What's wrong with jumping into fix-it-mode?

One of my favourite workshops to deliver to people leaders is Positively Responsible.  In this workshop, we explore the positive impacts of being responsible for our own behaviour when dealing with issues in the workplace. Empathy is a big focus in this workshop, as it plays such a significant role when dealing with a people problem.

To allow participants to reflect on how they respond and manage people problems in the workplace, I facilitate a role play. The scenario presented to the participants for role play is always centred around common people problems such as; performance management; investigating an incident; conflict between co-workers; alleged bullying; dissatisfaction with working hours/working conditions, et cetera.  

What I find intriguing is, no matter the scenario role-played, there is a common theme in how people respond to the situation, and that is…

Empathy often comes second to trying to fix the problem.

Jumping into fix-it-mode prematurely can be an empathy blocker, and there’s a big problem with this.  When you’re dealing with a sensitive situation such as a people problem, a lack of empathy can cause the person you’re managing to feel isolated and disconnected. This can make the situation more unpleasant.

Conversely, if you go into a situation empathetically, the more likely the person will feel a connection and supported.  Once they feel you’ve put yourself in their shoes and you understand where they’re coming from, you are then able to share solutions and manage the core issue. 

When you show deep empathy toward others, their defensive energy goes down, and positive energy replaces it. That’s when you can get more creative problem solving
— Stephen Covey

When dealing with a sensitive people problem, you and the person/people you’re managing are likely to have a smoother ride and better outcome if you approach the situation with empathy before jumping into fix-it-mode.  Give it a crack next time!