Dealing with problems in the workplace

By Mike. September 17th, 2010. Posted in Your career 1 Comment »

Trouble at work

There are plenty of times during your time as a consultant where you will need to speak up about something, in fact you probably won’t be able to progress in your career unless you are able to. In my experience, using constructive criticism followed by positive suggestions allow situations to be resolved with the minimum possible stress, and best possible outcome.

Within consulting, there are always at least two different points of view, the client and the consultant. While the objective is for these two sides to work together for mutual benefit their motivations, requirements and cultures are often very different. Even within a single organisation views and objectives can be quite different.

It is these differences of opinion that bring conflict. It could be something large like the direction of the company or something as small as the colours used in a web page. There will often be underlying problems or issues that have a knock on effect, making something more of an issue than it seems. Ultimately somewhere along the line you will be in the situation where something is not right and you have to say something.

When this time comes, what do you do? Well, it depends on the situation and people involved. There are so many different types of problems and personalities out there, there is no one right answer. All I can suggest is that you tackle the problem with a positive attitude.

Other people don’t like to hear that they are wrong. That’s the way it is, even if you have a pretty good reason. If you can keep any criticism upbeat and suggest a positive way of rectifying the situation, people will be more willing to listen and you will get known as a team player.

Consider the following example.

A project is falling behind schedule, and you suspect the daily 5:30pm team briefings are wasting too much time and sapping the teams morale.

Approach #1
You do nothing. The team gets a bad reputation and the client does not renew their contract.

Approach #2
You march into the project manager’s office and tell them that they have got it wrong and the constant meetings are a huge waste of your time. While you’re there, having the meetings in the evening is ridiculous as you have places to go and things to do even if the project manager doesn’t have a life.

Approach #3
You calmly walk into the project manager’s office and say how useful it is to be kept up to date on project progress. You think, however, that you don’t have enough useful progress to report in one day, and that it might be more meaningful to update the team weekly. You also find that it makes more sense to meet in the morning before you get into the flow of work and can devote your whole attention to the meeting, rather than worrying about the last few changes you wanted to finish at the end of the day.

As you can see in this slightly extreme example, the positive approach comes across a lot better and allows you to bring up the issue and suggest positive solutions without causing offense.

Of course there are times and people with which this approach does not work, as everyone deals with criticism in different ways. Sometimes there is no other way to get your point across and part of the challenge in your early consulting career will be to work out how best to deal with these characters.

If and when you find out, let us know here at
Photo courtesy of IMLS DCC

This article was written by: Mike

Mike is based in London as a Managing Consultant for Espion, a BSI professional services company. He covers a range of activities including overseeing organisational development within the UK & international markets, maintaining existing client relationships and developing business opportunities as well as defining and developing service driven strategy for the UK operating unit. He also occasionally does some pentesting.

Mike's website

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[…] consultant. Once you have exhausted your avenues for changing an assignment (see our article Dealing with problems in the workplace), all that is left is to make the best of what you have […]


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