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LPT: Never take a problem to your boss until you have multiple solutions to it.

It may seem obvious to some but imagine the difference between an employee coming to you with a problem that you then have to figure out how to solve VS an employee coming to you with a problem they already have several solutions for and you simply need to choose (as the manager) which option you believe is best.

In my experience when most employees come across a problem they don't know how to instantly solve they simply present it to their manager and wait for a response.

This does nothing other than concrete your managers opinion that you are unable to do their job and they subconsciously disqualify you from promotion, presenting them with multiple solutions to a problem however makes them feel they are in control whilst simultaneously considering you as an asset worthy of promotion or at the very least retention.

Edit: Couple of things that have come up

  1. Time frame - I wasn't suggesting withholding critical information from your superior, if you have 30 seconds to tell them, come up with some ideas in that 30 seconds, even if they are bad ideas it shows you are willing to employ critical thinking in important situations. You can teach someone with bad ideas how to improve them, you can't teach someone with no ideas how to have them.

  2. Trivial Matters - Obviously don't bother your boss with trivial decisions that are a normal part of your job, it should be clear based on the roles and responsibilities of your position which decisions need management oversight and which are well within your jurisdiction to make, if that distinction is unclear it is certainly something you should clarify with your manager.

  3. You should just make the decision yourself - In many situations this is correct from a pure "efficiency" standpoint but often if you don't take things to a manager your solving them goes unnoticed and your clever decision making is superfluous, it is a fine line between irritating and impressing your manager and that line can vary wildly depending on the individual but generally speaking when combined with common sense it works.

  4. Management Perspective - I AM NOT currently a manager, over the past 20 years I have bounced back and forth between employer/employee in different companies, combined roughly 8 years as a manager and 12 years as an employee, I am not complaining about my current situation, I am very happy and follow this LPT on a daily basis.

Edit 2: Thankyou all so much, I really didn't expect this and the different perspectives presented in this thread are mind blowing, the other LPT I follow is "Seek first to understand" and you have all helped me (and hopefully others) to do just that.

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5.6k points · 24 days ago

As with most LPTs this isn't a catch-all. This is a great approach to a number of problems but discount it if:

  • The problem is serious and could cause further issues, especially legal/service ones

  • It will take you significantly longer to find a solution than your boss/someone else

  • The problem is 'above your pay grade' or outside of your area of responsibility

Remember in most situations the company want to respond to a problem as quickly and as efficiently as possible, don't hamper that to look good.

As a manager I'm quite happy with 'Hey I found this issue, I'm looking at some possible solutions and I'll keep you updated'. This allows me to evaluate if the problem needs me to take control or escalate, but reassures me the employee is still trying to take ownership. Collaboration people, it's the bomb.

731 points · 24 days ago

Absolutely. My bosses in this career path have always had the attitude of knowing what Im working on and sharing thoughts.

I cant tell you the number of times I have said "Hey boss, i found an issue and want to discuss it with you." Now my boss knows what I know of the issue, and has a chance to share their knowledge with me. I rarely have the connections and experiences they have, which opens up additional paths for a superior solution.

Plus, they can then report to their bosses about the issue as were working on it.

Basically this LPT only works (imho) if youre not on the same team as your boss.

44 points · 24 days ago

Hell yeah. My boss has 20 years of experience in the field. If i'm stuck on a thing that could prove critical in the future, he's the one i go to - a quick discussion about the solution solves whatever problem i have about it.

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What you just described is pretty much exactly how it works with me and my staff. They'll usually inform me of a problem and I'll say something along the lines of 'try this or give this person a call and ask them', if they don't already have their own ideas for a solution which they often do, but it's definitely worse to wait before bringing the problem to my attention than to just let me know right away.

God I just dealt with a rabbit hole style problem that I should’ve taken to my boss a week prior. I kept thinking I had my arms wrapped around the problem and then another wrinkle of complexity would appear, and then another. I finally had to step back and let my boss know wtf was wrong. It’s not that he had the answers to the problems, but by the time he was hearing about the issue it had become much larger than he was expecting.

I manage software engineers and the young/early career ones universally think they need to solve every problem that crosses their desk by themselves.

I very nearly had to fire one of my engineers because he'd spend a day or two working on a problem, making no progress, and when I would check in on him I'd point him in the right direction and he'd be done an hr later.

In my work we have a practice called "time boxing." That is: work the problem for x time (depends on the problem but I tell my engineers 1 hr because I wouldn't give them work that is far to complex for them to work on) and if you don't have any solid leads on a solution, then you pose the question to the team, me, the engineer beside you, anyone."

21 points · 24 days ago

I've never heard of that. Time boxing sounds like a smart idea. I'm going to try it with my team.

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4 points · 24 days ago

Can you elaborate

Inherited a multimillion dollar project that begins on Saturday but the project creators made a small but non-trivial design change. We have no regulatory problems operating with this new design elsewhere but I discovered that our permits read differently in this case. So I begin what should be a quick permit amendment process... except the person who can approve the change is out for a month.

Since the regulations won’t prevent us from starting the project (just operating after completion) I updated the engineering plan with a technical work around that will cost more now and again in the near future but will allow us to legally operate in the meantime. Except lead time on delivery for the equipment for the work around is also not going to be soon enough... and all of a sudden my boss should’ve known about this a week ago.

8 points · 24 days ago

That definitely unraveled quickly

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This soooo much. I'd get fired so quickly and maybe end up in jail or fined if i didn't escalate certain types of issues.

What line of work are you in?

Finance. If there is a compliance issue, or potential miss-marking it needs to be escalated.

Ah that'll do it

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Agreed 110%. I do IT Finance and if there is an issue you bet my boss is in the loop.

Same here man, I'm in auditing for a public accounting firm. If I just wasted 3 hours or something because I found a problem and tried to fix it it wouldn't be great.

Escalating things to your bosses/clients is a great skill to learn, not something to be afraid of.

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The real life pro tip is that life is complicated and pithy advice will take you far, but there are exceptions to just about everything.

13 points · 24 days ago

"All generalizations are false. Including that one."

Agreed. There's no checklist or flowchart that can be used. Every problem is different.

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Right. A manager's job is to manage. That means securing and assigning resources to tasks, prioritizing, and removing roadblocks where they exist. Managers may not have the precise knowledge in how to deal with the problem, but they do by definition have some level of political clout within an organization. Bringing problems to managers is very much a proper task for working level.

The real LPT is how to do this:

  1. Identify problem via clear problem statement

  2. Identify impact of problem in terms of deliverables, financial, legal, etc. commitments

  3. Propose help-needed to resolve problem, clarify together how priorities shift in the meantime

  4. Keep boss informed of progress thereafter when resources are redirected to the problem task so that boss can inform upper management / Customers in timely manner to minimize impact

3 points · 24 days ago

What field do you work in? That's super detailed but precise

I'll call it high-tech. Gobs of money racing against other gobs of money to turn their respective gobs into metric fucktons of money.

Moving from engineer to engineering manager was basically a career change, not a promotion. People overlook that. Different skillsets entirely.

3 points · 24 days ago

That's super cool you're clearly knowledgeable

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I came here to say something like this.

The key is as follows.

  • IF A NON-TRIVIAL PROBLEM IS SOMETHING THAT YOU THINK YOU HAVE A WAY TO HANDLE, RAISE IT AS A "RISK" OR "FOR YOUR AWARENESS ONLY" TO YOUR BOSS.

  • IF YOU CANNOT HANDLE IT YOURSELF, RAISE IT AS AN "ISSUE". FURTHER, BE PREPARED TO IDENTIFY SPECIFICALLY WHAT YOU WANT FROM THEM OR WHAT YOU THINK THEY NEED TO DO ABOUT IT IF THEY ARE UNCLEAR OR THEY ASK.

This has served me in very good stead through decades of consulting.

81 points · 24 days ago

I agree with this but I think my boss would prefer it without the yelling.

On a more serious note, I think it is a good idea if you mention problems you encounter and already have solved/solution for to your boss/manager. He keeps up to date with what you are doing, he can see that you can handle problems yourself, he could have some additional advice that'll help.

To your second paragraph, you should have regular 1:1s with your direct manager to discuss things like this and using them to highlight your accomplishments is not just acceptable but best practices for everyone. If your manager isn't having these sessions, he isn't doing his full job imo.

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This is wayyy better advice, there's nothing more I could ask of my staff than to hear they have identified a problem, effectively solved it, while making sure to keep me informed of the situation in a 'for your information only' kind of way.

Did we just come full circle on this?

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My role is pretty independent (I'm on a different floor than my boss, and other people assign me my tasks), but I frequently give my boss FYIs. If there's ever an issue that makes me worry or feel uncomfortable, I send her a recap of what happened as soon as possible. So if the other party comes to her to complain (or goes to her boss to complain) she's already aware of the issue, I've had the first say in the matter, and she's better able to have my back and support me.

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17 points · 24 days ago · edited 24 days ago

Certainly, with a “THE DAM IS BREAKING!” don’t start a feasibility study. Get help while blocking the leak.

This is basically saying don’t make more work for your boss/supervisor, show them that you are worth giving money in exchange for knowledge and skill.

I usually say to young people starting out, don’t just dump your problems on your boss to deal with. Go with at least two solutions.

Why two? Because when you go with only one you run the risk of looking like you’re telling him what to do. But if you come with two it shows that:

•You are willing to look at different options (open minded and creative)

•Two solutions might give him more understanding of the problem

•It shows you are seeking the “best” solution not just “a” solution

I like to present it as “ Hey boss, bad news, the widget isn’t widgeting. I was thinking we could either hit it with a widget hammer or grease it with widget grease. I like the grease option best but wouldn’t mind giving it a good smack with the hammer. I thought I should bring this to you because you may have an even better option.”

This gives the boss lots to work with. He can pick option A or B and get on with his day and you look good. Or he can quickly tell you why option A and B won’t work and tell you to go with the right way. You now know not only the solution to the problem but also why the boss came to that conclusion. You helped with a problem and learned more in the process.

14 points · 24 days ago · edited 24 days ago

I'd just like to add that a managers job is to manage people in whatever organizational unit they are over. That means that they're supposed to solve problems that the employee can't. Not necessarily technical problems (though it is definitely better if a manager can be technical in-line with their employees for many reasons) but things like someone else setting different priorities, pulling you off the current job to do something else, need some tooling, to the mundane such as needing multiple monitors for your desk or company phone.

Ultimately the manager's job is to facilitate you and your colleagues to do the job as efficiently as possible.

So I as so employees to try to think of solutions but don't spend long, especially if you are at a work stop and doubly especially if I set that specific work as your priority.

If a manager isn't doing that stuff then they aren't doing their job and I'd eventually take it to whoever they work for if I were the employee.

My version of this is: Shit's gonna come down. The manager should be an umbrella, not a funnel.

I normally say "kevlar vest" but I like your's better!

Ah fuck server is down, better wait until I have multiple solutions before I tell the boss.

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I think you can still demonstrate initiative and responsibility when there's safety/authority issues, e.g. "hey boss I've discovered this issue which I am escalating to you but I've stopped it from getting worse by doing xyz" where xyz might be putting out a sign or closing a door or deciding not to take faulty stock to the floor.

I agree that timeliness is often more important than completeness.

It's think it's less the idea of having actual solutions and more the attitude. I'm fine with "hey, this is happening, and I thought of trying/already tried X, Y and Z, can you help me find a solution?" but "I've tried nothing and I'm all out of ideas" will annoy me every single time.

10 points · 24 days ago · edited 24 days ago

Yeah, anyone on my team who follows the OP's advice would get chewed out and labeled a bad team player. A lot of newbies try to do this, thinking that bad news must be softened or that they need to find solutions on their own.

Nope. Just let the team know as soon as you can. It's potentially wasteful to spend time trying to solve a problem off on your own. You, as an individual, very likely don't have all the necessary information. But the team as a whole can very likely solve the problem faster and better than you can on your own.

Information is key to management. Don't withhold, even if it's 'bad' news.

Edit: Of course, there's a soft 'threshold' for issues worthy of bringing to the team. If you're constantly bringing up issues that just don't matter at the team level (e.g., just day-to-day stuff you need to work through to complete your assignment), that's not going to work out for you either.

5 points · 24 days ago · edited 24 days ago

Even this is manager dependant. I had one manager request that I routinely (once a week) come to him with problems and ideas for improvement. I had times to try to find solutions for non critical issues, and ways to improve work flow.

And at the same company, I had a manager that demanded to know all issues immediately, down to "i found a misspelled name, I'm going to fix it now".

I was actually written up for fixing a typo without telling her and not asking permission to fix it. My entire job was fixing these things, i was responsible for keeping the account data our call center used up to date and accurate. She tried to tell me i had to ask permission before doing my job. It was a damn typo of someone's name in our database. I put in my two weeks after she tried that.

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Comment deleted24 days ago(4 children)

sometimes the solution is a new boss.

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Agreed. If you don't have a solution after a day or so, that's ok. Unless it requires urgent attention, in which case go to the supervisor immediately.

But do give thought to what you want and what you're asking the boss for. Stick to the data and facts of what happened.

Even better if they come to you with a few options AND they recommend one.

Your points are perfect explanations to give your boss if you don't have a solution to offer. I'd like to think a manager would appreciate that you are honest in admitting your not able to offer a solution for those reasons.

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Like most things, it depends. There are some problems that you should immediately inform your boss about. If your bosses boss asks him about a problem he’ll be a lot happier if you have told him about it first and he can accurately tell provide the current status. This applies a lot more for time sensitive problems.

If you primarily work with flammable compressed gas, for example...

Hey boss, one of the huge propane tanks is leaking. It was only a tiny leak at first so I pondered for a bit to see if I could come up with a solution. I didn't think a piece of tape would stop it so I had to come up with something good. Welding is right out, that'd make the problem worse.

Anyways, over the last 15 minutes it went from a tiny leak to a pretty massive one, and I came up with a solution: RUN. That's why I'm calling you from the parking lot. We should evacuate. But that's not the only solution I came up with (gotta have multiple solutions to impress a boss of your caliber). We should open all the windows to get some ventilation going. But don't turn the fans on, they spark sometimes.

You still there? Hello? Anybody there? What was that thud?

LOL this is hilarious. 🤣

So a pointless LPT.

They are my boss, if I can't fix it right there then I should get help. That's what they are for.

I would never tell my people to not seek help. That's fucking stupid. Let's end the problem, I got here by being where you were probably at one point.

Obviously times you shouldn't seek help right away. But dude, most of the time it is best to do such. I know more than you. Fix it.

7 points · 24 days ago

Totally agree. Different positions have different responsibilities. In a big corporate environment, someone is supposed to point out problems and someone else is supposed to solve them.

Normally, they have performance reviews and other measures to judge your promotions suitability. Heck most people get a promotion by moving to another company

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This advice has always worked for me.

Except that one time I broke my leg on the job, that time, yeah, not that time.

Original Poster500 points · 24 days ago

My advice : stop breaking your leg, you need legs for most jobs.

246 points · 24 days ago

Took your advice

Lost my job as a plaster cast tester.

Original Poster131 points · 24 days ago

Well that's my bad then

76 points · 24 days ago

It's cool, bro - I thought I'd go into acting instead

Original Poster167 points · 24 days ago

Well at least you have some experience in "casting" :D

39 points · 24 days ago

Holy shit, im going back to bed, my day can only go down from here.

!redditsilver

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17 points · 24 days ago

You have won Reddit today :'D

Dad?

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Break a leg!

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I also took your advice and my acting level is now below that of Megan fox.

Original Poster16 points · 24 days ago

Impossible, the only thing that exists below Megan Fox is Micheal Bay's penis.

BOOM!

Holy fuck OP on a roll

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ACTORS HATE HIM

The real LPT is always in the comments

Reddit always here with lifechanging tips, thanks !

not in telemarketing !

the job dreams are made of!

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Legs seem to be getting broken "on the job". Should we: Add more lights to the floor, Train the staff on how to walk, or have everyone sign release of liability paperwork in exchange for Pizza Fridays!!!

Well two of those options cost lots of money while one options costs pizza. We're going with the pizza.

Scarily close to the reality of the last place I worked. We had this unspoken deal where we forgot about the outrageous OH&S violations, literally criminal hours and rampant sexism in exchange for beer.

This was nationally recognised, highly rated events venue.

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Problem: "hey boss, I broke my leg."

Solution: "I'm going to the ER now"

hobbles with convictiom to ER "I AM A SOLUTION FOCUSED EMPLOYEE"

Acquire multiple legs from coworkers and present them to your boss.

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"I'm quitting boss, you can either:

  1. Lick my balls.

  2. Toss my salad.

your choice.

“What kind of jelly do you have?”

10 points · 24 days ago

I prefer syrup.

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Best comment so far

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290 points · 24 days ago

If I'm taking a problem to my boss, it's because I don't have a solution to it.
If I have multiple solutions already, why would I go whining to my boss about it?

130 points · 24 days ago

Or to put it another way: If I have a solution, I no longer have a problem.

E: ''Boss, we run out of milk so people could have their English tea. I went out to buy some''

B: ''Cool?''

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33 points · 24 days ago

Or... “There’s milk in the ice cream fridge, didn’t you know about that?” Or “I’d prefer it if you let the dishwasher know next time so he can run out instead of you” Or “Why would you buy milk from that store? we have a deal with the guy around the block!”

Somehow I initially had the mental image of this situation happening in an office, and was real jealous of any office with an ice cream machine.

And a dedicated dishwasher.

Somehow the particular store problem is what kicked me into restaurant/coffee shop territory

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55 points · 24 days ago

Because you're not empowered to authorize said solutions or you need your boss to involve other resources or you have identified the solutions but need their knowledge to decide on the best course of action.

I didn't read anything about authorization in the LPT. OP just said 1. try to find at least one solution before asking a boss for help and 2. present the solutions in a way where your boss feels like they came up with them.

This tip is more about how to look good in front of your boss than about problem-solving.

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My thoughts EXACTLY. This is at its core an okay idea (get credit in front of the boss at every opportunity). But it’s worded very poorly.

I think the real LPT should be: Don’t take a problem to your boss if you can easily fix it yourself (but do tell them about how you handled it, if it merits that).

Because in a working environment in which you want to advance, selling yourself and making your accomplishments known is as much or more important as accomplishing them. Coming to a superior with an issue and solution (multiple seems like overkill to me unless you're not confident in your solution) looks good and doing something no one knows about is not gonna help you as much as it should

12 points · 24 days ago

If the point is just to show off your accomplishments then personally I would wait until I've actually completed the work and then give an overview of everything, the problem, the solution, and how the solution worked out. I would only bring it to my manager if my manager specifically is the main stakeholder who can give me the best input for what solution I should choose, which is rare for me. Usually it's the either my manager coming to me with a problem and asking me to solve it, or me coming to my manager with an issue that it's not my job to solve.

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10 points · 24 days ago

I agree.

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This is, as usual, one of those LPT's that sounds good on the face of it but is really only applicable to a handful of situations.

If any of my guys came up to me with a problem that's so minor that they've already prepared MULTIPLE solutions for it then I'd question why they haven't fixed the problem already. That's what they are there for, to find problems and fix them. They don't need me to pick every single problem themselves.

If on the other hand the problem is so big that it's out of their comfort zone/area of responsibility/area of ability that they don't have multiple solutions for it and they need me to pick the solution but they hold off coming to me until they do, then I'd question why they felt the need to wait so long before approaching me, potentially impacting cost/revenue/customer sat/etc/etc/etc

If you apply your LPT as a blanket statement to all problems then it just looks like you're a smart ass who can come up with fixes but is afraid to take ownership of making a decision without having a manager sign off on it.

So as always with LPT's be careful how you apply them, they are opinions, not facts.

[deleted]
15 points · 24 days ago

I think it works if coming up with solutions is immediate, and not something you had to really deliberate over. It also works if the solution may be more complex than what it seems, in which case, your boss probably still wants to see you have problem-solving skills

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I don't know what line of work this life tip is for. I'll go to management if I have absolutely no clue what to do or if it's mission critical and departs from a planned course of action. Otherwise you should just operate with autonomy and kick ass at your job.

I don't mind people under me bouncing ideas off me as they go through a decision making process, but if it's a trivial matter or something they should be able to decide on their own, that's just wasting time. I don't view it as a good habit

afraid to take ownership of making a decision without having a manager sign off on it.

This pretty much sums up my job. Our 2 managers are the micro est of micromanagers. unless a problem is glaringly obvious for you to mention without getting in trouble, nobody says shit. If you do mention something, you will just have to fix it yourself so fuck that. Also if you present a solution, a counter solution will be ordered just to be opposite of your idea so double fuck that. I've actually had to fix problems in secret after manager hours because my solution was denied and a problem will recur for years. This is so risky if I got caught though.

It's actually pretty impressive to see such a level of dysfunction develop between 15 employees with zero collusion. We all just behave that way naturally due to managerial forces.

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All my solutions always involve spending money on shit we need and doing proper maintenance on the machines, so it’s always a “there’s no problem here” from the higher ups

Comment deleted24 days ago(21 children)
26 points · 24 days ago

and over 100 engineers dropped everything to fix it

That must have been some issue.

3 points · 24 days ago

Right? for one thing I've never witnessed more than 3 engineers successfully cooperating on one issue in my life. maybe it's industry to industry.

The issue was too many free pies in the break room

Where I work the engineers work together, but not with us Operators and without our input they usually implement an idea that screws up the line and costs us hundreds of thousands in production, and then blame us because they're smart and we're just the slave labor that's not supposed to ask questions.

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32 points · 24 days ago

I was thinking the same thing - as a manger, I appreciate input but chances are I have more experience than those who report to me, and time they spent looking for a solution I am already experienced dealing with is time wasted.

Minor issues, sure - hell just go fix it! Important issues come to me, I will instruct how to deal with it or decide if you are the best person to deal with it. Mangers are responsible for more and paid more for this reason, we are usually adept decision makers, have more experience and can see the wider consequences of said problem.

11 points · 24 days ago

Agreed, but it's helpful if you're having a "solutions" conversation with your employee when they present the problem and not talking with someone who clearly didn't give it any more thought than "problem go to boss".

Oh for sure, again the severity of the problem dictates this. If it is something that isn't an immediate concern and bring to me, I'll ask them how they would solve it. But time is the issue, efficiency is king, and they might think an innocuous problem doesn't need expedited solutions, but they mightn't see the knock effects that the issue has.

I'll never think less of someone who brings an issue to my attention (I actually reward speed), if it's something non-critical then as a manager it's on me to develop my staff and ask them to problem solve it - that deciding what is or isn't urgent is my role, not the staffs.

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2 points · 24 days ago

I agree that that makes more sense. I think it still looks better, though, if an employee comes up with some potential ideas, even if they’re half-baked, to show you that they’re thinking and would like to solve bigger problems if given the chance.

Sure and if they have a good plan, I'll take note, but the most important thing for me is that they spotted the issue in the first place.

I mean all managers are different. My style is definitely different from colleagues. I personally prefer efficiency over creativity if I'm pushed to it. Anyone who works for me for more than 9 months will be very results orientated and will come with well developed ideas that have efficiency at the heart of it (be it immediate or in the future) - I am by no means the world's best manager, but I try to impart a ethic that I think will best prepare people for work everywhere. Do, review, enhance (if we have time), although others like to brainstorm, experiment, do, kinda off topic but I think it explains why I think the way I do.

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I think that saying "I found a problem, and it's big enough to call in the cavalry" falls within the realm of this advice. Being able to understand the problem well enough to determine that it's scope is far beyond one person's capacity shows that you can analyze situations and make a call if you had to. The manager might already know of a fix in the works that hadn't been shared before now.

Or they might not, and it shows you were right to pull the fire alarm.

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I've been doing the work of a senior for 3 years, and although other seniors have resigned 2 years ago, no one was promoted to fill that position in. Now I am actively avoiding doing anything besides what my contract mentions. I have my good days when I still do more because that's the type of person I am, but the more I do extra the more like a fool I feel. I'm exerting extra energy needlesly for an already tough job.

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Never take a problem to your boss without trying to find a solution for it.

As others have pointed out, time-critical issues and experience is relevant. So, try to find solutions within a reasonable amount of time, then go to your boss with whatever you have and your reasoning why /why not the solution you thought would work/ or not work. This will make the problem a learning experience.

Example, in the legal industry, when you get trained, you are told that you get paid to find solutions, not report them to the boss(partner) when you come across one. So, either have a good argument/case law which supports your case, or explain your thought process on why you don't think the best argument is good enough to win the case. If the boss is a good mentor, he will then give you his solution or put holes in yours and point you in the right direction where to look.

I'm a firm believer in Noah's Law: The recognition wasn't for predicting rain, it was for building the Ark. Unless it's an urgent issue, when I discover a problem that I can't solve without more resources, time, etc. I take it to the boss with at least one potential solution or a path to resolution.

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So, try to find solutions within a reasonable amount of time

Which may be zero.

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This thread is fantastic! Two polerized views of a transaction that happens daily in work! - /r/leadership should be more like this thread!

Lets assume we are not talking about an immediate threat to life and safe operating of the workplace. - That's a whole different box of fish.

In general your manager would greatly appreciate knowing you are on top of it or you have thought through possible solutions. This demonstrates more about you than you may understand. The manager should be operating differently based on who YOU are.

Consider the following:

If you are junior in your role then it may be appropriate to ask for help in finding solutions. However if you suggest something (if it's not dumb), it gives the manager a chance to see your thought process and understanding of the subject. The manager should coach, help, suggest and direct in this situation. - His job here is to create a competent operator out of you. - Solving problems are golden in achieving this!

If you are competent in your role, the base assumption is that you can handle most of what might happen. In that case it's expected you highlight the issue and suggesting what to do about it, and waiting for an agreement. In this situation the managers job is checking your solution bringing other perspectives and providing approval.

If you just bring the problem with no thought about how to fix it, you are demonstrating your disengagement or that you are choosing to operate at a junior level.

If you are senior in the role, the transaction could be, "Here is the problem... this is what I intend to do about it....are you ok with that?" In this case the transaction is more about information to the manager and final agreement. Typically problems at these levels require the manager to know before (s)he gets bailed up in the corridor by their manager as it gets escalated. In this case the managers role is to protect the team from nervous senior executives that want to add micro-management and reporting burden to a team that is already stretched fixing a problem. - The best defense is for your manager to know the problem and advise the solution on the spot.

An expert in the role would sound something like this "We found [this] problem, we fixed (or are fixing) it by doing [this], you should know in case you get asked about it. - See above (same thing).

For those that think the manager is abdicating their role by not being your personal problem solving answer machine? I would ask you to consider if you'd prefer them micro-managing and spoon feeding? or would you prefer coaching and developing the team? - Or getting more opportunities? Or working on long term strategy?

On a technical level the manager may not have all the skill or knowledge to have the answer to the problem on demand. So suggestions from the team are absolutely needed.

Best response in this thread. Pretty much echoes my view in what I expect of my team and colleagues.

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If you are senior in the role, the transaction could be, "Here is the problem... this is what I intend to do about it....are you ok with that?" In this case the transaction is more about information to the manager and final agreement.

This is my SOP. I'm a senior project manager that wrangles many difficult clients and projects. I've recently inherited clients and projects for a product I've had little involvement with at the level I'm now working with the product (I've essentially been unofficially moved to that product group after bailing out one of their dumpster fires) and often send something to my boss and the product boss for agreement. There's a difference between pushing back on a client and being an asshole and I want to make sure they've got my back in writing before the client runs off and goes over my head because they don't want to pay for a billable service.

On the flip side, your role breakdown is what I expect from my project teams with me. I don't want to chase you. Be proactive, let me know what's going on so we can work to resolve it, and we're all good. Hide problems from me and it's been nice working with you; best of luck in the future. I didn't earn my reputation for getting things done transparently, efficiently, and effectively by letting people tank my projects and I'm not going to start now. Transparency and accountability are the first things I talk about when kicking off a new project, both with my team and with the client. It saves hundreds of headaches and thousands of dollars.

Transparency and Accountability! - Yep so many problems solved if people operate that way!

So many people are scared of delivering bad news. I accepted long ago that if I've done my best and everyone else has, too, things can still go sideways and it's how we manage it that makes the difference.

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Never take a problem to your boss until you have multiple solutions to it.

then

most employees come across a problem they don't know how to solve they simply present it to their manager and wait for a response.

So you want people to find multiple possible solutions to a problem they don't know how to solve?

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45 points · 24 days ago

Unless your boss is easily offended and sees it as you acting as the boss

7 points · 24 days ago

YEP.

Bringing up a problem: "well what do you want ME to do"

Bringing up a problem with solutions: "Are you telling ME how to run my store"

Aaaand you should already be looking for a new job working for a leader and not a manager. Makes life so much better working for a leader!

If only it were that simple. I've had a lot of bosses in my life: exactly one of them was a leader, all of them put on a good face up through the interview.

Unfortunately, we all still need to eat.

6 points · 24 days ago

Totally agree It’s a mistake to stay in such a role, but fear of the unknown is a real thing

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Yea..... I manage a team and if someone did this I would be concerned. I guess it depends on the industry, I am in IT support. For a small minor problem sure. But if I had an employee who found a major problem and who sat on it mulling it over for hours or days instead of engaging the team for a quicker solution I would worry. Our job is to be responsive to solving problems not to sit on them until you look good for solving it. We are a team and we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Let’s solve problems as a team.

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Hrm, this isn't great advice if the problem 1) isn't your fault and 2) is critical to the company.

It is really important to encourage a culture where people are free from fear to report problems.

Depends so much on the industry/role

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This is a great tip. As I've transitioned into a manager role, I've noticed there are really 2 different kinds of employees: those that own their work and their problems and come to me with issues as described in this tip, and those that don't think for themselves and always have the mindset of "not my job". Guess which employee I started out as in my company. It takes work to solve problems. If you've run into a problem, and you don't at least attempt to solve it before going to your boss, then you're giving them your work. I hire employees to do work for me, not give me more work. At least make an attempt. Even if you suggested solution isn't right, it will still help me brainstorm how to actually solve the problem.

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That's your job as a manager. To guide your employees towards a solution to their problem. This post is basically you asking your emoyees to do your work for you.

OMG thank you. I can't tell you how many times my manager will just yell out a question in the general direction of 5 workers.

I don't get to do that. I have to solve my own problems, and I sure as shit don't yell it out like I'm a helpless child.

34 points · 24 days ago

Or a great management approach that empowers your team members. People want ownership if you empower them to have control over their specific role you're building a stronger and more effective team.

9 points · 24 days ago

This guy manages

Yep, people want responsibility, engagement, and to have a seat at the decision making table. Good managers are constantly training the people below them to take their job. That doesn’t happen if you don’t allow them to develop their problem solving abilities.

Good managers do this, apathetic ones do not, bad ones say they are and use it as an excuse to have others do their jobs for them.

I have yet to work for a good one.

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Quite literally. I don't want my employees spending any time working outside of their comfort zone or their personal level of training/ability.

If they can't solve a problem I want them to use their time effectively and inform someone who can. As a manager, I don't shy away from intervening if I know a small effort on my part will save my employee a lot of time and frustration.

Ain't nobody got time for you to come up with 3 solutions that you can't do yourself, get a professional.

If they never work outside their comfort zone, they'll never improve their skills and grow as employees.

Right?

“I don’t want my team to be challenged!”

There are some anxious micro-managers in this thread.

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Generally speaking you don't advance by doing your job well but by showing you can do more than that. Demonstrate you are valuable beyond your current level then get paid for that value is a good strategy. If you're worried about doing work that's not your responsibility you're only limiting yourself.

Going into management isn't advancement... that's a completely lateral shift to a totally different job than a worker would have been doing. Whether you are a graphic designer or a factory worker, you don't "advance" into management, that's a completely new career.

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Boss: Why didn't you tell me the office burnt down last night?

Employee: Well, I had identified the issue, but I was working on a few different solutions to present to you as well.

Boss: ...

7 points · 24 days ago

If you have multiple solutions to a problem, then it is no longer a problem. Fix it. Your manager probably has other stuff to get done.

Don’t like blanket statements. You should bring problems to your boss if they could affect the project in a major way. Waiting until you can think of a solution isn’t always the best option. He will think less of you if you wait 3-4 days to tell him about a major problem than you telling right away with no solution.

[deleted]
3 points · 24 days ago

You’re not necessarily waiting. You could come up with ideas on the walk over to their office, wasting no time.

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12 points · 24 days ago

I use to swear by this rule when I was first in the work world.

My new rule is “Don’t report a problem or stay late to find multiple solutions to show your boss unless you ABSOLUTELY have to.”

Has been working for me so far!

What caused you to change your rule?

Personally, I changed my rule when I realized that being a hard worker and top performer didn't actually get me much. My raises when my boss told me I was a top performer were a few hundred bucks more than when he told me I was doing average.

At that point, why bother putting 100% of myself into my work when I can put 50% for almost the same monetary reward?

It was a combination of a bunch of little things, but my mom passing suddenly was what made me sit down to re-examine my perspective.

I’ve only ever worked in tech and only in startup type environments, so this might not apply to everyone. Here’s some of the major reasons:

Burnout & inexperience. I used to average 60 hours a week. I was good at my job, but suffered heavy from imposter syndrome. I’d always present multiple solutions because I read that was what you were supposed to do, it worked, but maybe most importantly was that I was very unsure of my solutions. I was unsure of how others wanted things, so it was actually easier for me to make multiple options to kind of cover all the bases. I also felt very uncomfortable arguing or explaining what I believed the “best” solution, and didn’t want to appear rude or difficult or whatever other fear I had.

Work culture. I’ve always been a hard worker, and have been proud of that. I double majored in college, while holding down a job and an internship. I took this mentality into work. At work, I realized not everyone had this mentality. Which was ok, not everyone has to be a work zealot. It was one of those “ok for you but not ok for me” mentalities. About 2 years into the work world, I spoke with a coworker who was upset. She said something to the effect of “they just want me to be you and I can’t. I can’t. I’m already at my limit.” This was the second time I had heard this, and I was going into burnout myself. I really began to realize that I was contributing to a toxic “you’re gonna work all the time AND YOURE GONNA LIKE IT” work culture.

There are infinite problems at work. For the sake of sanity, I now only address ones that absolutely must be addressed.

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5 points · 24 days ago

As a manager I can say this would help tremendously. I manage an auto shop and I have 2 or 3 guys that will drop what they’re doing because they hit an obstacle and without even a second thought come and ask me what to do, when 9 times out of 10, the answer is pretty obvious.

OK.

I'm a boss.

Generally speaking, you're right. I love it when staff bring solutions with problems.

But I'd be a REALLY shitty boss if my expectation is that they ALWAYS have answers. Sometimes they don't. Shit, sometimes when they bring me a problem I don't have a goddamn solution immediately.

Sometimes being the boss means answering the impossible questions.

When my techs come to me with a problem, I often ask - how do you plan to solve it. I listen to their proposals, make comments and suggestions. Then we figure out the action plan. This allows them to develop problem solving skills.

Original Poster12 points · 24 days ago

The mark of a good manager

3 points · 24 days ago

Boom.

As a boss who loves problem solving I don’t mind at all when my people bring me tricky problems they’re stuck on. Gives me an opportunity to have occasional flashes of creative genius, which is fun, then they take the idea and go build on it or work out how to execute it. Win win :)

I had a boss tell me to not ask a question unless I had thought of a solution. It comes off like the manager doesn't want to help the employee learn anything and is too busy to assist in the development of the team. If I'm asking it's cause I don't know what to do.

I think he read it out of some How To take Back Your Business self help book.

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Absolutely. And then when your manager chooses one of the options be prepared to say "You are right, boss. Let's do it the dumbest way possible!"

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Also bear in mind this can result in your boss thinking: why are you telling me and not solving it. Youre only telling me for browny points.

Sometimes it's better to solve the problem and inform people of the changes you have made and why.

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As a manager I always asked the person that brought the problem to me "what would you do?"

This made me the most popular manager at the company and people wanted to work on my team.

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Depends on the job, i have gone to bosses about stuff with options and i was still trusted to do different jobs.

An ability to learn and ask for help is just as vital for working on your own.

As long as you can do your job effectively and willing to do something extra, they don't mind if you need to ask for help, it shows you are willing.

What they hate is if you ask the same thing more than once, it shows you are not learning.

4 points · 24 days ago

Template for this:

Bossman,

[Concise description of the problem - usuallly 1 paragraph max]

As I see it, we have three options:

  • option A

  • option B

  • Option C

My suggestion is [Option C], because [reasons]

What are your thoughts,

Employee

5 points · 24 days ago

Whenever one of my employees brings me a problem, they often bring me multiple (usually unrealistic) solutions. I always thank them and (if possible) make that person part of the solution.

I am still learning this. For the time being, I say "I don't know why this messed up but I will figure it out." Because often my client/boss is right in my space when I discover a problem.

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I agree with this, great advice. One thing to note - even if you can't come up with SOLUTIONS, but only options that won't work - present those options to your manager with the explanation as to why they wouldn't work.

Not as great as having a solution, but shows your boss you thought through the issue, thought critically about it, saves him from investigating the usual suspect solutions, and that YOU HAD A REASON TO ESCALATE.

LPT: When you bring your boss a problem, bring multiple solutions that are out of your hands. If your boss is too lazy to think things through, which is usually the case, then you get to look proactive while simultaneously getting the issue off your plate. Manage up!

or wife. good point though

Psshh like she can choose and settle on a decision when given multiple options.

Wow. It's your wife my wife?

yes

where do you think she gets all those expensive handbags from...

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10 points · 24 days ago · edited 24 days ago

So much this...I have over a 150 people around the globe reporting to me. If you bring a problem to me without a solution it’s nothing more than a complaint. If you bring me a problem with a solution formatted in a business case with financials your odds of getting what you want sky rocket AND this type of effort puts you on a very short list to be watched for promotion....

I genuinely care about every single person I support but I think it’s missed by most people that I simply don’t have time to listen to everyone’s issues and create solutions.

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20 points · 24 days ago

This is stupid, stupid advice for all but the most basic things -- and if you're finding multiple solutions to the most basic things, then you shouldn't need to take it to your boss in the first place.

I'm all for "trying to work it out on yourself". That's great. But if I found out that a staff member delayed telling me about a website vulnerability, or some kind of authentication problem, or some issue with our software, because they wanted to "work out their own solutions" to it, I'd have them written up on the spot.

Literally, this LPT is "Don't take a problem to your boss until you've worked out how it isn't actually a problem". And the +1.6k are just idiots upvoting pseudo-profound nonsense that doesn't pass the simplest smell check.

Even if we're talking about basic stuff, if you don't have some kind of higher-up you can go to with simple issues, then your boss is doing themselves a disservice by having you waste your time. Onboarding is an important process and the idea that people just feel it out by themselves is insanity.

10 points · 24 days ago

I’m definitely not as critical as you, but I do wonder where those upvotes are coming from... 3.2k now. People aren’t reading the comments and running with it... May God help them all.

8 points · 24 days ago

It sounds sage and vaguely self-improvey (Don't bring your bosses problems, bring them solutions!), so obviously it sucks up karma like an inspired Electrolux.

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16 points · 24 days ago

Software is detecting a leak in the reactor 6, well.. I better find a couple of solutions, before I report the issue to the upper management.

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This is terrible. If my employees don't know how to do something, I want them to let me know, so we can get a solution. Letting an issue linger because you don't want to look bad is crazy

That's right. If you don't have a solution then keep silent and let it fester.

I am a manager.

If my boss calls me about a problem I don’t know, we’re both in trouble. I’d rather hear about the problem immediately and then work together to mitigate it.

If it is a smaller problem, I’d prefer you coming up with a solution proposal (or three), because otherwise I will have two problems: a problem you mentioned and an employee who can’t solve problems.

If it is a large problem without immediate impacts, I’m open to brainstorming sessions or even launching a project to solve/mitigate it. Large solutions are almost always team efforts anyway.

An employer always feels comfortable with employees where they have to delegate and not do the employee’s job in the first place. And it’s better to seek help from your colleagues cos maybe there’s a chance they’ve been through the same thing before.

3 points · 24 days ago

It's not bad advice, but your boss is (hopefully) more experienced than yourself and could potentially have a solution that would save a days work.

This advice can backfire if you are unable to generate “solutions” quickly and you end up the senior guy with a secret. Bad news needs to travel (up) fast.

As a retired boss, this is OK info, but I got paid to solve the problems, but hey, if an employee wanted to take initiative good for them.

I am a boss and I can confirm this advise is very good. I don’t mind problems, mistakes, issues, etc.... as long I get presented with one or more solutions. The employees I have that does that only seem to disturb me in very short bursts and that works very well.

My first boss told me that one of her favourite things about me was the fact that when I brought her a problem, I already had the solution. I’ve doubled down on this ever since and it continues to serve me well. Your boss will notice.

3 points · 24 days ago

This is the difference between your boss viewing you as a problem solver vs a problem maker.

As a new boss, I approve this message.

I try so hard to teach my employees this. I'll never present a problem to a customer without a few solutions.

Exhaust all resources before asking for help.

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Well there goes expecting a manager to effectively manage and solve problems. Proves to me most managers I've had got paid for sitting on their ass. And now getting advice to do even more of their work. Great lol.

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If you've got just one solution to the problem its no longer a problem. Go fix it

Also called 'completed staff work.'

Really good advise. Think about how you would want your employees to come to you - always with a solution first and the problem second.

If it's something that can be solved by you, often bosses don't want to hear problems, they want to hear solutions

2 points · 24 days ago

This is how i was mentored. It's all in the presentation and willingness to have an opened mind when talking it through. Cheers.

What if you can't solve it?

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Don't withhold or hide a problem because of this though. If you can't fix it, tell your boss. Otherwise you can't be trusted

My company commander in the Army said "If you don't have a resolution to a problem, you're just bitching"

It took me a really long time to learn this.

2 points · 24 days ago

Great, so as Tech Support, every single time I stumble upon a major fuckup one of the devs did in our program, it's now my job to fix it, for half their pay, on top of my normal workload.
And every time it acts up in a seemingly similar way in the future, it's now my fault.

Alternatively, if you work somewhere where you don't feel like you can go to your boss with a problem that you can't solve yourself, find another job. A manager's role is not only to manage but to lead. They should be more experienced and able to help you learn how to do what they're asking you to do.

LPT for the ole boss man:

It may seem obvious to some but imagine the difference between an employee that you pay the minimum amount of wage that you can get away with and one who you share the profits of your success with.

In my experience when most employers come across an employee who doesn't perform to their expectations, it never occurs to the employer that maybe they're not paying them enough to solve that problem. Maybe solving that problem deserves a higher pay grade and that makes it your problem.

This does nothing but improperly place the blame on the employee, and usually goes completely undetected because the narcissist employer thinks the whole world should desire to help them build their dream for pennies.

As a result you get massive turnover and "can't find anyone with any work ethic"; when the reality is "no one wants to work for your cheap ass".

2 points · 24 days ago

Good god this is the worst possible reposted LPT I’ve ever seen.

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Shitty LPT in my opinion (and I say this as a boss)

No one likes a problem employee. The sort of employee that kicks up a stink about all sorts of things but doesn't offer any pragmatic solutions. However there are scenarios where the employee wouldn't be reasonably expected to have a solution, and these should absolute be escalated

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2 points · 24 days ago

I am not sure how I feel about this. Recently I was left as the only person on the team at a hard time in my life. I did the work but every now and then kept asking my manager for help.

After some time he told me that I should have been doing that myself. I feel I am not at the pay grade to ask of other people to take on a product not their own and it was the managerd job to provide me with that lift.

Well it reflected badly on me come review cycle and it sucked.

This is good advice but, as others have said, isn't always the case (HR issues). It also depends on where in the chain you are.

I used to manager managers (I was a Director) and in that role I'd expect my directs to come to me with options as they should have discussed any issue with their team. It would then be down to me to choose an option (or suggest a different one) but the use of the thinking being started already was invaluable. Now I manage "individual contributors" (as I did before I was a Director) and in this situation it's my job to pull the informaiton out of the ICs, not for them to form their own options. Sometimes they do, which is fantastic, but it's also important to help them build these options as it helps them grow as individuals.

As I said though, this really doesn't apply to HR type issues. If someone is bullying you, or being inappropriate with you, take it to you manager immediately regardless of whether you know what to do about it or not.

My boss is 62 & sick of people's shit, he either helps me bury people or tells me to do nothing. He's an evil man & I love him.

2 points · 24 days ago · edited 24 days ago

I work in tech. When I encounter a problem, I always present three options if I can

  • The solution that no one will go for (for whatever reasons be it cost or time)

  • The solution that I want

  • The solution that is the obvious way out (band aiding the problem, usually)

Managers typically view it as a compromise to take the middle option which is what I want in the first place. The manager gets to feel important by choosing with informed options and you get what you want. Works most of the time. I always preface it with the middle option being my preference as well so they know where I stand. If they pick the cheap or easy way out and it blows up in their face then you can sleep well knowing you presented them with those options and it was their call. You were on record saying the options and what you thought was best.

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