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Aitkin Excellence!

Vent or Solve?

People-Focus, Professionalism
A Tale of
Vent or Solve?
Contributed by

Sarah Pratt

Employee Spotlight

Health and Human Services Department


Improved Internal Relationships, Improved Problem Solving

Vent or Solve?

The story I am about to give highlights the Aitkin County Mission and core value of people focused. It paints the picture of how HHS supervisors value and take pride in appreciating and supporting our employees. The work that HHS does is difficult and emotionally draining. Our role as HHS leaders is to ensure emotional wellbeing of our workers and allow them the freedom to feel vulnerable and heard so they can focus on the residents of Aitkin County

When I first started at Aitkin County, I told my supervisors that it would really help if they could tell me if the consultation was for venting or problem solving as you look for very different things depending on the type of consult.

A couple months later, during a management meeting, Rebecca Person, adult services supervisor brought this up and stated she wanted to start implementing it and others agreed. After the meeting, Income Maintenance supervisor, Jessica Goble, made a sign that said “Vent or Problem Solve) and hung it up in her office. I talked with her about how it is going. She stated it has helped her identify to herself and her staff, “Which version of me do you need, do you need engaged listener or problem solver.” If she is in engaged listening mode, her chair is turned, she is looking at them, not interrupting with clarifying questions and giving them the time they need. If she is problem solver mode, she may be looking up policy and asking clarifying questions to ensure she is understanding the question. These are two very different consults and not understanding what type you are in can lead to a destructive conversation and damages relationships. Jessie stated that her staff are also getting better at coming in and if she is in the middle of something saying, “Finish what you are doing.” This shows respect, collaboration, professionalism, all core values of Aitkin County.

Later,I brought this up in a management meeting and asked other supervisors. Some are not using the same exact way but have been mindful of the discussion when consulting with staff. Jessi Schultz stated that she is more attuned to their wording. She listens to what they are saying in their first sentence to help her understand the type of consultation she is in.

Others identified that they would like to start utilizing this practice. Jessi Goble sent around the sign that she made and others are putting it up in their office, myself included. I want to highlight all HHS supervisors in this story because they really attempt to put employee emotional wellbeing and appreciation ahead of everything else.

I went into the office of the HCBS supervisor and saw that she put the sign up in her office as well. I asked her how it was going for her. She stated that staff walk in and say, “Oh I like your sign, Becca has one too.” They are seeing the consistency across the agency. She stated that it is also helpful for her. She stated that she is used to going right into problem solving mode and this helps to remind her to slow down and ask staff what type of consultation they are in.

From employee appreciation day to friendly face Friday to our monthly mindful messages, the goal is to support our staff so they can continue to provide quality customer service to Aitkin County residents. I am honored to be a part of this leadership team and I am excited to see what the future months and years will bring.

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