Having exhausted the simple physical tactics of decision-avoidance, no-decision managers turn to more devious psychological tactics, which I call the ‘artificial agreement,’ where no-decision managers announce that they agree with the subordinate.
The third variation of these artificial agreements and the truly devious is the ‘outright agreement,’
‘I agree with your proposal.’
Here the subordinate sighs with relief; at last their no-decision boss will make a decision, but no, that does not happen. When no-decision managers agree to a proposal it does not mean taking an action, they are just announcing an opinion of agreement.
Any normal manager who agrees with a proposal made by a subordinate will then go on to the next step and make the decision. A no-decision manager is happy just to say he agrees, leave it at that and then do nothing, certainly not take the decision.
Effect on subordinates
A subordinate thinks that if the boss has said ‘I agree with your proposal’, it means the boss will make the decision. He or she, working for a no-decision boss, should know better, but hope is so high and so much effort has been put into getting a decision that any sign from a no-decision boss is accepted, exaggerated and interpreted as a decision. The subordinate will then go and prepare the contract for signature or prepare the order for authorisation, but the no-decision manager will not sign it. A signature is a decision.
Once the three variations of ‘artificial agreements’ have been used on subordinates, they become angry and will surely let their no-decision boss know about their displeasure, probably in a passionate exchange. Why do no-decision managers behave in this way, knowing quite well that they will have to face an angry subordinate? The reason is simple: they would rather put up with anger than make a decision.