Problem-Solving Methods

Whether a problem is individual or systemic, once you've determined the core cause of the trouble it's time to take action and use your problem-solving skills to change a bad situation. Remember, workplace problems are many and varied, so you will need to evaluate and deal with each one individually. For example, what may work to motivate one employee may have the opposite effect on another.

Some options include the following:

  • Positivity. 
    If negative attitudes and talk are permeating your team, first find out why. Then dissect the problem, finding a few positives to help turn around attitudes. For example, if a group is reeling from defeat by another unit or company, point out the positives about your team's work, emphasizing how easy it would be to win the next battle with a few minor changes.

  • Honesty. 
    Gossip can be a huge problem in any organization, having a huge effect on morale. However, gossip is usually a symptom of employees feeling that the leadership is up to something and not being straight with the employees. The best solution is to go to your direct reports and be as honest as you can without divulging sensitive material or strategies. Let your employees know that you are being straight with them.

  • Step-by-step. 
    Dropping productivity can often be a symptom that your group is unsure of how to proceed or doesn't understand the organizational goals and how their work fits into those goals. First make sure that your staff is aware that their hard work, creativity, and dependability are noticed and vital to the organization. Then try breaking a goal down into more easily accomplished steps. This will help give employees a sense of job satisfaction and teach them the pace at which they need to be working.

  • Don't cave. 
    If employees are pessimistic and not responding well to authority, don't give in to their whims and demands. A team always needs its leader to be strong, whether or not they currently appreciate that strength.

  • Cut losses.
    Not all problems are solvable. If you have continually struggled with a problematic employee and he or she is failing to respond to your best efforts, it may be time to consider letting that employee go. A leader must be prepared for the eventuality of having to "cull the herd" from time to time to maintain a healthy and productive organization.


Tip: One important aspect of the problem-solving cycle is to keep detailed notes. You might make a file for each of your employees and add a note each time that employee is involved in creating or solving a problem. That way, you'll have a track record to refer back to when you need to judge an employee's good or bad work behavior.