Do not come with a problem without a solution is harmful

Last Updated On: 16-Dec-2020 Reading Time: 2 min

I have been told by a few managers that the fact that I bring problems without any solutions annoys them. They would rather have people bring solutions along with the issues. Although they probably mean well, I feel that this approach does more harm than good.

Without even realising it, what they have said is

Of all the problems you find, I only want to know about the ones you can solve

Why would someone not have a solution?

Consider that a direct report of this manager identifies an issue, but they don't bring it up because

  • it is too complex for them, and they don't know where to start.
  • they do not have the authority to solve the problem.
  • they are not good at strategic or tactical thinking.
  • they have not had the time to think through possible solutions, and the solutions never become clear.

Why is this a problem?

No matter the reason, the manager has missed an opportunity for improvement in the short term and possibly a chance to prevent a problem before it becomes a full-blown crisis.

Over some time, this can have more harmful and far-reaching impacts.

  • It can cause employees to shut down in fear.
  • Put stress on people to find the right solution to a problem before speaking up.
  • Put stress on people to figure out if a problem is big enough or not.
  • Prevent employees from asking for help.
  • Using a sub-optimal solution.

But the worst is that it results in a low trust relationship.

Why managers might think this approach is a good idea?

It may be argued that managers do this to cultivate a sense of ownership and discourage complainers. I think there are better ways to achieve both without having to resort to this approach.

To cultivate a sense of ownership, let the person bringing the problem own it assuming that they have been given the tools, authority etc., to solve it.

I don't think we should discourage the complainers. Yes, most of the problems they bring will be trivial, but you will find that rare gem in all of the issues, which will make it worth it.

Conclusion

What are your thoughts on the approach "Don't come with a problem without a solution"? Do you think it's harmful or beneficial?