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Press Start: Lead an Empowered Life as a Clinical Laboratorian

Ignoring Problems

Published July 7, 2008 3:30 PM by Glen McDaniel
Recently on a TV news show, real estate tycoon Donald Trump indicated the biggest mistake in the real estate foreclosure crisis is to ignore a request for payment from lenders. He cited anecdotal findings that many homeowners become so overwhelmed, they ignore bills and requests for payment in the unlikely event the problem will just go away.

This "ignorance is bliss" method of dealing with crises is not unique to this situation. A few years ago, I had a boss who would ignore any e-mails pointing out a problem or asking for intervention in a potentially uncomfortable situation.

It was not uncommon for him to interact with the parties involved over several days without mentioning the conflict or the e-mail. This is so unlike my own natural style of management, that it would drive me nuts. Besides, this manager would very often have to deal with a forest fire later on because he ignored the issue when it was just a smoldering flame.

There are times when it is a legitimate tactic to deliberately allow an issue to work itself out if:

  1. tensions are very high and you want to allow time to cool off;
  2. the issue is really not that significant to the organization and the two parties can work it out and learn from their mistakes;
  3. you need time to gather more information to make a sound decision; or
  4. there are much higher priorities to deal with.

However, these are the exceptions and even then the manager might still acknowledge the problem while explaining it will be looked at some time in the future-and will be escalated if necessary. Rarely does ignoring an issue completely solve it satisfactorily and permanently.

If you are the manager faced with addressing a problem you must:

  1. admit there is a problem, don't be in denial; remember perception is reality for the parties involved;
  2. gather information including talking to the parties, get their version of the problem and possible solutions;
  3. look at viable possible alternatives-based on policy, organizational goals and a host of factors;
  4. institute corrective action; and
  5. get feedback to ensure the problem remains fixed.

Share with us personal experiences in which a problem has been ignored and the possible consequences. I'd also be interested in finding out how you reacted, or would react if this occurred again in the future.

3 comments

The word "problems" could be considered a euphemism for the events described in this article, which are being ignored at the expense of people's lives- and the quality of life in those who survive such incidents!

See http://news.aol.com/article/sick-truck-drivers-causing-fatal-wrecks/90792?icid=100214839x1206200687x1200289153

Stephanie Mathis, MT(ASCP), Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Aureus Medical Group July 21, 2008 2:20 PM
Bryan TX

Here is the rest of the comment I attempted to add on Saturday, July 12:

Verbal "confrontations" are never easy or enjoyable; therefore, some people greatly dread them, and may avoid them at all costs.  However, the mature, respectful, and professional (in the workplace) thing to do is to make the other person(s) involved explicitly aware of the extent of your feelings as soon as a disagreement/problem arises.  Denying that it exists (or downplaying its personal significance to you) throughout your subsequent associations with them - and allowing it to turn into a "ticking time bomb" - may permanently destroy a once great relationship at home OR at work when the cumulative stress of the ongoing situation sabotages your ability to think rationally and reasonably about how the other person views it and how to solve the problem!

Stephanie Mathis, Generalist - Clinical Laboratory Scientist, Aureus Medical Group July 14, 2008 5:46 PM
Bryan TX

I received the following very pertinent and insightful post from  Stephanie Mathis a frequent contributor to this blog.%0d%0a%0d%0aStephanie had some technical issues posting so asked me to add her post. Here it is:%0d%0a%0d%0a%0d%0aDaniel Goleman discusses the importance of understanding our own emotions - and making them CLEAR to other people involved in either personal or professional relationships in a tactful manner that does NOT personally insult them - in his book "Emotional Intelligence."%0d%0a%0d%0aI was not at all surprised to read in the chapter of this book concerning emotionally healthy and intelligent behavior in personal relationships that women are usually more comfortable than men with directly discussing the nature of conflicts - and that men are physiologically overwhelmed by stress at "lower levels of negativity" than those at which women are.%0d%0a%0d%0aGoleman also explains the vital role emotional intelligence (or the lack thereof), especially in management/supervisory personnel, plays in today's workplaces in another chapter.  He points out that people are incapable of learning job skills/details, logically thinking, seeing problems from another person's point of view, etc., while under extreme emotional stress.  The book also mentions that people's productivity and job satisfaction are significantly affected by the style of criticism (i.e. "constructive" vs. psychologically "destructive" to the recipient!) used in addressing "nagging" disputes and problems.%0d%0a%0d%0aVerbal "confrontations" are never easy or enjoyable

Glen McDaniel July 14, 2008 1:10 PM
Atlanta GA

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