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The boss's guide to solving his/her subordinate's problem The boss's guide to solving his/her subordinate's problem
by Joseph Gatt
2021-02-19 10:28:06
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This is a question I get a lot. I'm a boss and I want to fix my subordinate's problem. Or I'm a parent and I want to fix my children's problems. Or I have siblings or friends and I want to take care of their problems.

Simple answer. There are three types of problems in life. Short-term problems. Medium-term problems. And long-term problems.

solv0001_400Examples of short-term problems: ONE bad grade. ONE silly mistake. ONE unhappy client. OK THREE unhappy clients and so on. ONE bout of irritation. ONE bad behavior.  

Examples of medium-term problems: A FEW bad grades. A FEW silly mistakes. A PATTERN of unhappy clients. A FEW bouts of irritation and so on.

Examples of long-term problems: A bad school term. An entire week or two of bad or destructive behavior. A week of two of disastrous results and complaints.

So.

You have the Korean and Japanese method of solving problems. And then you have the Middle Eastern method of solving problems. And then you have the Western method of solving problems.

The Korean and Japanese method: they severely punish short-term problems. But they do nothing about medium-term problems. And get used to long-term problems.

The Middle Eastern method: they pretend not to notice short-term problems, try to fix medium-term problems, and then give up on long-term problems. You find this in the Western world a lot as well.

And the Western method, which is to start taking action for medium-term problems, and do some serious thinking about how to fix long-term problems.

Mistakes.

If you “attack” short-term problems or try to fix short-term problems, soon enough your subordinate or son or daughter or sibling or friend is going to start hiding problems, because they know you will try to nip problems in the bud. That creates an atmosphere of terror where people start hiding problems.

If you do nothing about medium-term and long-term problems, that's a form of neglect. One long-term problem tends to lead to a series of related long-term problems, and soon enough, there are huge problems.

So.

The general idea is to wait for a small pattern of problems to emerge before you take action.

But.

Sometimes your subordinate (or child) is doing the right thing and you see a problem where there is no problem.

Let's say, as a random example, that your subordinate is turning away a few clients that seem suspicious and seem like they are from the mafia, and you intervene by telling your subordinate that everyone should be welcome. Your subordinate keeps turning away the mafia and you keep harassing your subordinate into welcoming everyone.

So it's important to hear your subordinate's side of the story, to listen and try to understand. Maybe something you've been doing has led to those problems, or maybe you see a problem where there is no problem.

Inventing problems.

Some bosses and parents invent problems for their subordinates or children where there are no problems, a form of sabotage in a way. Maybe the subordinate or the child is getting in the way of a promotion or something. I'd sacrifice the promotion rather than invent useless problems and cause useless trouble.

Finally. Neglecting long-term problems and sweeping them under the rug.

Most big companies and big organizations collapse because they failed to intervene and fix problems when problems were at the medium-term stage.

That is problems grew to become long-term problems. It's either too late to fix the problems. Or no one knows how to fix the problems. Or people are too scared to even suggest trying to fix the problem.

In sum. Pretend not to notice small problems. Intervene when there's a pattern of problems before the problems grow long-term.

Small tidbit. When I work in different organizations, I tend to notice problems when they're in the medium-term stage and eloquently suggest how to fix those problems. Problem is, a lot of my colleagues, by way of imitation, start noticing small problems and loudly complaining about them, just to show me and others that they can notice problems as well. Don't do that.


   
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