Have you ever found yourself in a situation at your job where you were thinking, “I wish someone would just take care of this issue, and why is no one is covering in this area?” Does that ever happen to you?
It happens to me. When I was younger I mostly just noted what I saw happening and not happening, thought about it, and did not always do much. Often this would lead to frustration and little action.
In the past few years a few things have helped me in these situations. When I get to a place of asking that question, “Why is no one taking care of this?” I now have a few things I immediately ask, and think about.
1) Is this an issue that is a big deal at all?
If Yes, continue to question #2
If no, stop here.
That is a great place to start, when an issue arises - is it even worth dealing with? Is it a big deal? Will the world stop if nothing changes? Is it a systematic pattern of dysfunction? Or, is it just a mistake that can be fixed?
It is very important that as you lead you ask yourself whether something is worth taking on. At a place where I have spent time working we have had an issues with the bathrooms looking clean and smelling good. This was an issue for a long time, and they system was failing to take care of the problem. I am a huge fan of clean bathrooms for staff and, most importantly, guests. A friend of mine, Michael, often says you can tell a lot about any place by how clean their restrooms are - totally true. So with this particular issue I raised the issue with the person in charge - nothing changed. Tried to get other people involved and advocating for the issue - nothing changed. Person who was in charge confronted me about causing problems to which I responded, it would help if you would do your job and make sure the bathrooms were clean. Eventually the problem had to be escalated to leadership, and still it was not solved. Do you know when the bathrooms were clean? When we were able to have someone new in charge of that issue. Sometimes it takes a personnel change for change to happen.
2) If the problem is worth taking on go to the person in charge of the issue and ask what can be done about it. Go to them first! Do not go around them.
Do they take care of it? Great you are done.
Do they disregard the issue and the problem continues? Continue to step #3
3) At this point if you have had the courage to go to the person, often times there will be resolution. If not, you have to again ask is this the biggest issue you want to take on? If so, you need to go to that person’s supervisor and ask what can be done.
This step should only be employed when you are absolutely committed to bringing change. When I was early on in my career I would have never done any of these steps because I lacked clarity and courage on how to deal with issues that arose.
When, if, you talk with a supervisor let them know you have gone to the person and a given them a chance to take care of the issue first. That way the supervisor knows there has been space given to let someone solve the issue first. They will appreciate this.
4) Does the supervisor take care of the issue? You are done.
Do they blow it off or not take care of it? You have more work to do.
At this point again, if you want to escalate the issue to a higher level, you need to know this is a huge deal for you at this point. Going over a supervisor’s head to another level should only be employed when this is a battle you are willing to see all the way through.
How do you do this? Follow the same steps as above.
You see the pattern here. If you want to bring change, you need to be persistent, nice, but firm and consistent through a process like this. It also takes courage to speak up. If you lack courage you won’t get very far in this process.
Have I learned the hard way that this is tough and has it made me take on only vitally important issues? Yes.
Will I take something on if I feel it is a battle worth fighting? Is it a core issue? You bet. Do I let a lot of things roll off and am very selective about what is a core issue? You bet.
Today I challenge you to start thinking about stopping complaining about an issue and tackle it, only if it is something you really want to take on. If not, get over it and move on. You have plenty to do.
One final note: Most times you need to stop worrying about other people and make sure you nail your own work first. :)