Leadership

Video: Ditch the 'It won't do any good' mindset

In this video, Toni Bowers talks about why so many people are reluctant to directly address problems and why that is the wrong perspective.

It is a phenomenon that seems to be running rampant. Employees who have a problem in the workplace will do anything -- seethe in silent anger or complain constantly to their co-workers -- rather than approach the boss with the problem.

The common excuse for this is "It won't do any good." In this video, I explain why NOT directly addressing a problem will ensure that nothing will be fixed.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

15 comments
jkameleon
jkameleon

"Will it do any harm?" The answer is usually yes.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

First of all, you have to have a problem; and that problem has to have a measureable effect on the bottom line. Even if it's "only" a hostile work environment, or a constant annoyance; but doesn't cause longer or lower quality performance, the cost is a delayed cost of stress on you and deterioration of your health. Understanding those costs, and being able to relate them directly to the problem is critical in getting managers and management to move on those issues. The second point is you have to be able to describe the problem, point out probable causes, and provide at least one possible solution. If there are obviously more than one solution, give them, and your recommended one. That keeps management from being backed into a corner and becoming defensive. Also, avoid making the problem into a personal attack on management; otherwise, you become the problem, and management is very good at removing problem people.

kanjugus
kanjugus

This's the real truth, its my best video ever

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

I sent a copy of this transcript to my fiance who is dealing with this very issue right now. He works for a company that has been sold, and was notified by the purchasing company that his current job position is safe and he will continue employment with the new company. Just this week, his supervisor's manager informed him that he will be transfered back to a department he left over a year ago, in essence being demoted. Now lets be clear...it is not the new company who is requiring the change...it is a manager of the old company who is trying to make room for her "friends" whose department is in the process of being closed down...by moving them into my fiance's department..thereby booting him back to his old department. My fiance left his old department because he hated the work, and now enjoys his new department and is totally against being moved back. (His direct supervisor is totally against the move as well and has tried energetically to keep the transfer from happening) He came home with the total feeling of helplessness...that what could he do? Management has decided. Today, e have drafted and sent an email to the manager, specifically requesting the decision be reconsidered and detailed reasons why it would be beneficial to the company for him to stay in his present position. Earlier, my fiance said that the manager was a bit surprised...and said she would take time to reconsider the decision to transfer. While we have no idea if this will stop the transfer, it is a prime example of why speaking up is so important. The manager had no idea that my fiance would feel so strongly about being transfered back. He is such an easy going, low drama personality, she never even thought it would faze him. Keep your fingers crossed for him!!!

projdataman
projdataman

This is very good, Toni, but let me play devil's advocate. When one works for a LARGE (Fortune 500) company as I do where there are multiple layers of managers competing for management bonus money, there is little incentive for them to rock the boat. It takes a great deal of effort to frame issues with appropriate tact. I have written thoughtful emails and white papers for various managers at this company and have never observed any resultant change or even been thanked for my effort. I have concluded that it is not the fault of my management, but that it must go much higher and that I am simply living in a corporate culture where the attitudes and practice are being established at a very high level. Being innovative and making important changes is too risky not a source of reward for middle management.

santeewelding
santeewelding

Like you been there, done that, and you still standing. This boss agrees.

jck
jck

However, I think that probably the biggest reason that employees don't go to their bosses is not that they don't think it "won't do any good". Anymore, I think that people are afraid to speak their mind for fearing bringing down the almighty backroom hammer of wrath upon themself. With the economy down right now and unemployment so high, finding a new job because you upset the boss by telling him/her that their game plan isn't working might lead to ye olde pink slip. You are spot on though in your discussion about the "won't do any good". Unless of course, you have already been to the boss and are talking to your co-workers "post mortum" about the topic. Great topic, though. One that more people should be empowered to pursue. Thanks :)

2GuysTalking
2GuysTalking

I think that you have some incredibly valid points, and it's clear that it's worked for you in the past. But what if after doing "the legwork, research, and implementing the common-sensical, point by point finesse" you're referring to the answer is "that's your point of view" and the rest is now a waft in the proverbial office wind? Many thanks for your input and thought. I'll be back for sure!

MikeG3b
MikeG3b

You have a talent for coming up with gnarly issues that affect a lot of people. Where I'm working right now, it's a cultural thing not to bring up bad news or complain about things. You're seen as a bad corporate citizen because -- almost always -- people take complaints as simple whining and negativity. Complaints aren't often seen as valid, or constructive input to management. I've also noticed a tendency for management to safeguard their positions by absorbing or deflecting complaints and feedback from rank-and-file. Rather than being sympathetic to employees, the most common response is that "change takes time" or "we'll be getting around to that after we _______ " (fill in the blank). Unless something is directly and measurably affecting business, a complaint or negative observation is not taken as constructive input. I agree emphatically with your assertion that not saying anything at all only guarantees that nothing will be done. Surely there's a compromise approach between doing nothing and being seen as a counter-productive jerk, but I haven't found it here yet!

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

...speaking up did work. It took months of sticking to his guns, but Rob (my fianc?)is moving permanently back to his preferred position next Monday. Rob did all that was asked of him, regardless of whose task it was and maintained a cheerful and helpful attitude through months of management posturing (the manager took Rob's request as a personal attack on her position). Not only did it serve to make the manager look vindictive, HER BOSSES (who are the new company) took notice of the work, extra work and special projects that Rob completed exceptionally well. It took the combined efforts of two middle managers, going above the manager's head to her bosses, to bring to light what was happening. But the final results is, Rob has been given a substantial raise and will be placed back into his original position that he worked to achieve. It does pay to speak up, stick to your guns, and not let the managerial idiots manipulate you into becoming a "bad employee".

KaryDavis
KaryDavis

... but the powers that be would not listen. Unfortunately for my fiance, the boss's boss is not one to question or request reconsiderations. To make this easier to explain, I'm going to designate my fiance as R...his boss as M...and his boss's boss as D. After receiving R's request for reconsideration, D politely told him she would think about it. Then, when the issue was brought up in a management meeting, D demanded from the higher ups that R be fired for his email. She was told that wasn't going to happen (thank goodness) and that she needed to work it out to the benefit of all involved. That didn't happen. R was informed he was being placed in a "special" position created just for him in another department, that was linked to his current department, and he would no longer report to M. There he was required to have all his worked reviewed by his new supervisor and D... R took this all in stride, as his thought was he would submit his work to Obama if it meant he didn't have to go back to his old department doing a job he hated. He worked so well in the new specially created position, his new supervisor liked him almost immediately. D has now decided that R is being transfered to the job he hates... on a temporary basis...of 2 months. It appears she is out to get him for crossing her and is determined to make him quit. We are looking for another job for my fiance... sometimes standing up for yourself can get you smacked in the face. But...I'm not sure we would have done anything differently. We did the best we could...and now we know we need to move on from this company.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

The fact that the manager was a "bit surprised" kind of says it all. You really can't assume someone else knows how you feel. I really, really hope this works out for your fiance!!

spork66
spork66

I agree with projdataman - If the situation isn't broke, or there isn't some way for an upper management person to gain a pat on their back for 'fixing-the-problem', then likely you will see nothing done - I too have done a number of white pages, spending several days documenting my info, only to find it catching dust bunnies on someone's shelf - You have to be able to prove that those above you will benefit by what you wish to accomplish - then maybe you may get some credit for it.

toni.bowers
toni.bowers

I know that the current economy and come corporate cultures don't readily lend themselves to change by speaking out. But, speaking personally, I would rest better knowing that I had at least made the effort. You do have to pick your battles though. If you take issue with everything, even thoughtfully, your message will be diluted.

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