How Do You React To Trouble? (They Are Watching!)


Whether you want to call it trouble, adversity, problems or challenges, when something pops up that threatens the success of something needing done, employers as represented by Supervisors and Managers will notice the reactions of their employees.

How YOU personally react, and what you DO will define you in one way or another. Beyond that one time, if you consistently react a certain way – good or bad, positive or negative – you’ll have established your reputation. How would you like to be viewed in the face of problems and challenges? Are you the person who waits for others to deal with the trouble, the person who takes action and succeeds more often than not, or are you the reckless responder who throws themselves into every problem with a ton of energy but very little thought for alternative solutions?

Dealing with trouble is such an important issue, that it often comes up in job interviews. You know, that irksome question for some about how you’d deal with conflict or something that threatens production, team chemistry or customer frustrations. Employers would ideally like to know your typical reaction to past problems you’ve encountered in order to predict how you are most likely to react to challenges that will pop up should you be hired by them.

Suppose you’re the kind of person that jumps right in, takes control of situations and tells people what to do in order to get quick results. Is that the best reaction? Well I’d say you are the right person for the job if you happen to be around when a fire breaks out in the office. Barking out statements like, “Call 911! Seal that door, get out and meet in the north parking lot now!”, is probably the best thing everyone who is wondering what to do wants to hear.

However, if you’re the kind of person who likes to consider several possible courses of action prior to cautiously moving forward with a plan, you might just be the ideal employee to handle a delicate challenge with one of the company’s most valued clients. Perhaps gathering input from your peers, the customer, distributors and other stakeholders is what is needed to make a decision that will yield a course of action with the lowest risk and the greatest potential benefit.

Do you see how neither of those two types is right in both situations? If a fire breaks out and it’s spreading rapidly, someone who takes the time to consult with all their fellow employees on a course of action may not survive. Conversely, someone who takes charge and acts consistently without consulting others may come across as brash, impulsive and a loose cannon; high risk/high reward.

Then there’s the person who routinely sits and waits to be told by others what to do. This person may be unwilling to take leadership for fear of failure, and will happily work hard when told what to do, but is reluctant to suggest courses of action. It may be they wish to play things safe, but it could also be that they just lack the vision to foresee additional challenges and implications of choices.

Every employee has strengths and areas in which they could improve. Some positions in companies require people of action and an ability to trouble-shoot potential problems, and deal effectively with challenges when they do occur. Sometimes the trouble is relatively minor, as in the case of the supply cupboard is found to be empty of pens. Whoever notices that is likely to then be expected to notify whomever is responsible for ordering more, and that person does so, or has a backup stash to deal with just such an issue. Then again, there are situations like finding the in-house computer software program isn’t functioning, that can potentially cost the company sales, and drive customers to the competition perhaps never to return. That needs sending an alert to the IT department immediately.

Earlier I mentioned that the conflict or trouble-shooting question could arise in a job interview. So how then should you respond to come across in the best possible light? I’d suggest that instead of automatically telling the interviewer your particular problem-solving style, you preface your answer by stating you first determine the magnitude of the problem, the potential impact of a worse-case scenario, and then proceed with responding. In other words, your problem-solving style adapts and changes as a response to the challenge, rather than having a rigid, one-style-suits-all reaction.

Here’s another thing to consider. As a member of a team in my workplace, I am frequently in situations where leadership is called for to address a challenge. Sometimes it is my decision to actually hold back and allow others the opportunity to step up. This doesn’t mean I’m not capable of addressing an issue that’s facing the team, it just means that I want to give others a chance to excel. Not only is this good for them, but it also helps me understand what my teammates are capable of, and when facing trouble, it’s nice to know who has what skills and whom you can count on. Pretty unrealistic to expect a superior response to major issues if a person hasn’t had a chance to respond to increasingly significant challenges in the past.

You can do yourself a favour if you know the procedures to deal with the most likely troubles that will arise in your own workplace. Check what your boss wants you to notify them of immediately, and what you could tackle on your own.

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