Recognizing Problems

Despite a rigorous interview process and the best-presented seminars, problems will crop up in any unit or organization. Beyond interviewing and letting your employees know the expected work behaviors, you must learn to recognize problems in the early stages.

The leader who fails to realize developing problems in the team, unit, or organization won't accomplish organizational goals and will probably suffer a loss of authority.

Individual Problems vs. Systemic Problems


You must also recognize the scope of the problem: Is it individual or systemic? Individual problems, as the name implies, are limited to one person—for example, a particular employee who is unable to understand a key business concept. By contrast, systemic problems involve more than one person and often spread quickly. Examples of systemic problems include misinformation spreading throughout an organization and having a negative effect on morale, or a group of employees using company-owned equipment for a side business.

Identify the Symptoms

Some telltale signs usually accompany problems. The following signs apply to both individual and systemic troubles:

  • Negativity.  
    Employees exhibit a pessimistic attitude. For example, an employee may openly say, "I'll never finish this project on time. I just don't get it."

  • Gossip.  
    If something is going wrong, you can bet that more than one person in the group is aware of it. To err is human, but so is the tendency to discuss the ills of an individual or organization.

  • Loss in productivity.  
    Productivity often drops when an individual or unit is troubled. For example, when morale is low, employees can easily develop a hopeless attitude about work, leading to losses in quality and quantity.

  • Challenging authority.  
    If employees feel there is a problem, often they will attribute the cause of the problem to their leaders. Leaders are the ones who have the vision and set the organizational goals, so when things go wrong on a large scale, employees can lose confidence in the organizational leadership. Employees then begin to challenge the person they consider to be an ineffective leader.

  • Resignations.  
    Are employees jumping ship? If so, this could be symptomatic of a serious problem. The resignations are significant because the employees would rather quit than continue to work toward the organizational goals.

  • Concrete evidence.  
    Limited to problems such as embezzlement and workplace violence, concrete evidence includes keeping track of employees' equipment, corporate credit card accounts, and any reports of hostility or unprofessional behavior.

 

Tip : Keep the lines of communication open with your group members. Much as Sherlock Holmes believed a criminal would unwittingly confess his crime if he kept talking, group members often betray their doubts, fears, and gossip in casual talk with a leader.