In the course of your IT career, you’ve likely come across problems that have totally stumped you. As a leader, you don’t have the luxury of simply telling your staff that you don’t know how to solve the problem. Not only can this make it difficult for them to become proactive problem solvers in the workplace, but it can also result in a backlog of IT tickets as the unsolved dilemmas continue to build up.

So how can you stop yourself from answering questions with “I don’t know!”? Follow these three tips to come to a helpful resolution.

Prepare a more productive response.

You may not be able to predict every scenario that comes your way, but you can prepare a series of responses that help you deal with problematic situations. Instead of “I don’t know,” you might say:

  • “I’m not sure, but I can find out.” This lets your employee know that you don’t have an answer right away, but you’ll do everything necessary to find their answer.


  • “Using the information we have already, I think…” For questions that require an informed opinion but have little time for research, you might refer back to your existing information. This will reassure your staff member of your expertise and also acknowledge that you may not have all of the information.


  • “Let’s work on a solution together.” By combining your efforts with your employee’s, you’ll let them know that you respect their abilities and their insight, and it will also create a more solution-oriented environment.

Respond thoughtfully.

If you’re caught off guard, you might respond with an “I don’t know” out of pure habit. To avoid this, practice your responses ahead of time. Rehearse them in the mirror or with a friend or loved one to ensure that you break any bad habits.

If you’d rather respond in a more organic way, pause before you speak to prepare and organize your thoughts. By doing this, you can limit the possibility of off-the-cuff or thoughtless responses that can harm your credibility and reduce your influence with your staff.

Create a plan.

As with your responses, you should also practice what to do when you encounter a problem. What’s the process for problem solving within your organization? Do you assign tasks to an individual, or do you brainstorm as a team? Find tools that help you master your method, whether that’s a classic whiteboard or project management software. If you know the steps ahead of time, you’ll be more confident in your response and your staff will have more confidence in you.

With these three steps, you can maintain your position as a leader and efficiently solve problems in the workplace.


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