By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency
Q. The largest problem I have at work is with other people. Every time something goes wrong at my job, I'm staring at someone who did something stupid, incompetent or thoughtless. How do you approach problems that are someone else's fault?
A. The only way to get the "stupid" other person as an ally in problem solving is if he does not feel as if you see him as the problem. Yes, people do shockingly stupid things at work, but the minute you approach a problem by first blaming your coworker, you are dead in the water.
Instead, develop a habit of owning the problem. Yes, this is much less emotionally satisfying than blowing up at others. But, once you have a track record of getting what you want, the immediate gratification of blaming might lessen.
Start out by replacing the word "you" with the word "I." When you start a sentence with the word "you," the other person gets ready to defend, counter-attack or explain - and none of these will result in a solution.
When other people hear you talking about yourself, everyone is happy to think about helping you. No one is happy to hear how they were an idiot.
Do evaluate whether you really want to vent (blame) or solve the problem (take responsibility). If your secret agenda is to express your anger, you cannot use what I am recommending.
If you are willing to give up venting, then figure out anything you did that might have contributed to the problem. I know it isn't your responsibility, but is there anything you could have done that would have helped avoid this problem?
Now start our your conversation by pointing out that you could have sent a confirming email, initiated a phone call or double checked the details. Yes, that might have been your coworker's job, but your coworker can more easily take responsibility if you do the same.
Once you have used accountability to open up the conversation, follow up by asking your coworker for ideas about solving the problem in the future. Focus on not having the problem repeated instead of berating your coworker for past performance.
Once you get a reputation at work as someone who is capable of high accountability, assigns no blame and is all about solutions, your status, effectiveness and influence will soar. Everyone wants to employ and work with people who can chose results over being right. Few people are emotionally capable of choosing results over the righteous judgment of others.
The Last Word(s):
Q. I'm freaked about catching Ebola at work. I wonder if there is a conspiracy about not telling us the severity of the risk. Should I be concerned?
A. No, you are more likely to be bit on the butt by a unicorn right now then catching Ebola. Stop watching the news and go to the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for an accurate picture of the risk.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027.Sorry, no personal replies.
This column was printed in the December 14, 2014 - December 27, 2014 edition.