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Collaborative Problem Solving in the Workplace

Everyone has had that person at work whose behavior frustrates you. It might be your colleague, your boss, a report of yours or even your CEO. Difficult behavior in the workplace strains team dynamics, damages workplace morale and culture, and leads to enormous losses in productivity. If the behavior doesn’t cross the line into something that can be reported to HR, is there anything besides beside grin and bear it?

Thanks to the latest in neuropsychological research, the answer is yes! But the key is understanding why some colleagues behave in a challenging way in the first place. Contrary to conventional wisdom, they aren’t behaving that way because they are simply not trying hard enough to get along with their team members or because they like the attention their behavior brings them. They aren’t difficult because they want to be. They lack the skill, not the will to behave better. What skills? Skills like flexibility, frustration tolerance and problem-solving. Some of these employees can be incredibly talented in other ways, contributing unique gifts to their work, but their behavior can also threaten team dynamics so it must be addressed.

Collaborative Problem Solving is an approach that operationalizes these key findings from brain science to address some of the most challenging behavior in some of the most challenging settings. The method has been battle tested. It works. The lessons learned from helping people in places like correctional facilities and psychiatric facilities apply just about anywhere we struggle to manage someone’s behavior. You can put them to use right away in your workplace.

The approach starts with a simple mindset which helps us maintain some empathy and patience for our colleagues who can be pretty challenging to work alongside at times. Begin by assuming that underneath their difficult behavior your colleague probably has reasonable concerns, but they lack the skills to express and pursue those concerns more reasonably. Next use the following proven problem-solving roadmap that not only reduces challenging behavior and solves problems but will also help your colleague (and maybe even yourself!) build the skills they may struggle with.

The roadmap has three simple steps: Continue reading this article in Psychology Today