Problem Solving Skills in the Workplace

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Many people become anxious when they have to solve a problem. They may just want the problem to disappear and ignore it, or feel that they must come up with a solution (and it had better be the correct one) or they blame someone else for the problem and offer no solution. Problems, however, are opportune situations for employees to solve issues that need to be solved and to improve themselves on a personal and professional level.

Identify

Before you can work on finding solutions to a problem, you have to be able to identify the problem. Consider asking a friend, relative or co-worker to help you figure out what the problem is for you at work. Once you put the problem into words, you can better evaluate potential solutions. Avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Your goal is to rationally evaluate the situation.

Gather Information

Work back through the problem to see how you ended up where you are. Retrace your steps to see if you uncover new information about the problem. Consult trade journals, manuals, supervisors and others to gather as much information about the problem from all angles as possible. Ask yourself how the problem is affecting you, and find out if others have experienced the problems as well. If so, determine how they’ve handled it. Consider others’ viewpoints and interests in this stage of solving the problem. Your interests are important, but the best solution will be the best solution for everyone involved.

Possible Solutions

Write out possible solutions to the problem. It does not matter whether they are viable or realistic. Just write them down. Brainstorming in this way helps you get as many ideas as possible on the table. If you think too hard about whether a solution could work at this point, you may miss a creative solution that could actually work.

Evaluate

Ask yourself what you want to achieve by finding a solution. This can help you narrow down your solutions to those that meet your goals. If your goal is to save your department money, for example, a solution that involves buying a payroll software program that could save your company labor hours in the payroll department, but that costs more than you are trying to save, might not be the best solution. Write out the pros and cons of each solution that meets your goals. This can help you compare solutions and their possible effects side by side.

Decide

Choose the solution that seems best given the circumstances. Implement your decision and then evaluate it to see if it was indeed the best choice for the problem. Ask yourself if it achieved what you had hoped, if it was effective, and identify the consequences it had on your circumstances. If necessary, go back to the previous steps to find a new and more effective solution.

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