When a square peg doesn’t fit into a round hole, do you blame the peg or the hole?
There are many responses to this sort of problem. I’ve witnessed several types of “problem personalities” when a person is confronted with a roadblock. Interestingly, these people may respond differently depending on what type of issue they’re confronting (social situation, technical glitch, etc.).
- Ignore the problem or immediately become frustrated and give up. The outcome is the same either way – it’s going to come back to bite you.
- Curse the peg and/or the hole. This type becomes furious that the problem exists in the first place. If there are not cooler heads on the team, the problem is likely to remain unsolved.
- Overcomplicate the problem and over-engineer the solution. The motivations vary: some people get wrapped up in the problem so much that they never get around to solving the problem, or spend huge quantities of time working on tangential issues. Others overwhelm themselves by selecting extremely inefficient methods and end up spending a large amount of time “churning” – essentially accomplishing nothing.
This is often attributed as a sign that they’re inept and/or trying to build job security. They might be inept in that they failed to properly find a solution, but I think it’s less about their capabilities and more about the manner in which they approach problems.
- Hack a solution together. They find a quick fix – even if it’s ugly. Sometimes the fix sticks, and sometimes the fix causes a lot of even trickier or more expensive problems.
By their very nature, difficult problems do not have a simple solution. But being aware of your problem personality may help you cut out the drama and get started on a fix.