Without realizing it, people often reveal a lot about themselves through the comments they make.
And the workplace is no exception.
While they may put on a brave front, those who lack problem-solving skills may try to hide the fact that they’re not as confident as they seem.
And in this article, that’s what I’ll be covering.
Here are 10 phrases someone may use at work if they lack problem-solving abilities:
1) “It’s not my job.”
I’m a big believer in collaborating and being a team player.
So when someone says, “It’s not my job”, it rings alarm bells.
Of course, if they’re being repeatedly asked to do things outside of their role and are never compensated for it, I’d understand.
We all need to put limits in place.
But if it’s a one-off and their help would be much appreciated, their reluctance hints that maybe they don’t feel confident in taking on a task outside of their usual work.
2) “We’ve always done it this way.”
Ah, a reluctance to change.
I get it, it’s scary. Especially if you’ve spent ages learning a particular system and have finally found your feet with it.
But while change can be nerve-wracking, it can also be really good.
Most of the changes that come about in my workplace improve the overall quality of our working experience.
So if someone fails to recognize that, it could be because they’re focussing only on their inability to roll with the changes.
Rather than see innovation as an exciting challenge, they hide away from it, clinging to how things have always been done in the past.
3) “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”
Well, if someone says they don’t care, that’s already not a good sign.
It’s one thing to be bad at solving problems, but another is to outright shoot down any chance of involvement or support.
Because, surely, if this benefits the company, it’d benefit that employee too?
I see this as more of a defensive tactic.
By saying they don’t care, they’re trying to get you off their back.
They’re playing it cool, but deep down, they’re worried that you’ll ask for their help and they won’t be able to deliver.
4) “That’s impossible.”
I had a colleague at an old job who thought everything was impossible. It was quite frustrating because we needed to work as a team.
And every time we hit a hurdle, which was inevitable and a normal part of the job, he’d resort back to this phrase.
It decreased the overall morale of the team.
For a while, I held it against him. I couldn’t understand why he had such a defeatist attitude.
But it became clear the longer we worked together – he was quite insecure about his problem-solving skills. He didn’t have a resilient mindset, so every setback was a huge deal to him.
And rather than opt for a positive outlook, he resorted to making absolute statements like this.
5) “I’ll try, but…”
When someone says this phrase at work, they’re essentially going to give you an excuse as to why they won’t do the job up to the required standard.
“I’ll try, but I’ve never done it before…”
“I’ll try, but I can’t promise anything…”
Again, this is another example of having a defeatist attitude.
Rather than give it a go and see how it could potentially go, they’re already imagining that they’re going to fail.
And essentially, they don’t want you to get your hopes up. They’re almost warning you that they lack the self-belief needed to tackle problems and new tasks.
6) “That’s not my problem.”
When someone refuses to engage in a problem or do something to benefit the overall team, it may come across as being uncaring or selfish.
But more times than not, it comes from insecurity.
Especially if they lack problem-solving skills.
Think of it this way:
It’s easier for them to be the bad guy than for the whole team to see them try, flounder, and fail.
That’s why they take this stance – to protect themselves and conceal their nerves over trying something outside of their usual responsibilities.
7) “Let’s just stick to the plan.”
When I was a teacher, I remember a colleague of mine who hated diverting from the plan.
Let’s say we’d organized a day trip out for the kids.
At the last minute, I’d realize that we’d overlooked a key logistical part of the plan. So, I’d suggest making a change so that everything would run smoothly.
She would always insist we needed to stick to the original agenda.
Even though logically we could see it wouldn’t work out.
I always wondered why she was so reluctant to deviate, but it wasn’t until I left that school and reflected on my experiences there that I saw she simply couldn’t cope with change.
8) “Can’t someone else do it?”
If someone is avoiding taking on responsibility, it’s usually because they struggle to problem solve.
When I’m approached with a new task or opportunity, I tend to think it over first. Can I realistically do a good job with it?
Do my skills or ability to learn new skills help me solve the issue?
Most times, I’ll say yes.
But there was a time when I’d say no because I didn’t have the know-how. And I majorly lacked confidence.
So the next time someone says this phrase, it might not be because they don’t want to contribute, but because they fear they won’t do as good of a job as someone else might.
9) “It’s too hard.”
It’s okay to say that something is hard.
But it shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not even try in the first place.
The fact that someone uses this phrase shows that they see the problem as too big to tackle before they’ve even given it a shot.
Again, this points to a defeatist attitude.
I’d reply to this phrase with:
“It’s also hard to eat a steak in one go, isn’t it? That’s why you break it up into little pieces first.”
10) “No one else is doing it.”
And finally, if someone at work is measuring their effort based on what everyone else is doing, they may lack problem-solving skills.
Rather than try to challenge themselves and get ahead of the rest, they’re quite happy to stay in one place, never rocking the boat or getting out of their comfort zone.
This shows a lack of resilience, but also a lack of wanting to improve themselves.
Now, I want to make one thing clear:
When someone lacks problem-solving skills, they may come across as aloof or uncaring. But quite often, they’re simply insecure.
They’re not oblivious to the fact that they don’t volunteer themselves for new opportunities, or that they fail to shine when it comes to innovative ideas.
And that’s why they may try to shirk responsibility and avoid new tasks.
Support, encouragement, and kindness might just make the difference in helping them overcome their fixed mindset.
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