The elephant in the room

The elephant in the room

31 March 2023
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • Have you ever been in a meeting or a discussion where there's an obvious issue no one wants to address? That's what's called the elephant in the room. It's a metaphorical way of describing a problem or topic everyone is aware of but avoids discussing.

    Many of our customers keep elephants in the room. For example, a consulting firm was struggling to meet sales targets. They had weekly meetings to discuss progress, but no one dared mention that one of the managers was sabotaging the sales strategy.

    It could be an underperforming team member, a faulty product, or a looming financial crisis. Whatever the case may be, ignoring it won't make it go away.

  • Why is it essential to confront the elephant in the room?

    1. Confronting the elephant in the room builds trust and respect. When you acknowledge a problem and take steps to address it, your employees will see that you are willing to be honest, and transparent.
    2. Ignoring the elephant in the room leads to a toxic work environment. When employees feel like they can't speak up about an issue, it creates a culture of fear and resentment. Low morale, high turnover, and a lack of productivity are the consequences
    3. Confronting the elephant in the room can lead to innovation and growth. By addressing a problem head-on, you and your team can come up with creative solutions and new ideas
    4. Ignoring the elephant in the room damages your reputation. If an issue goes unaddressed and becomes public knowledge, it can damage your reputation as a business leader. Customers and investors may lose trust in your ability to lead and make good decisions.
  • How do you effectively acknowledge issues or challenges that are present but difficult or uncomfortable to discuss? Here are some tips based on our mentoring experience:

    1. Create a safe and open environment: ensure everyone feels comfortable speaking up. Set aside any biases or assumptions and truly listen to what others have to say
    2. Be direct and clear: avoid beating around the bush or using vague language that can be misinterpreted
    3. Encourage participation: make sure everyone has a chance to share their thoughts and perspectives. Ask open-ended questions and actively listen to what others have to say. This helps to bring new ideas and perspectives to the table
    4. Keep an open mind: be willing to explore new ideas and perspectives, even if they don't align with yours. This leads to new insights and solutions that may yet be considered
    5. Follow up: once the conversation is over, follow up with any action items or next steps. This shows you're committed to addressing the issue and taking concrete steps to improve the situation.
  • Confronting the elephant in the room is essential for building trust, fostering innovation, and maintaining a positive work environment. By acknowledging a problem and taking steps to address it, you can avoid potential damage to your reputation and ensure the long-term success of your business.

  • A business mentor can help you navigate these challenges and develop strategies for moving forward. Here are some approaches a mentor can take to address the elephant in the room:

    1. Creating a safe space for open communication where all stakeholders can express their concerns and ideas.
    2. Using role-playing exercises to simulate difficult conversations, such as discussing a potential layoff or addressing conflict between team members. By practicing these conversations, individuals can become more comfortable and confident in handling them in real life.
    3. Identifying underlying issues: sometimes, the elephant in the room is just a symptom of a larger issue. A mentor can help identify underlying problems causing tension or conflict and work with you to develop strategies to address them.
    4. Bringing in an outside perspective to help shed light on the situation. By providing an objective viewpoint, a mentor can help you see the issue in a new light and come up with innovative solutions.

    Confronting the elephant in the room may be uncomfortable at first. Still, it leads to positive outcomes in the long run.

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