Don’t Make the Problems You Create My Problems

My kids can recite one of dad’s favorite phrases; don’t make the problems you create my problems.  For example, my youngest runs around in the morning when he should be getting his stuff together for school.  We have to frequently remind him to find his glasses and get his backpack.  He knows what needs to be done, he just chooses not to do it.  Well, the other day that backfired when he got to school and announced he didn’t have his school bag, which contained his tennis shoes (it’s winter in ND so wears boots to school) and homework.  I repeated my favorite saying and told him he’d have to make due since I wasn’t going home to get it.  The problem he created was not going to become my problem that day.

This is an at-home experience, but what happens at work can be far worse because usually the problem does become your problem.  I once had a boss say “I have a problem.  What are you going to do about it?”  I’ve also had a sales person gather our team to tell us a new customer was promised features we don’t have in an unreasonable time frame and if we missed the dates, they, and their revenue, will walk.  In both these instances, they perceived their problems to be far more important than anything else I was working on, and their problems became my problems.

Instead of using colorful metaphors to describe how I felt about the situation, and them, I am a good corporate citizen and want to help the company be successful.  This usually requires shifting other priorities around, which means other work is not getting done, which means upset people.  Then, gathering a team and jumping into a solution right away.  Eventually you’ll get it done.  Maybe on time, maybe not.  Maybe to full scope, maybe not.  Maybe to full quality, or maybe not.  But ultimately, you’ll find a way and can announce you and the team went above and beyond to meet a near impossible request.

I do promise, though, the offender who distributed their problem to me is known by my boss and my boss’ boss, with the request of “coaching” the troublemaker to talk to me or others first before transferring their problems to others.

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