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How to flag issues in the workplace

Workplaces have employees and/or contractors with diverse personality types, wants, needs, concerns and drivers. It’s inevitable that issues will arise from time to time.

If you’re facing an issue in the workplace, flag it professionally and calmly, without causing unrest. After all, you don’t want to damage relationships when flagging issues but at the same time you’ll want the issue resolved so it doesn’t effect your wellbeing or productivity at work.

So what’s the best way to flag issues? While it’s never fun, handling it in the best way can help avoid stress.

Before getting stuck into this expert article, remember that the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website is a goldmine of information on common workplace problems and it has frees tools, tips and resources to help resolve certain types of problems.

Common issues workplaces face

It’s impossible to list all issues workplaces face, but here are some common ones:

Do you have other workplace issues you’d like to add?

Step 1–definition

It’s important to be clear on what the problem is, how big it is and whether it’s temporary or more permanent.

Write down the problem and study it to assess if you’re being super sensitive or emotional. After all, there’s a big difference between being treated disrespectfully by a colleague and not liking the tidiness of their desk.

Keep an open mind. Be honest with yourself. Consider all points of view.

Step 2–examine company policies

Companies should have policies and guidelines readily available to employees. Check if your issue is covered off, to confirm you have a real point. Double check your facts.

Check if your organisation has a dispute policy. If it does, read it carefully and follow it, so you don’t become part of the issue.

Step 3–think about potential solutions in advance

Before formally raising an issue, think in advance about sensible, fair and practical solutions so you’re ready to put them forward to your colleague and/or boss. This will demonstrate you’ve put time into a possible resolution.

When thinking about solutions, consider organisational benefits and costs. Understanding practicalities can provide perspective. Sure, some problems require an investment to fix, but not all do. An open table discussion or a short training session may be a solution, for example, but expecting your boss to reconfigure the office so you don’t have to sit beside a certain colleague likely won’t be.

Step 4–use the suggestion box

If your workplace has an anonymous suggestion box, consider using it. Of course, this might not be appropriate if it’s going to be obvious that it was you who popped the suggestion in the box.

Step 5–have a discussion

If a colleague is causing you a problem, chat to them about it first, to see if the two of you can sort matters out amicably. Read this expert article for tips.

Can’t resolve the issue? Book a time to have a discussion with your boss. At the very least this could get the problem off your chest. Also, your boss may have great ideas for an easy resolution.

If your boss is ‘the problem’ have a discussion with your Human Resources (HR) department or Employee Assistance Program if you think counselling could help. They will protect your anonymity.

Step 6–elevate

If the problem is serious enough that it warrants further action, raise it again with HR. They might be able to organise an independent mediator.

You may need to raise a formal grievance or complaint in writing. If so, first head to the Fair Ombudsman’s website for ideas. It might be best to do this out of the office.

Final tips

  1. Remember that a balance is needed between employees requiring they be heard and businesses requiring to be effective.
  2. If the issue is between yourself and another colleague, try a one-on-one conversation to resolve or diffuse the matter.
  3. Avoid dragging other colleagues into the issue or trying to rally a team behind you. This could have negative repercussions.
  4. Raise the issue early, but only when you’ve assessed it’s not a one-off or short-term problem that will resolve itself.
  5. Don’t lose your temper or in any way act unprofessionally.


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