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Is the 'problem', my problem?

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

"I have a problem", that is how many people often approach colleagues and bosses.

We humans are fascinated by the problems of others because our basic instincts to both protect ourselves and see if we can benefit from 'the problem'. So we inevitably ask 'What is the problem?'

Socially and politically asking more about the problem may not be a bad thing, but for a boss or colleague it can be very bad. Let me explain.

'What is the problem?' is an open ended question. As a result the pace, content, length and duration of the conversation is decided by the complainer, i.e. the person with the perceived 'problem'.

If unchecked the complainer will rarely be brief. He or she will come to the point only after a lot of moaning and groaning, consuming a rather significant amount of the listeners patience, energy and time.

This is exactly what the complainer seeks to achieve by their droning on. To get us to accept, that there is a problem and since we are now an informed party, we are somehow now responsible to solve the problem. If we cannot solve the problem we become a part of it.

Most people are caring beings and in all sincerity feel obliged to help out, often and inadvertently become stakeholders in the problem's resolution. This unconscious sometimes intentional tactic allows most complainers to escape effort and responsibility for resolution of the problem. This delegation of the problem sideways to a colleague or spouse or upwards to a boss or a parent is extremely common.

Being drawn in to solve someone else's problems which they themselves were capable of and should have solved, consumes a lot of our energy and time. We have no time for ourselves and our work and responsibilities.

This is why bosses and owners are the ones who work all the time even on their holidays and at home. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave the workplace. This is also the reason people discover that with increasing seniority comes greater prestige and money but also more headaches and less enjoyment in one's career.

Once you successfully resolve the problems of others which they should have undertaken themselves, it becomes a habit. So we can expect more problems being sent our way to help resolve.

Unfortunately, the reward for good work is more work. If one is good at solving problems and tackling issues, one gets inundated with more of the same, issues to tackle and problems to solve of others.

We often sense something is wrong in how we are operating and wonder how did we became the magnet for solving the real and imaginary problems of others.

Initially one feels like a superman or woman getting terribly excited about our moving and shaking abilities.

In due course of time we grow angry, frustrated, confused and exhausted by 'overwork'. The situation hampers one's ability to fulfil one's own agenda and find time for themselves, our families and our interests.

As a boss, colleague, spouse, partner or parent, it is not our job to solve problems of others, but to assist and facilitate their ability to solve their problems on their own. This is one of the key approaches to achieving success and realising happiness.


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