Solve workplace problems by asking more than why 0
The world is full of problems and people who can point them out. Asking why is a great first step in preventing problems from reoccurring, but students entering the workforce will quickly find that it’s not enough to solve them.
A study published in Psychological Science suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to see things negatively. UBC Professor Rebecca Todd who co-led the study states that, “These individuals may be more likely to pick out angry faces in a crowd of people… [or] notice potential hazards”.
Since more than half of Caucasians are believed to carry this gene variant, identifying problems is not an uncommon skill.
Questioning why a problem exists is an excellent initial step in the evolution from problem identifier to problem solver. For Todd’s study, her initial question may have been why some people view the world more negatively than others. But to get an answer to her question, she’d need to ask even more questions. What kind of study would help answer this question? Who should be involved? Where can the study take place? When can participants come in? How much time would this take?
Asking only “why” questions can also be counterproductive when additional problems arise during group projects like a study involving multiple contributors. As Pamela Meyer points out in her book Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, using the word “why” when asking why a deadline was missed or a mistake occurred puts the person in question on the defensive. They are then more likely to answer with a lie and prevent the group from achieving success. Meyer recommends rephrasing questions to be more understanding. For example, asking “What prevented you from attending the meeting?” is more likely to elicit an honest response than asking “Why did you miss the meeting?”
To solve a problem, ask questions with the intent to solve rather than assess it. When the world is full of problems, effective problem solvers will always be in demand in the job market.
So, what’s your next step to achieve your goals?