Resolving Workplace Problems

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Resolving Workplace Problems


Hopefully workplace conflicts will never arise, but if they do, it's important to remember two things:  workplace conflicts come in all sizes -- and one-size (in this case, the approach) doesn't necessary fit all.

To tackle and effectively resolve a workplace problem, consider the following guidelines.


How to Resolve Workplace Conflicts

How to Handle Mistakes

How to Deal with Difficult Customers

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How to Resolve Workplace Conflicts

___  1.     Identify the problem.

       Be very specific in identifying the core of the problem.  Consider these

A less qualified person got the promotion you desired.

You regularly have to work overtime.

You didn't get the expected pay raise.

A fellow employee is making harassing comments.

You didn't get the office you wanted.

The employer isn't providing an accommodation requested.

A fellow employee never refills the coffee pot after taking the
last cup.

___  2.     Determine the size and scope of the problem.

       How serious is the problem?  How often does the problem occur?
       Is it a big enough (or frequent enough) problem worth tackling?

___  3.     Determine the severity of the problem.

       How serious or relevant is the problem to the work environment?
       To you, the individual involved?  Again, is it important enough and
       worth tackling?

       Less serious work-related problems might include minor inconveniences
       and annoyances in the work environment, such as supplies needed are
       out, the copy machine wasn't refilled with paper, and so on.  Often these
       types of problems can be easily addressed by communicating concerns
       with the individual involved.  Sometimes minor inconveniences and 
       annoyances are brushed aside and ignored -- and sometimes should be.

       Work-related problems considered to be of a more serious nature would
       include those that pose a risk to health and safety, violate federal or state
       workplace laws, violate company policies or employee contracts, and so

___  4.     Identify the easiest way to resolve the problem.

       What specifically, and most simply, would resolve the conflict?  What's 
       the easiest solution?  A conversation to share concerns?  An apology?  
      A meeting?  Mediation?  Try to keep it as simple as possible by 
      choosing the easiest route first.

      As workplace conflicts vary in nature, no one approach may necessarily 
      work for every situation encountered.  But, again, whenever possible, 
      start with the easiest approach first.  Legal action, if applicable to the 
      particular situation, should be used only as a last resort after all other 
      attempts to solve the problem have been tried first.

___  5.    Arrange to meet with your employer.

                Schedule an appointment to meet with your supervisor.  In most situations,
                discussing a problem with your supervisor can usually resolve most
                conflicts.  Perhaps there was a misunderstanding, an oversight, or a
                lack of legal knowledge.  Often bringing the problem to the employer's
                attention will help resolve the problem.  Given the opportunity, most
                companies will work to address a problem, especially a problem that
                could involve the company legally.

___  6.    Prepare for the meeting with your employer.

      To communicate concerns to an employer effectively, the following tips
      are suggested:

Know the workplace laws.   When applicable, it's wise to
become familiar with federal and state employment laws and
regulations that apply to the problem at hand.  Knowing what
the laws say, what they do, and who's covered will enable you 
to know what your rights are in the workplace.


Research company policies, employee contracts, and
employee handbooks.  
Review your copy of the company 
policy manual, employee contract manual, and employee 
handbook to become familiar with company policies and/or 
negotiated contract agreements that relate to the problem.


Write a brief summary.   Very simply...

                1.  State the concern or problem.
                2.  List the facts (only the facts) related to the problem.
                3.  State your recommendation for resolving the problem.


___  7.    Meet with your employer.

                The following tips are suggested:

Meet with the employer in a private location away from 

Take a copy of your written summary to the meeting to 
share with the employer.

State the problem, facts, and your recommendation.

Stick to the facts.

Don't become overly emotional or lose your temper.
A calm presentation of a complaint is always more
effective than an emotional or hostile confrontation.
No matter how emotional or angry you may feel...

Stay calm.

If the supervisor needs more time to address your
problem, try to establish a timeline with the supervisor
so you know when to expect a response or remedy to
the problem.

       At this point, hopefully the problem will be resolved.  However, if the 
       problem is not resolved and further action is needed, go to #8.

___  8.     Document the problem.

       Set up a file and keep records of all relevant documents and 
       correspondence.  Records should include factual written summaries
       of incidents noting date, time, location, and persons involved;  memos
       and letters;  relevant work documents;  meeting notes;  performance
       evaluations;  and any other relevant paperwork to document your 
       workplace problem.  Keeping a paper trail is essential for providing 
       needed evidence should legal action be needed down the road.  


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How to Handle Mistakes

If you make a mistake of a more serious nature, consider these suggested steps:


___  1.     Admit responsibility.

___  2.     Determine who needs to know.

___  3.     Communicate the error to the appropriate person(s).

___  4.     Give only the facts.

___  5.     Don't make excuses.  Only offer the person an explanation.

___  6.     State how you fixed the problem -- or how you plan to fix the problem.

___  7.     Plan and communicate to the employer how you will prevent the mistake 
                 from occurring again.


The following web site offers further help and advice!

About Work

This site offers advice about success at work and how to solve common
career and workplace problems.


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How to Deal with Difficult Customers

Hopefully you won't encounter any difficult customers, but if you do, the following guidelines are suggested.


What to Do When Encountering Difficult Customers:

___  1.    Stay calm and courteous at all times.

___  2.    Listen with understanding.

___  3.    Focus on the problem, not the person.

___  4.    Identify and target the problem.

___  5.    Agree on the problem -- make sure the customer and you agree on what
                the problem is.

___  6.    Determine actions necessary to resolve the problem.

___  7.    Determine if you are the person to resolve the problem.  

                If you're not the right person, assist connecting the customer to the
                appropriate person.  Make sure the customer gets connected.

___  8.    Take necessary action.

___  9.    Kindly apologize for the inconvenience, error, mistake, delay, defect,
                or problem.


Let's look at a few sample scenarios to see how a difficult customer might be effectively handled!


Example Scenario #1:     Employee is able to resolve the problem.


Customer:      Waiter!  This isn't what I ordered!  I ordered a pastrami on rye!  
                        And I hate sprouts!  What kind of @!&#! place is this?

Waiter:           Yes, I see, sir.  You ordered a pastrami, not a roast beef sandwich.
                        I'll get your correct order without sprouts right away.

Customer:      I'm in a hurry!  Speed it up!

Waiter:           I'll be right back with your pastrami sandwich.  (Waiter hurries off
                       to the cook and returns with the pastrami sandwich).

                       I apologize for the error and inconvenience.  Is this sandwich okay?

Customer:     Yeah. (grumbles)

Waiter:          Can I get you anything else?

Customer:     Yeah -  more coffee.

Waiter:           Right away, sir.


In this scenario, notice how the waiter:  1)  remains calm and courteous at all times,  2)  identifies and verifies the problem,  3)  takes quick and immediate action, and  
4)  apologizes for the error and inconvenience.  The waiter focuses on the problem, 
not the person.


Example Scenario #2:     Employee is unable to resolve the problem.


Customer:       I need to return this blouse.

Clerk:               Do you have the receipt?

Customer:       No, my dog chewed it up.

Clerk:               I'm sorry, but I need the receipt to give a refund.

Customer:       I just bought it here last week!  What kind of operation is this,
                         anyway?  Is this any way to treat customers?  Just give me a
                         #!@#&!  refund!

Clerk:              I can understand your frustration, but the company doesn't allow
                        me to take back return items without a receipt.  

                        (Interpretation:  It's the company's decision, not mine).


Clerk:              I'm unable to help you, but let me have you speak with the assistant
                        manager.  I'll be right back.   (Clerk hurries off and returns).

                        I'm sorry, the assistant manager is out momentarily.  I'll contact the
                        manager for you.   (Clerk calls the manager, and the manager arrives
                        to assist). 


In this scenario, notice how the clerk:   1)  remains calm and courteous,  2)  identifies the problem,  3)  emphasizes it's the company's policy (not the clerk's),  4)  seeks assistance, and  5)  connects the customer to the appropriate person.

Just remember...  stay calm and courteous!


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