Six simple ways to avoid making a decision

These are the tactics used by managers that never make decisions. I call them no-decision managers. They are the experts in decision avoidance because they exist in organisations never to decide. If you want to postpone a decision for later, choose one of these simple tactics.

Tactic number 1 – do nothing.

When presented with a request for a decision by a subordinate, a manager simply says and does nothing. They wait in silence, and just let the subordinate talk.

Sometimes, they might acknowledge that a decision needs to be made:

“Yes I know. Let’s talk about it next week.”

But when next week arrives, they still make no decision. Subordinates rarely ask only once for a decision to be made. When it is important for them, they will come to their boss several times to remind them that they need to decide.

A normal manager might resort to this behaviour, if for instance he or she needs more time to make the decision, or if they have other possibly more important decisions to make. It is a little excessive for a normal manager who normally discusses the issue with the subordinate then makes the decision. However it is an effective tactic even though subordinates may be surprised, even bewildered, the first time it is used.

Tactic Number 2 More Information

Asking for more information is the easiest tactic to use to postpone decision making, even if you do not use the information to make the decision. When a subordinate comes back with the information, you can easily ask for more until you are ready to decide.

At first, subordinates will genuinely believe that you need this excessive volume of information to make the decision. But take care that as the information becomes more detailed, and to the subordinate unnecessary for the decision in question, they will become frustrated and begin to wonder what is going on with their boss. You must remember not to carry this too far by requesting information which has no direct relevance to the decision. If you do subordinates will start realise that these requests are a way to delay decision-making.

Tactic Number 3 Out of the office

The third tactic is another simple one, stay out of the office with no access to mails, and in extreme circumstances switch off you mobile phone. While absent, you put yourself in a position not to be available for decision-making.

But absence alone is not enough. It also has to be ‘judicious’. You need to choose the most suitable moment to be absent. Absence too soon is a waste. Absence too late, means subordinates can pressure you for a decision.  Stay away as long as credibly possible in the circumstances. But you need to find legitimate business reasons, otherwise subordinates may suspect the reason is to delay making the decision.

Tactic Number 4 Ignoring

This tactic is a little excessive, you ignore subordinates who remind you too often to make a decision. You ignore them in the corridor, ignore them in meetings, ignore them in group discussions, and no longer accept one on one individual meetings. This aggressive tactic risks unsettling subordinates, but it is effective.

Tactic Number 5 Physical Barriers

This tactic is a logical extension of being out of the office. Here you put up barriers to prevent access.

A physical barrier is the door of your office, if you have one, remaining closed most of the time. When you do not have one, position yourself in a remote part of the building with difficult access far from your team, the time needed to make your decision.

With or without a door, you can also positioning a guard to prevent access. This is again excessive but an effective way to avoid decision-making. The guard of course is a secretary or personal assistant when managers are senior enough to have one. They need one who is trained as a watchdog to keep away the people in the organisation who want them to make decisions: someone fierce, vigilant and faithful!

Tactic Number 6 Virtual Barriers

Nowadays, you can  invent virtual barriers, such as hiding in a conference room, switching off the phone, posting an automatic ‘out of the office’ or ‘unavailable for the moment’ response to emails, wearing headphones in an open-plan environment, and others.

Saying, for instance, ‘I have a conference call in two minutes’ or ‘I am busy at the moment’ is a form of virtual barrier that is the modern equivalent of a physical one.

Otherwise you can meet with as many as possible: employees, peers, subordinates, as well as people outside their organisation, anyone who does not need a decision. Lunches, dinners, one-on-one meetings, or just informal conversations are all used extensively. Managers can grab any excuse to talk to people who are not asking for decisions, knowing that no decisions need to be made while they discuss with these people.

These are the six simple tactics used by no-decision managers to avoid decision making, but as experts they have devised other more sophisticated tactics which I will write about in a later article.

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