Facing The Problem

Why do people who are facing a problem talk to other people about it – people who can’t help with the problem – rather than talking to people who can help? Could it be human nature? Or just that it’s easiest?

Tom plays a forward position on a soccer team, and he has a problem… with a teammate named Kurt. It seems that he feels let down by Kurt, that he isn’t doing his share and yet is getting a lot of attention from the coaches. Too much attention. Other players on the team have noticed the same thing, and yet none of them have done anything about it. Well, except complain amongst themselves.

Tom: “Why does Kurt get all the attention?”

Sergio: “I don’t know, but I’m getting tired of it.”

Adam: “Yeah, I’m getting tired of Kurt not holding up his end, and getting all the credit.”

Tom: “This sucks! Kurt is ruining this team.”

Antonio: “I agree, he’s a jerk.”

And on and on. But note who’s involved in these conversations, and who isn’t. Everyone but the one person that should be – Kurt.

What happens when Tom complains to his teammates about Kurt? They, in turn, complain about him as well, feeding and adding to the problem. In fact, what may have been a small problem in the beginning turns into a big problem because Tom and his teammates didn’t face the problem.

If Tom or his teammates addressed the problem where it began – with Kurt and/or the coaches – then the problem may have stayed as a small one instead of festering, building, and turning into a big problem.

There are problem-identifiers and problem-solvers – which one do you want to be? If you have a problem with someone on your team, in your workplace, or anywhere for that matter, deal with it with the one person that can do something about it. Don’t talk to others about the problem, because all you’ll do is make it worse.

Address problems at the level they began; with the person at the center of the problem. Do not complain to others, or pile on when others complain. If someone complains to you about someone else, ask them, “Have you addressed this with that person?” If the answer is no, suggest that complaining to you will not make the issue go away. In fact, it will only make it worse.

Of course, if you need someone to just vent to, or want to talk about the situation in hopes of working out how best to handle it, great. Just choose someone who won’t pile on and make the problem worse. Teammates and co-workers are often not the right person; find a mentor or friend who is not intimately involved to discuss the situation with.

If someone else complains to you about a teammate or co-worker, by you agreeing and adding to the feelings, you are contributing to the problem just as much as the person identified as the problem. In fact, you may be making things worse than they really are.

Face and address problems with the one person that can do something about it, and don’t get dragged into a situation where you add to it. That is, if you want your team to perform at a high level.

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