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Choose the level of decision-making carefully

Your journey into the unknown has just started. You have confirmed that your boss is a no-decision manager and you have decided to make their decisions, you are in what I call ‘aphonic acknowledgement.’ I invented this ludicrous name because no-decision managers have a hidden process of agreeing with subordinates, a sort of silent pact, where they accept that someone else makes decisions in their place. I will explain this behaviour in more detail in a later newsletter.

There are four levels of decision-making to choose from, each with different levels of personal risk.

First level of decision-making

The first level is making decisions for your own personal use. Some subordinates choose fun. Here is an example from one of the case studies in the book:

 “Sana’s fun is travelling, being out of the office, staying in hotels and eating out in restaurants, visiting the country and seeing places. She spends three weeks a month away from the office. Luckily for Sana, her company has offices in most towns in the country so she takes her car and drives to wherever she wants, visits the office and talks to the people– all supposedly in her Human Resources role. None of her colleagues understand what she does during these visits, or why Ruby, her no-decision boss, allows her to flit around the country like a tourist.”

Some choose to increase their power over colleagues and subordinates. I witnessed a Human Resources manager that chose power.  He manipulated the company’s procedures by taking over decisions relating to salary increases and annual evaluations in place of his no-decision boss, even for his colleagues.

Others, working for a no-decision manager profit from a working environment without management control, few constraints and no pressure. Some even choose not to do any work at all.

Second level of decision-making

The second level is making decisions for your department. If, for instance, you are in charge of research and development you make decisions for your department’s budget, prioritise your department’s projects and sign expense authorisations. These are the decisions that should be made by your boss, but you make them.

Third level of decision-making

The third level is the most risky. It involves making decisions in the departments of your colleagues.  You will need their approval first, but because they have decided not to make decisions in place of their no-decision boss, it is likely that they accept. Here you become their unofficial leader.  Of course, you have no formal authority and no legitimacy. Your colleagues will propose the decisions they need and up to you to make them or not.

As soon as you make their decisions, they come out of their frustration and the departments move forward. It is true these decisions are not necessarily those wanted by the company but, in my opinion, it is better to have managers working in harmony than in frustration.

Colleagues working in anger do not accept the offer to make the decisions of their boss. Their anger is directed at the lack of decision-making, so they only accept that their boss does what they are paid to do: make decisions, which they never do. The role of unofficial leader does not work, either, for the other colleagues who have decided to make decisions in place of their boss.

Fourth level of decision-making

The fourth level in decision making is a compromise between taking decisions for your department and taking decisions as an unofficial leader. Here you take on the information role of your no-decision boss to help your colleagues move forward. I call this the co-ordinator role.

It is a useful role for the team, because no-decision bosses do not share information with their teams. They collect information but never share it. This is another of their characteristics which needs a special newsletter on its own. The advantage of the co-ordinator role is that it brings the team together: those in frustration, those making decisions and even those in anger. It makes their work more effective.

What a mess

All this shows what a mess no-decision managers make in the organisation. Subordinates are working without adequate control and doing whatever they want. Systems and processes are corrupted. Decision-making is not co-ordinated. And to make it worse, the hierarchy are not aware they have a no-decision manager in their organisation.

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