Five Steps to Expressing Concerns at Work

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Frustrating work-related problems pop up all the time.  Sometimes we ignore those problems or concerns because it isn’t easy to have a conversation with a coworker that is causing you irritation.  When the situation is bad enough that you have to address it, there is a professional way to bring it up and try to find resolution.  The Workin’ It Out curriculum from Steve Parese provides these five steps for addressing a problem –

  1. Stop and Think – When you’re angry your body produces a series of responses that helps you be defensive. That’s great in some situations, but it comes with the cost of losing some of your ability to be rational.  Before you head into your boss’s office over something that’s stepping on your last nerve, make sure you can do so calmly.
  2. Ask to Talk – This is good advice in general, but especially when you’re angry. Ask if it’s a good time, and if it is not, find a time that is.  If your employer is in the middle of a report that has to be turned in to corporate in the next hour, they’re not going to give you enough time to talk about the problem and that will only cause the anger to multiply.
  3. Explain Without Blame – Say what the problem is precisely without blaming the person you’re speaking with or anyone else. Blame makes the other person defensive and it’s hard to have a productive conversation when one side is playing defense.  Introduce the problem, describe the facts of the situation, and detail the effect it is having on you.
  4. Ask for Help – The number one goal of the process should be to change the situation that is frustrating you. This means you need to be open to hearing suggestions on how to resolve the issue.  Listen to their ideas, offer your own, and find a solution that everyone can agree to.  People are more likely to do their part in a solution when they were part of the conversation.
  5. End Positively – Whether the process ends in a satisfactory way or not, try to close the conversation on a good note. Thank them for listening.  If the other person is behaving poorly in the meeting and you can’t leave on a good note, be professional.
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