleagues to understand each other’s points of view.
Overall, it encourages more empathy and reasoning in the problem-solving process.
Marketing Manager, Zenzero
Make meaningful time to interact with your staff
Set a high standard for communication to solve this problem. Face-to-face communication is preferable whenever possible.
Phone conversations, emails, and texts are acceptable in an emergency, but they are insufficient to replace an utterly present dialogue.
Set suitable objectives and expectations
Make sure your staff grasps the essentials by referring to job descriptions. Convene a brainstorming session for unique initiatives and auxiliary goals, and define goals as a team.
Your staff could surprise you by establishing more challenging goals for themselves than you do.
Demonstrate your worth to a new team or yourself
Share your work description with your staff to solve the problem. Seriously, if you don’t already have one, make one.
It might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Communicate your priorities, and follow through on what you say you’ll do.
Founder, The Impact Investor
Implementing workplace synchrony
This concept that I call workplace synchrony is something that other forms of working may not offer. For example, it is something that the newly introduced remote work culture cannot sufficiently prove to be an alternative.
Workplace synchrony is the impeccable order of operations in which specific departments in the workplace run their proceedings.
For example, I want you to consider this; the production team in a textile factory ensures that the conveyor belt functions correctly, products are manufactured in an orderly manner, and the daily target is met.
However, if it were not for the quality control department, there would be no one to approve of the items’ standards.
Alternatively, as is self-explanatory, there is no job left for quality control inspection teams to do without the production line workers.
This is a testament to the synchrony and flow of how multiple teams get together to solve problems in a sequence and help workplaces flourish.
Brainstorming as a group regarding challenges that the company may face
Another affordance that in-person, and to some extent its remote work counterpart, also provides is the ability to brainstorm as a group regarding challenges that the company may face.
For example, there may be a demand by the labor union to increase wage rates, and also a potential that there may be a strike or a peaceful protest for the same reason.
Group meetings in workplaces allow all the potential stakeholders to be impacted by a possible decision, to be present at one moment, and put their needs, demands, and terms forward.
Hence, in the case that wages are considered to be increased, production costs are going to be deemed to increase.
Managers may talk about possible increases in price. In contrast, customer relations department employees might want to chip in to negotiate on the matter with the managers, not compromise the needs of consumers.
This is how all stakeholders walkout in content, knowing their needs are recognized.
Manage the problem with patience and tact
Emotions and perspectives like self-importance, overconfidence, and arrogance can arise even in our best coworkers, clients, and people we report to.
These people may be very good at their job, but everyone occasionally gets it wrong. Stress, burnout, ill health, fear, and feelings of insecurity can be the causes of underlying disputes, poor judgment, and mistakes in the workplace.
It is important not to lose respect for them and remember they are not only as good as their last job. You can build trust by weathering the storm with them.
If you come out the other side together as partners because you managed the problem with patience and tact, the relationship will be strengthened, and cooperation will hopefully improve.
Some problems become unmanageable, and a person’s stubbornness and refusal to cooperate seem insurmountable. Money matters can be some of the most explosive issues of all.
One thing that can be done is to draw the person’s attention to the critical facts that decide the way forward in terms of financial concerns, rather than anyone enforcing a decision on others.
Talent Acquisition Specialist, Tidio
Implementing a goal-setting system
Problem: Goal-setting and expectations-management.
No doubt, sometimes it’s hard for individual employees and whole teams to set appropriate goals and make relevant expectations.
This can be solved by implementing a goal-setting system (e.g., OKRs) for every employee individually or at least team-wide.
Using a time management system
Problem: Poor time management.
It’s a very common work problem with many solutions working for everyone individually.
A good example would be using a time management system (e.g., Pomodoro), keeping track of all tasks in a project management tool like Jira, and adding all meetings and appointments to the calendar.
Identify a mentor that you can turn to for advice and help
Problem: Asking for help.
Unfortunately, it’s challenging for many people to ask for help even if the team encourages them.
An excellent solution to this would be to identify a mentor or a buddy – the person you can turn to for advice and help.
This will be a mutually valuable relationship. You will receive the help you need, and the person will gain experience in mentoring someone.
Related: How to Ask Someone to Be Your Mentor
Managers and coworkers will regard you as a valuable resource if you can efficiently address challenges at work. Problem-solving may draw together teams, expedite processes, create a more efficient workplace, and boost productivity.
It could also help you save expenses and raise income— two crucial areas where your boss will be pleased to see improvement.
Require a robust business-wide interaction
To guarantee that you can perform correctly every day, you require a robust business-wide interaction. It’s necessary for long-term development.
When adequate linkages are not present, processes might fall through the cracks, resulting in significant performance concerns.
Addressing communication challenges at work entails guaranteeing a two-way approach to help build a culture of accountability and transparency.
Ensure that employees are treated fairly
Extroverts with a lot of confidence are usually correlated with business success. More extroverted business owners may find it difficult to comprehend their more reserved personnel.
Some may even see the scenario as having introvert issues at work, which is a drawback in some businesses but a valuable asset.
So keep in mind that individuals with more introspective personality qualities bring various aspects to their positions, especially in creative contexts.
You must ensure that employees are treated fairly. Don’t show favoritism to anybody. Also, keep an eye out for nepotism.
Senior Job Data Content Producer, Virtual Vocations
Prioritize open communication and employee feedback
Solving workplace problems should be a goal for every business, but the process starts with understanding which workplace stressors affect employees most.
Virtual Vocations surveyed 1,158 U.S. workers and found that the biggest workplace confidence killer, which also negatively impacts productivity and employee well-being, is a micromanager boss.
Related: How to Deal With Micromanagers
Micromanaging and other common workplace problems like poor company culture, lack of transparency, and unrealistic performance expectations can be solved by prioritizing open communication and employee feedback.
Conducting employee surveys, holding the regular team and individual meetings, demonstrating respect for employees, and showing an interest in employees beyond work are all ways to keep employees engaged and ensure their ideas are heard.
When employees have a say in how they work and how they are managed, they are much more likely to perform well and stay longer.
Confront the conflict but actively listen to what the other person says
Communication is very important to any relationship or team. Many issues arise due to lack or absence of communication.
When there is conflict, my staff doesn’t like to beat around the bush. Good problem-solvers don’t act based on their emotions. They confront the conflict but actively listen to what the other person says.
Understand the situation and consider the options to make up for the errors
It doesn’t matter whether one employee or another is at fault; correcting a mistake comes naturally to good problem-solvers.
Self-reflection is an excellent way to assess your own actions—were they helpful?
Look at your own point of view, and the other person’s to understand the situation and consider the options to make up for the errors. Rectifying a mistake requires strategy and creativity.
CEO and Founder, WinIt
Use your creative side to identify new or unusual alternatives
Using your creative side to identify new or unusual alternatives is an excellent way to problem-solve in the workplace.
Too often, you can get stuck in a pattern of thinking about what has been successful in the past, but when you are faced with a new problem, you may find it challenging to generate new ideas.
If you have a problem that seems to have no solution, try out some different techniques. Play “What if” games, for example:
“What if money was no object? How would that change the solution?”
You may find an answer you weren’t thinking of. Permit yourself to think of ideas that may seem outlandish or appear to break the rules; you may end up having a stroke of genius.
CEO and Founder, The Upper Ranks
Raise the bar for effective communication
Making meaningful time to speak with your staff is a common concern. The best way to resolve this issue is to raise the bar for effective communication. Face-to-face communication is the best way to get things done.
There is no alternative to a face-to-face conversation, yet phone conversations, emails, and messages are okay in a pinch. Online aptitude, psychometric, and ability tests are a few examples of the exams that companies could administer to see how well you solve problems.
These are often administered as part of the application process, although they may be given again at an assessment center. Situational judgment assessments and logic tests like inductive reasoning or diagrammatic reasoning will probably gauge how well you solve problems.
Effective issue resolution indeed takes both time and attention. A problem that hasn’t been solved requires more time and attention. Taking the time to slow down is all that is necessary for success.
There are no straight lines in life. You’ll be in good shape on the next straightaway if you get this one correctly. You may not be in the best shape if you move too rapidly.
Employees can weather the storm by planning for the worst-case scenario in every situation. There are a variety of approaches you may take, but the most critical is learning how to overcome the obstacle.
A workplace may be prepared for both the best and worst of times, whether a common cold or an overflowing workload.
Sales Director, VEM Tooling
It is common to face many problems in your organization several times. But what is not common is how to deal with that problem to rise above your previous self.
When we talk about a workplace, there are several difficulties that a person needs to deal with in it. Here is one of my examples of problem-solving at the workplace that I find perfect.
Observe which is more important for your business
Problem: Balance between growth and quality
When I first encountered this problem at the end of 2021. I thought it would be a lot difficult to deal with. But as time passed and I gave my thoughts on this problem repeatedly.
I found a way to deal with it. First, I need to see which is more important for my business, growth or quality.
As we all know, nothing in this world is perfect, but as a new developing firm in the market, I need to ensure my business provides quality to its customers.
When I figured it all out, I found that I would grow my organization if I could provide my customers with good quality satisfaction. That’s how I learned how to balance growth and quality to solve the problem.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I improve my problem-solving skills?
To improve your problem-solving skills, you need to practice and be intentional. Here are some things you can do to strengthen this skill:
Identify and analyze problems as soon as possible. Once you identify a problem, try to understand it thoroughly, gather information from reliable sources, and consider possible solutions.
Think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to approach problems in unconventional ways. Draw inspiration from unrelated fields or industries.
Collaborate. Work with your colleagues to find solutions. Two heads are better than one!
Learn from your experiences. Take time to reflect on how you solved problems in the past and learn from your successes and mistakes.
Can I be a successful problem solver without being creative?
Yes, you can be a successful problem solver without being creative. While creativity can help you develop unique solutions to problems, it is not the only skill needed for problem-solving.
Logical thinking, research, analytical skills, and collaboration can also help you solve problems successfully.
These skills require a deep understanding of the problem, identifying the cause and origin of the problem, gathering information, analyzing it, and finally developing a solution based on the information gathered.
A successful problem solver is one who can objectively analyze a problem and derive optimal and workable solutions that are reasonable and achievable. Thinking outside the box and being creative can be an advantage, but it is not an essential requirement for solving problems in the workplace.
How can I encourage my team to engage in problem-solving activities?
Encouraging your team to engage in problem-solving activities can help foster a culture of innovation and continuous improvement. Some ways to encourage problem-solving in the workplace include:
– Scheduling time for team brainstorming sessions or problem-solving workshops
– Encouraging team members to share their ideas and perspectives
– Providing opportunities for skill-building and professional development
– Recognizing and rewarding team members who contribute to problem-solving efforts
– Leading by example and demonstrating a commitment to problem-solving
How can I convince my employer that I have problem-solving skills?
To convince your employer that you have problem-solving skills, you need to demonstrate them in action. Here are some tips to help you showcase your skills:
Point out instances where you have successfully solved a problem: In your resume or interview, cite specific examples of difficult workplace problems you faced and solved. Explain the steps you took, the approach you used, and the results you achieved.
Explain your problem-solving approach: Employers are looking for a systematic approach to problem-solving that will help them achieve their goals. Describe the steps you take when confronted with a problem and how you use data and other resources to determine the root cause of the problem.
Quantify your successes: Be as specific as possible about the results you achieved in solving a problem. Did you increase the company’s revenue or save them money? Provide data that shows the impact of your solution.
Market yourself as a lifelong learner: Employers know that not every problem has a defined solution. Therefore, it is valuable to have a candidate who is willing to learn and adapt to changes in the company.
Highlight this by talking about additional training or certifications you are pursuing to further enhance your problem-solving skills.
How can I tell if my problem-solving efforts are successful?
The success of a problem-solving effort can be measured in different ways, depending on the problem you’re trying to solve. However, there are some signs that your problem-solving is on the right track:
Clarity: You have a clear understanding of the problem and what you’re trying to accomplish.
Solution: You have found a solution that is effective and has already been implemented.
Feedback: You have received feedback from colleagues, supervisors, or customers that the problem has been solved.
Continuous improvement: You continuously reflect on and improve your problem-solving tactics and approaches.
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