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How much help do you give to your no-decision boss?

Now that you are making decisions in place of your no-decision boss and are protecting yourself, you need to decide whether to help them get their decisions made, and if so how far you are willing to go.

For and against

Helping means you are keeping a toxic manager in place in your organisation, you are protecting them from being discovered as no-decision managers and encouraging their toxicity. This can be difficult to accept at first. You will have found though that telling management that your boss is toxic brings no results even when proof of toxicity is clearly shown.  So your powers are limited and anyway it is not your role in the company.

Because of this, my recommendation is to help your no-decision boss get decisions made. This way something gets done and the department moves forward, instead of standing still through lack of decision-making.  So what are the different levels of help?

Case study

Here is a case study as an example.

Samuel is a senior manager working in research and development. He works for his no-decision boss Teddy. Samuel has decided to make decisions in place of his boss but limited to his department. He has an important investment to make for one of his key research and projects. He has included it in his R&D budget, but the investment form needs to be signed by Teddy, his no-decision manager who of course will not sign it. Signing a document is making a decision.

Samuel considers he has three possibilities to get the investment authorised:

Sign the approval himself.

Persuade Teddy’s boss to approve it.

Get the help of Harrison, the financial director, a colleague of his boss Teddy.

Samuel does not want to take the risk of signing himself. The project is too large and too visible for his signature to go unnoticed in the company, and there is a risk of it being cancelled if headquarters finds that the authorisation process has not been followed.

Samuel feels he does not have a good enough relationship with Teddy’s boss to bypass the authorisation process and persuade him to approve the project directly.

He decides to approach Harrison, the financial director. He completes the investment approval documents with the necessary technical and financial analyses, and says to his boss Teddy:

‘I have completed the investment approval documents for our key research and development project and will discuss them with Harrison in headquarters next week.’

Samuel starts the conversation with Harrison as follows:

‘I have talked to Teddy, but I would like to discuss with you the best way to finance this key research and development project. I also want to make sure that you in headquarters are aware of the detail and are OK with the project before we go ahead.’

The discussion ends with Harrison concluding:

 ‘I will call Teddy and tell him that we approve the project and make sure that it gets signed as quickly as possible.’

Teddy signs the investment form because headquarters agrees with the project. The decision has been made by them not by him. Talking to the finance director is sufficient for Samuel to get his project approved.

This example shows that there are many ways to bypass a no-decision boss and get decisions made. It depends however 1) on personal risk-taking 2) relationships with the boss’s boss and headquarters 3) organisation and politics within the company.

Bosses and headquarters

It is often easiest to get help with important decisions by informally talking to the no-decision manger’s boss. This, as shown above, depends on your access and relationship with him or her. As a rule, while working for no-decision managers, it is important to develop a direct relationship with the no-decision manager’s boss. This way you can inform him or her of important decisions coming up and sometimes unofficially by-pass your boss or facilitate a decision.

Another strategy to put into place is to spend more time with key people in headquarters and get them to help, unofficially in the decision-making.

Help others as well?

The other decision to make is, do you help your colleagues get their decisions made, as well as your own.  You gain nothing from this extra activity except thanks and appreciation from them. However, if you can encourage your colleagues to work together to get the important decision made the no-decision boss’s whole department will benefit.

This involves a colleague taking on the role of ‘co-ordinator’ to get agreement on the important decisions, to co-ordinate the actions to be taken and to inform every one of the progress.

Have a strategy

Do not leave these relationships and actions to chance, you need to develop a strategy, execute it, but adapt it constantly depending on reactions and decisions that need to be made. As well as helping to get decisions made these relationships increase your visibility in the company for future opportunities. Remember, now that you have started making decisions your no-decision boss will resist all internal moves for you within the company.  Your career is on hold while your boss is in place, unless you work actively around him or her.

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