Minimizing the Frustration of Working for an Indecisive Manager

Indecisive managers survive, even prosper. They have a good job. It’s working for them, so there is no motivation to change.

Although there is plenty of advice offered to understand or encourage these managers to change, the effort of an employee to change them is usually pretty futile.

If you are working for an indecisive, it is important to take care of yourself. The loss of positive energy shows itself in frustration, less effort, reduced creativity, and an erosion of skills. These factors ultimately reduce your effectiveness and the ability to contribute and be rewarded. The focus should be on maintaining energy and effectiveness in a frustrating situation.

You may not be able to get a decision from the boss, but there are a number of actions you can try in order to maintain your effectiveness and mental well being.

Simplify the situation.

Frame the decision situation for the supervisor in relatively clear terms so a path is obvious. Propose the direction. Make it as simple and straightforward as possible—even to a yes or no response.

Understand the decision schedule.

There is a misconception, often embraced by the indecisives, that decisions should be made at the deadline. The question “When is this due?” seems to be their first response.

There is a myth that the passage of time somehow leads to better outcomes, even if nothing is done during the interval. This myth provides a rationale for not making a timely decision. In reality, the earlier that the decision can be made, the better chance for a good outcome:

(i) Decisions should be made as soon as there is agreement that all of the critical information or experience is at hand. Work to get an agreement that the all the information is available. Filter out secondary information that would be reassuring to have, but is not critical to determine the direction.

(ii) A decision, even if not the “best” decision, that permits action is more effective than waiting for a decision.

(iii) The earlier the decision is made, the more time there is to change it if the initial actions indicate it is not correct.

Ask no more than twice, then move in a different direction.

In general, when requesting action from someone, it is a good policy to ask a second time if there is no activity after the initial request. It is always possible that the person did not understand fully the significance of the first request. Consequently, during the second follow-up conversation, take care to ensure that the details and significance are understood. (One method: Listening for Consequences).

Then, if no action is taken after the second conversation, it is clear that the request is consciously being put aside. Further requests are not likely to improve the situation. There is little to be gained by pestering. Continued ignored requests lead to frustration.

It is a more productive approach to consider other directions for action. Finding them takes some creativity. Usually, people are focused on the first idea. Alternatives exist, but are not apparent at first. It takes some real thinking to identify them. Make the effort. (Example: Reject the First Idea)

Act, than apologize if necessary.

Some indecisives prefer it when the action is around them. Things get done and they do not have accountability. If the direction is clear and the decision reasonably within your competence or responsibility, start the activity in the selected direction, then check back.

Channel your energy in other productive directions.

Look out for yourself. Think about how to constructively release the energy that builds up under the frustrating condition of a boss who will not do his job. Rather than knocking your head against the wall about this situation, see what alternative actions can be taken. It is better than stewing or complaining. Put the energy into exploring areas that you can do something constructive.

It is never fun working for people who cannot make a clean decision. Sometimes, it is like being in quicksand. Some, but not all, are clever enough to find their way out.

 

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