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Whether you’re having a problem with a client, coworker, or impossible workload, approaching management with any issue can be daunting. You may think of anyone in management as big and powerful, with a massive to-do list, and no time to even look in your direction – let alone sit down and talk to you.

The truth is, management team members are people, too. Keep this in mind when you speak with them and the encounter can be a whole lot easier. Before you start running to knock on the management office door, check out a number of tips that can help you properly prepare.

Plan Ahead

Mapping out what you plan to discuss can help relieve much of the stress and anxiety you may have about approaching a member of management. You may even want to write up an outline, which you can bring into the meeting to ensure you stay on track and bring up all of the points that you want to address.

When bringing up a workplace issue, make sure you’re able to describe why it's an issue and, more importantly, why it’s an issue that needs management’s attention. Any problem that affects company revenue or the office dynamic and workflow typically counts as an issue that management cares about. If you're unable to solve it on your own, it's probably an issue that requires management’s attention.

Before presenting your issue, make sure you can describe:

  • A rundown of the issue or problem
  • How the problem started
  • Steps you’ve taken to rectify the situation
  • The results of those steps
  • A proposed solution

Make sure you’re approaching the right person who can handle the issue at hand. For example, if you’re having a problem with a coworker, have you approached HR?

Schedule Time

Instead of trying to corner a management team member in the kitchen, hallway, or bathroom – or heading into their office and expecting them to drop everything they’re doing – schedule time to have a private meeting. This ensures you have management’s full attention, are not disrupting their workflow, and have adequate time to discuss what needs to be discussed.

You may even consider requesting a lunch meeting outside of the office to discuss the situation if it is particularly sensitive. This gives you a level of privacy, an ample block of time, and even takes care of lunch for the day.

Approach with a Solution

Always come to the meeting with a solution in mind. Approaching with at least one proposed solution shows that you’ve thought about the situation and how it can be resolved. It also shows initiative and takes some of the burden off of management to come up with a resolution on their own. Because you have firsthand insight and experience with the problem, your solution might offer a strategy or tactic those outside of the situation may not have even considered.

Make sure, however, that the solution is not something you could successfully implement on your own without alerting management. For instance, if the issue is a coworker constantly leaving dirty dishes in the office kitchen sink, the solution may be to approach the coworker directly. That may be enough to solve the problem without taking it higher up the chain.

Be Positive and Professional

Because we’re so invested in and spend so much time at work, workplace problems often have the power to stir up strong emotions. Make sure you process and deal with those emotions before meeting with management, as you don’t want to head into the meeting ranting, raving, crying, or erupting in a flurry of feelings.

Positive, poised, and professional is the best way to approach management, even if the problem leaves you distressed. You can certainly mention how the problem makes you feel, but your feelings should not fuel the discussion, overshadow the point, or color the meeting with negativity. You want to appear positive and willing to work toward a resolution, not negative and vindictive. Being positive and professional in times of stress is a great opportunity to work on personal and employee development. 

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Advice

Even if your proposed solution seems like the only solution in your eyes, it’s important you listen to the advice management provides. They are, after all, management for a reason. You should ask for input on your proposed solution and for any ideas or direction they may have. 

A good management team will want to resolve workplace issues in a manner that’s fair and reasonable to all parties involved. Try to see the problem from different angles while listening to and learning from management’s take on the situation.

With solid preparation, a thoughtful solution, and positive attitude, approaching management doesn’t have to be all that daunting. It’s also a whole lot easier than dealing with an ongoing problem that is likely to get worse if nothing gets done to resolve it. And management can’t do anything to help, of course, if no one tells them the problem exists in the first place.

Communication is critical for making improvements within the workplace – both for working together better and for increasing productivity. A good line of communication between you and your boss is important for times when you have an issue to share with them. It's also essential between coworkers on a team so that they can resolve disputes more constructively before involving management.

Using a team building tool such as The Birkman Method behavioral assessment can give you insights into how others communicate and what they're looking for from you. For example, if you are addressing management regarding a problem in the office, you can know how best to describe the issue to them (more directly or more sensitively) based on knowledge of how they prefer you to communicate with them. By understanding how to speak in a way that resonates with each other, your team and management can feel empowered in moments of stress and quickly resolve issues.

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