Is “don’t bring me problems” actually a good solution?

It’s an old age saying in the workplace, normally delivered by managers, and adopted throughout the organisation; “Don’t bring me problems. Bring me solutions”.

Ask someone who uses this quote and they’ll offer up some well-intended explanations on why they use it. Maybe they want to empower employees and encourage them to be more independent. They could be promoting job autonomy in the workplace. Perhaps they are trying to demonstrate they trust their employees.

But, what they are potentially doing is harming their employees wellbeing and the workplace culture, and this needs to be addressed.

Trust

Look at it this way, if an employee was truly empowered to work autonomously, then why are they coming to you to approve the solution?

Probably, because not every problem has one easy solution. Most require looking at from several points of view before landing on the preferred route. Whilst it can be time consuming to get the perspectives of others, discussing the multiple options can help you see more clearly and this normally helps you land on the most effective path. Saving you time and resource later down the road.

Experience

We are constantly evolving and learning as individuals, so how can we expect our employees, especially the more junior members, to become great problem solvers, if they are never involved in the process of deriving at the correct solution?

This saying can also breed a workplace culture of fear and stress, people worried of making and bringing mistakes forward. It can therefore prevent some problems from surfacing until they are a full-blown crisis.

Communication

If you can encourage and coach your team to communicate about problems in a more productive way – looking at how the problem arose and working collaboratively as a team to tackle the challenge – this instead will result in an environment where people feel safe to bring management bad news and communicate efficiently.

Alternative

Let’s be clear, asking for help doesn’t display weakness. It actually builds strength.

So, perhaps a more empowering phrase (if you need one) would be “if you can’t first solve it yourself, come to me with the problem and we’ll solve it together.”

If you’d like to learn more about how we can empower your employees and encourage collaborative team work, then check out our range of courses here