In Accountability, Communication, Employee Development, Feedback, Leadership, Perspective, Self-Awareness, Wednesday Wisdom

3 Ways to Prevent Uploading Responsibility

You’ve probably heard the saying “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution.” And managers I know tell me that employees who are too quick to escalate an issue can, in fact, be very frustrating, even annoying. Think about it, typically when an employee comes to a manager with a problem, they expect the manger to solve it, which adds one more task to the manager’s or supervisor’s already busy day.

What’s worse is that some managers actually try to solve the employee’s problem. These managers have a tendency to be perfectionists and they think, “If I want this done right, I will have to do it myself.” But this creates an unhealthy relationship between employee and supervisor that reinforces the employee’s needy behavior.

But my challenge today is not for the perfectionist boss, but the needy employee, who is transferring his or her own responsibility to his or her boss or supervisor, which creates an inefficient and even toxic workplace environment.

Let’s talk about some ways to own our problems and find solutions to them so that if we do go to the boss, we aren’t contributing to the problem.

  1. Briefly (without making a list of excuses) explain what you’ve already tried. Ask your boss: Did I miss something in my thought process? This helps your manager understand your reasoning and communicates the effort already generated to find a solution. Hint: An honest evaluation of your own work may help you discover some new-found creativity or unique solutions.
  2. Express your desire to remain engaged in the solution-finding process. Do not give up responsibility for finding a solution. Instead of saying, “There’s nothing more I can do to make Ms. Customer happy,” say, “I’m asking for your assistance, but I will execute any action items/follow up myself.” This communicates that you aren’t taking this off your task list, only that you need assistance.
  3. Clarify when you expect to have your solution and respectfully ask if there is another manager you could or should consult. You might say: “If you can’t help me right now, or if there’s someone else who might be better equipped to help me, please let me know.” This communicates a respect for your manager’s workload and workday planning, and gives your manager the option to direct you to a different but equally helpful resource you may not have considered.

And don’t forget to thank your manager for his or her help. I know it might sound trite, but a little bit of appreciation goes a long way to build the relationship!

Even when you are truly “stuck” with a task that doesn’t have a clear solution, you have some options to consider before you attempt to pass the buck to someone further up the leadership chain.

When was the last time you solved a big problem without uploading responsibility? I’d love to hear about how you tackled it.





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