Our work defines our very being – what we are all about. Our work determines where we spend about one-thirds of our adult life, gives us a professional identity, dictates our living standards, where and how we enjoy ourselves after work, where and how we live and where our children study and play. Quite simply, our workplace is the fount of most of what we experience in our routine life.
Naturally, an employee always dreams of a dream workplace, where they get to work in a congenial, facilitating and enabling environment, which allows them to meet professional and personal aspirations. On the other side, the employer would like to have a proficient, dedicated, sincere and result-oriented worker. Luckily, should the twain meet at all (which does happen many a time), it can be a hunky dory situation. But unfortunately, the commonplace reality is starkly different from it.
Workplace challenges have become a common source of stress in today’s workplace. Of course, it is utopian to expect a workplace having roles, expectations, and personalities in perfect tandem, without any conflict and a happily-ever-after scenario! But we all know well how many marriages are actually made in heaven! The reality bites hard and quite often, results in many workplace challenges, which affect the employees and the employer. However, the workplace challenge an employee faces is hardly ever totally personal; it mostly becomes an organizational issue, which has the potential to create a severe crisis in many cases.
Common Employee Problems
In the coming few paragraphs, we’ll talk about some common employee problems and solutions:
Assimilating themselves into a new work culture can be frustrating for a new employee. A good solution to this problem is to let the new joinee know coworkers by working in teams. Teamwork fosters common interests, builds trust and friendships. Remember, though asking a question may cost something, not asking it costs even more; so, if you don’t understand something, ask in a friendly and respectful manner.
Attitude, manners, and work habits – all of them indicate that you are a professional. We need to keep in mind that there’s nothing like a one-size-fits-all work culture. Now, there are those corporations which encourage casual dressing and come-as-you-please office timings but there are many more with far stricter rules. Experts recommend an acculturation policy for new recruits else they take many things for granted and flounder on their way.
Though office gossip is inevitable, it has marred many a career. One never really knows the real intentions of the guy with whom they are gossiping at coffee time. The other guy may be actually provoking you to come out with something negative by making negative comments about your boss. Alert: Avoid the trap and as far as possible, stay away from it. Gossip travels faster than you think!
A new employee has to wait to earn the co-workers’ trust. Therefore, listen and observe before you suggest any changes in a solution-oriented approach. And while doing so, be clear-headed, fair and reasonable.
Mistakes do happen all the time and are a necessary evil, so to say. Admit them, apologize and move on as giving excuses or covering up compounds the problem. Evolve a solution to fix the problem at the earliest. Forgive yourself, and move on.
Suppose while working on a crucial task, owing to an unintentional mistake, some issues happened which could delay the deadline.
- Don’t panic!
- Admit your fault and assume the full responsibility, regardless of whether it was unintentional.
- Explain the details of what happened and how plan to lessen the damage.
- Learn your lessons. It won’t correct the mistake, but you won’t lose your manager’s trust by a fair margin.
2. The “boss” of all problems
The “boss problem” looks to be the “boss” of workplace challenges. The problems employees have with their bosses can be emotionally and physically taxing. They often come from a boss’s working style, which is very often dependent on their personality. But no less common reason is the employee’s working style.
In these cases, from an employee’s angle, the first thing to do is finding out what the boss does / does not do that upsets him. The next thing is asking why. It is helpful to examine the problem from both the sides – yours and the boss’s. Make a plan about how to talk it out with the boss and do not blame, accuse or vent your anger as anger drains energy and can create unpleasant situations for you. Instead, try to adopt a collective “we” approach, thereby indicating your organizational belongingness.
A different piece of cake
You were hired in your chosen department, but with time and a change in requirements, your duties have changed, and you have to do the work you were never interested in or had never expected to do. Fret not, have an open talk with your manager in a calm, collaborative tone and explain how your task doesn’t match the profile you’ve been interested in. While doing so, provide a clear picture of your wants and request them to adjust your work accordingly. Their response may be in your favor or not, but it can help your reporting manager think of utilizing your skills more effectively without affecting your level of interest in your work.
Too much workload
Sometimes due to a proactive approach on your part or to fill in for an absent employee, you may have to take up extra work. It may become unmanageable as you will have to discharge the extra burden besides your own tasks that you need to complete. To tackle this one, explain to your reporting manager that your workload isn’t bearable, along with specific details about why. You can make a request to add a resource for less urgent work or you can make a proposal of setting priorities, which they could approve.
Problems with coworkers
The workplace counselling services need to recognize the importance of coworker problems, which ought to rank pretty much at the top of the grievance list. Fortunately, most workplaces have regular, normal, everyday people. But, in case your coworker is a difficult person, you’ll need to polish your interpersonal skills a little. Since you cannot choose the colleagues you would like to work with, the trick lies in dealing with them tactfully, thereby minimizing your own problems. Handling difficult coworkers, bosses and customers is a valuable skill worth learning for everyone. Similarly, solving workplace challenges can be difficult but is greatly rewarding in the long run.
Some coworkers tend to relish the negativity they spread. They dislike their job as well as the company they are working for. A coworker may chew gum loudly or bring up personal issues at the office, while another one may have personal hygiene problems. You have to tackle them upfront if you want to have some peace at your workplace. You have to develop courage and confidence to tell them that these issues annoy you and lower office productivity.
Most employees face the huge challenge of understanding different communication styles at the workplace. In general, in order to be effective, communication should be understood properly by the recipient, as has been intended by the sender. The lack of effective communication impedes team efficiency and adversely impacts the employee’s trust.
Experts say that though communication problems are related to the many office obstacles, they mostly imply a challenge – of reconciling and managing the different perspectives effectively.
Research reveals that corporates having open communication channels have happier, more productive and satisfied workers. Such a system fosters creativity, too. A tried-and-tested and powerful tool is to make employees speak openly and fearlessly with “let’s try to know more”. Besides being a useful tool when you can’t grasp something, it also helps when you think you know what the employee is trying to say.
Because of poor communication, deadlines get missed and work gets done ineffectively or isn’t done at all. Try to have the following:
Open door policy: With easily approachable managers, the employees can air their grievances whenever necessary.
Clear chain of command: With clear reporting structures, the workers should know who they’re supposed to report to avoid confusion and ensure accountability.
Clear line of authority: A clear line of authority refers to the number of employees who report to a specific person. If there are too many employees reporting to a supervisor, it’s going to cause confusion and inefficiency.
Employee training and development
Many companies just throw their new employee into the ring; in effect, asking them to learn on their own via the trial and error method, which is unstructured, confusing, is fraught with dangers and takes much longer time. And there are others, which provide formal training, but not in the right way. Both are equally bad in terms of good business performance.
Formal, structured employee training and development related directly to the employee’s job description is, therefore, imperative to get the best out of them. The training must answer the question – how can employees best achieve the objectives attached to their positions? Besides, the training programme needs to focus on fostering accountability. Every skill so taught has to be coupled with performance accountability, which obviously requires the employer to assess each employee’s progress. In many cases, the word training never finds another mention once the initial round is over.
Another important requirement for effective training is hiring the right trainer for the task. Quite often, such training is given by the human resources people, who may know a lot about people management but have no practical exposure to the subject of such training. Having veteran people with substantial on-the-job experience is a much better idea, instead, to ensure good learning.
Among employee problems, workplace stress is quite common. Lakhs of cases of workplace stress are discovered every year owing to overwork, lack of a clearly defined job role, lack of professional advancement, stagnation, bullying etc. It is high time workplace counselling services paid attention to this aspect as it severely affects employee morale and workplace productivity.
I can recall the 40-year old Gunja Billu, a police officer, who had come to me with several stress-related symptoms thanks to her job issues. Gunja Billu was facing high pressure due to the high performance demands of her job. As a result, she was having sleep problems, a declining appetite, muscular tension and frequent headaches.
She was helped to identify those thinking patterns, which were contributing to her stress e.g. developing unrealistic expectations of herself. In fact, she used to focus too much on the small mistakes committed in the course of work, while totally ignoring the praise and positive feedback she often got from her superiors. She was trained to learn meditation exercises and breathing techniques to bring down her stress levels. With counseling, she successfully adopted a more realistic approach and accepted that mistakes were inevitable while also acknowledging her good performance. Besides, she was advised to create a work-life balance with the help of regular exercise and relaxation.
Lack of employee recognition
Very few employers really grasp the importance and the high of giving a pat on the back for something good an employee has done. Being thrifty with using praise and recognition is certainly a bad management idea. Though it’s nice to get commendations and awards at the workplace, a frequent Thank You and Well Done are much bigger motivators. The employers need to understand and keep in mind the fact that recognition doesn’t always have to be financial; rather, beyond a certain point, it hardly works. In fact, what matters far more and far longer is the value placed by an employer in an employee, often shown by such tokens of appreciation like Letters of Appreciation, Employee of the Month and Star of the Year awards etc. Unlike cash, which is ultimately burnt, sooner or later, they last a lifetime and are cherished forever by the recipients.
In this context, a major cause of employee discontent in many companies is the lack of transparency and clarity in the parameters used to give such recognition. So instead of doing the good job of motivating an employee, it results in annoying many others. Therefore, the moral is clear – keep it open, clear and transparent.
Ineffective performance appraisals
In a routinely ineffective performance appraisal, the boss does all the talking despite not knowing what is being talked about. To make the performance appraisals really effective, the employer has to recognize the stakes by doing a good amount of homework. The superior should use the employee’s job description to review their job performance besides taking the employee’s personal assessment of his performance and then look for the performance gaps, if any. And as a standard accepted practice, the superior need to first focus on the employee’s strengths before going to those areas, which need some improvement on the employee’s part.
Bullying doesn’t happen just in schools, colleges and playgrounds. And it can cause not only permanent psychological scars, but also adversely affects the worker’s job performance as it doesn’t let him put in his best in the job. Mostly, the bully here is one in a position of authority, influence or control. The object of bullying is one who is relatively powerless, who enjoys little control over their circumstances and has little access to means of redressal.
Workplace bullying can range from adopting condescending behavior and gossiping to exclusion or even violence. First, try to handle it on your own by confronting the bully calmly and confidently by telling him his comments/actions offend you and give him a chance for improvement. But be prepared for the consequences as bullying can often escalate to higher levels or higher forms once the perpetrator gets exposed.
Make your superiors aware of the good work you have been doing in your company. It can help you a lot as bullies often try to spread rumors about your not doing your job well. A fear of retaliation keeps many employees from reporting such bullying to the employer. Keeping a record of the bully’s behavior and talking to someone trusted within the company can also be helpful.
The 20-something Jangbir was being constantly bullied by a senior co-worker, making her work environment quite stifling and uncomfortable. She developed a strong feeling of anxiety before going to office and often skipped office altogether to avoid facing it. But obviously, it didn’t help her and that’s when she visited a therapist. She was brought to realize that she didn’t have to accept the office environment as an unchangeable reality and that she could take steps to feel more comfortable. She was asked to speak to her boss about why her work was suffering and was advised to meet her co-worker and her boss. Many fruitful discussions later, Jangbir began to feel more confident about dealing with her coworkers.
Being Overlooked for Promotion
Just imagine working hard for so long to get it, waiting anxiously to break the news to your spouse. But….. once again, it’s your colleague who gets a promotion. Being refused something never makes one feel good, but you should accept it gracefully instead of whining or complaining about it.
The key to avoiding such issues lies in implementing open and transparent systems in organizations. If the worker knows about the performance deliverables in advance and there are regular performance feedbacks, there would be little reasons for such grouses.
Still, if you aren’t happy with such a management decision, here is something sensible you can do: Talk to your boss about what you can do to get a promotion next time. You might learn many surprising, new things about yourself and get an idea about how your superiors look at you and their expectations of your performance. To prepare a strong case for yourself,
- Make a list of your past successes and the major projects handled successfully to let your coworkers know about your accomplishments.
- Keep learning new skills / updating job skills to stay marketable and in demand.
- Show initiative and leadership to present yourself as being concerned and keen to improve your company’s performance.
- If you think your boss has allocated much more work than you think he should, thank yours stars! He has done so as he trusts you with newer responsibilities. So try to be proactive and welcome any new responsibilities that come your way!
- Try to learn from your seniors in the company.
- Let your boss know about your hunger for advancement.
Hitting the Glass Ceiling
If you believe you have gone to the far end with the present employer, you might have touched the “glass ceiling.” Though you can see through the ceiling to the next position, you are unable to reach it. Besides working towards promotion, you may combat the glass ceiling effect by
- Proving your worth to your employer and identifying which traits and skills they look for at the time of promotion.
- Talking to your superiors about your career goals and how to achieve them.
- Fostering your relationships with your co-workers
You can future-proof yourself against all workplace eventualities by anticipating the future and minimizing the effects of shocks from future events by deploying the right strategies at the workplace.