By Michael Holland       

Have you ever had an employee come to you with a complaint about someone else on the team? What do you do? Do you take the problem on, go talk with the other employee, having created a triangle?

The Bermuda Triangle of Employee Enablement – or “triangulation” for short – is when we don’t have the parties involved talking directly to resolve an issue and instead they are talking through a third party. . . you! While there are certainly some issues that a manager must get involved in, too often managers take on conversations that they should be encouraging employees to have on their own.

When an employee comes to you with a complaint, work through this action plan.

  • Acknowledge. . . their concern.
  • Evaluate. . . if it would be appropriate for them to handle directly.
  • Coach . . . them on how to have a productive conversation with the other person.

Encourage the employee to circle back to you with feedback on how the conversation progressed and utilize the interaction as a coaching moment.  Be patient.  It may take a lot of coaching at first, but decreasing triangulation builds healthy, productive teams that resolve issues at the appropriate level in an organization.

Take Action:  Pull out a post-it note.  Draw a large triangle.  Now, place the note in eye shot on your desk so that when you are having a discussion with an employee (in real time or on email) the triangle will be a reminder to you regarding your role in the discussion.