When Others Won’t Tell You The Problem


You hear the news that someone – an employee client, hotel guest, patient, upper management – is unhappy with you or a situation you’ve involved in. In order to qualify this, you go to the source and engage them in dialogue to find what the concerns are. And what they tell you is, basically, that there is no issue, everything is fine. Yet you know there is a problem and they just won’t admit it.

Have you ever wondered what motivates people to not admit they have a problem? Problems are not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes they help identify ways to better service customers or keep employees aligned with your goals. But why do people refuse to admit they have an issue when they really do? And how do you overcome that?

Here are some reasons why individuals won’t come forward with a problem:

  • Shyness. They don’t want to rock the boat, or have anyone think ill of them. They will deny problems to avoid conflict.
  • Anger. Sometimes people get so worked up over an issue, that they don’t want to talk about it for fear they will loose their temper.
  • Hidden agenda. By revealing there is a problem, these people might show the hand of a hidden agenda, so they play dumb to allow no one insight as to what they are planning.
  • Fear of being called to account. Some people are afraid of being called to account for wrongdoing on their part of the issue. Or look foolish for their actions.
  • Power play. Certain individuals will know they have one over on you and use it as a trump card to leverage their credibility.
  • “The invisible sledgehammer”. These are folks who say everything is great, only to whack you with the problem as an opportune time, many times to sabotage you. This can even be your own boss who does this.
  • Chronic complainers. You know the type; the ones who complain constantly but never will do anything to admit a problem or help make things better.
  • Self-centered perspective. People who see things only from where they stand and frankly don’t care to see the world from a different view. They see what they see, and that is all that matters.
  • Already checked out. These people have become disengaged already to the point of resigning, taking their business elsewhere, or move on and leave the issue unresolved.

So how can you overcome this challenge? While there may be situations that can’t be resolved, especially if the other party is unwilling to listen, one of the best ways is to ask questions along these lines to help them be willing to talk earnestly.

  1. “Do you want our organization to have the best culture possible?”
  2. “Do you feel there are ways in which we can improve internally?”
  3. “Would you be willing to tell me if there are any issues that we need to work on together to make our internal culture better?”

If you can solicit a “Yes” response to the first two questions, you more than likely can get the other party to make a positive response to the third. If that happens, a breakthrough has occurred and a good dialogue can get started.

Be creative to break down those walls that others put up. You may not be able to tear down every wall, but the ones that do come down reap great benefits to everyone in the organization.

Problems will arise. Minimizing them will make dysfunction arise in the company even more.

(image: canva)


About Paul LaRue

My goal - To encourage you to lead & influence others with positive impact.

Posted on May.19.2015, in Leadership. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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