COPE CopeLine Supervisor

May 2019

Your Wellness & Work-Life Newsletter

Solving People Problems in the Workplace

Depending on your organization, different skills may be particularly prized: technical skills for dealing with mechanical, scientific or technological things; analytical skills in dealing with data; or conceptual ideas to grasp abstract ideas. No matter the job, we inevitably have to work with people. That requires people skills. And effective employees know when to step back, assess a situation, and ask the right questions when dealing with people---the problematic ones in particular. Kevin Eikenberry, author of Bud to Boss, offers several steps to reduce the stress in your work relationships.

Is It Really A Problem? If you can't define what you want, perhaps it isn't a problem. That gap between what you have and what you want helps define your problem. If you haven't got a gap, find one or let go of the situation.

Can You Articulate the Problem? Before you act to solve a problem, big or small, you must be able to describe the problem succinctly. Name it and write it down. Doing so provides clarity and focus, two things often lacking in problem-solving, says Eikenberry. You may discover that the issue fades once you are able to see it in a larger context.

Don't Mistake Symptom for Cause. Too often we react to symptoms of a problem---a colleague is chronically late---without understanding the real cause---a divorce is robbing him of sleep. Focusing on symptoms won't likely solve the problem and may make it worse. Take the time to drill down to the root cause before passing judgement.

Slow down. Eikenberry believes good problem solving requires planning. Notice, he says, that none of the points so far are "solving steps." They are "planning for solving" steps.

For example, if there is a problem with a co-worker, you will need to provide some evidence on which to base any ensuing discussion with the co-worker or your supervisor. Consult with an Employee Relations Specialist if you are concerned about how to respond. To learn more, we suggest the article, Difficult People.

Get Some Perspective. If the problem is causing you sleepless nights, embarrassment or any other emotion, you may need better perspective. Consider stepping back, both physically and psychologically, suggests Eikenberry. Try and put yourself in the shoes of the others, such as co-workers, when acting to solve a problem.

Ask for help. The Lone Ranger had Tonto. Holmes had Watson. Contact COPE with an email to

Social Security: A Base on Which to Build Retirement.

The social welfare and insurance programs created by it are---for the foreseeable future---a valuable base on which to build your retirement.

The risk of running out of money during your lifetime depends in large part on the size of your future Social Security payments. Benefits are based on lifetime earnings and are adjusted over time to reflect your 35 highest earning years. If you stop work to go back to school or to raise a family, a zero is assigned for each year without earnings. Even if you have a full 35 years of earnings, some of those years may be low earnings years. Low earnings years are averaged in, creating a lower benefit. Your average will improve, however, as you replace the lowest earning years by working longer and/or earning more later in your career. To find out what your estimated benefits will be, create an online account at and check it periodically.

Ask Larry, The Social Security Guy. Featured regularly in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and on PBS, Larry Kotlikoff answers many questions about Social Security benefits such as why marital status matters, and why you shouldn't take social security early.

Cope Incorporated