Q: If my boss has to solve a problem with people he always tries the same approach, and if that doesn’t work, he just gives up. How can we help him be a little more creative when working through issues with people?

A: Some of the best production managers struggle when it comes to dealing with people.  Here are a few examples of the more creative solutions to problems I’ve seen this last year:

An employee got into the habit of showing up late, intentionally not clocking in, and then later in the morning would tell the boss in private that she “forgot to clock in.”

The boss quickly caught on, and the next time it happened he waited until break time and asked that employee, “Hey, what time was it that you said you clocked in?” Of course, all the other employees could hear this conversation, so the employee knew she had to be honest and admit that she came in late. She never came in late again.

One operation with a long walk between buildings had a problem with people taking too long to get together for their morning and afternoon breaks. The “15-minute breaks” often extended to 30 or 45 minutes while they waited on everyone to arrive.

The boss offered the employees a deal. They could trade their break times — both morning and afternoon — for an hour-and-a-half lunch break. The employees love it. They have time to leave and run errands over lunch; some even take a nap. Overall, the mornings and afternoons are more much productive and the employees are happier.

One of the more creative reactions I’ve heard relates to a junior high school. Some girls would put on lipstick, then kiss the restroom mirrors to even out the lipstick. This created a mess for the custodians. The principal did some investigating and discovered the offenders. Instead of punishing them outright, he pulled the girls out of class and had them join him and a custodian in the girls’ restroom in front of the lipstick-coated mirrors for a cleaning demonstration. On cue, the custodian grabbed a cleaning rag with her gloved hand, dunked the wash rag in the toilet and began washing the mirrors.

It may take some effort, but creativity can have a strong payoff.

If you have questions for Dear Boss, send them to:

Don Tyler, P.O. Box 67, Stockwell, IN47983or e-mail to don@dontyler.com.

Your letter will remain confidential, and may or may not get an individual reply.