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The different levels of frustration while working for a no-decision boss

After the initial phases of surprise and insecurity, subordinates will discover the multiple levels of frustration that they will have to endure while working with their new no decision boss.

Mild Frustration

Mild frustration is brought on first by the additional extra work necessary for the ‘incremental information’ requested by no-decision managers. And then by ‘judicial absence’ where the new no-decision boss is never in the office, cannot be contacted, and is not available for meetings. Discussions when the boss is present will stay cordial and friendly but nothing gets done, nothing moves forward and no decisions are made, even the simple ones. Exasperation, intense irritation and annoyance will occur at each new tactic used to avoid decision-making and the delay in deciding.

Example George and Claude

George, a young recently qualified accountant was working for Claude his no decision European Financial Director. He was trying to persuade him to sign the contract to introduce a new consolidation system for the European subsidiaries, a system which would enable George and his team, to complete the monthly consolidation in two days, and eliminate having to put in fifteen hours per day for five days at month end to meet the reporting deadline.
For Claude, not only was the signing of this contract a decision it was worse, it was a written recorded decision. He was never going to sign on his own, but George never realized it because this was the first time he had ever worked for a no decision manager. He had prepared a long report on the advantages and disadvantages of the new system, with the usual to and fro imposed by Claude in incremental information. He was waiting in mild frustration for a decision which never came.

Moderate Frustration

At this stage subordinates will try to force their no-decision boss to make the pending decisions. Depending on their characters they can use simple discussion, persuasion with insistence, anger, seduction or coercion and they will try many different methods to see which one gets a decision.

Example George and Claude again

George was bewildered. In trying to force a decision, he had spent hours discussing the new system with Claude trying to persuade him to sign the contract. All he managed to obtain from him was his repeated agreement that it was a good system, well adjusted to their needs. George’s own team in turn became impatient and started putting pressure on George to get the system approved. To save some of his own self esteem, he invited Claude to a presentation on the new system in the presence of his whole team.

Claude’s comment at the end was simply,
“Good presentation well done”.
But no decision followed.
It was definitely not what George had wanted to hear, but at least he had shown his team that he was not the person holding up the decision.
When the repeated efforts to force the decision fail and with the boss gradually increasing the number of decision avoidance tactics, mild frustration will increase to moderate frustration and the subordinates will start to judge their no decision boss’s ability and behaviour.
This usually involves several judgements varying between laziness, incompetence, stubbornness and lack of courage:
“He never decides, he is never in the office, he is never available, he never seems to do anything, he is lazy”.
“He has no courage to make even the simple decisions”.
“He won’t listen, he does what he wants, he is so rigid”.
“He must be incompetent he cannot even make a simple decision”

Example George and Claude yet again

George was now deep into moderate frustration. He had discussed the new system with his colleagues in international headquarters back in the US who agreed to put in the new system. He had ensured that it was in line with the budget. He had done all the work in negotiating the contract. And he had had the contract reviewed by the legal department. It was a now simple decision for Claude, but he still would not make it and sign the contract.

Severe Frustration

The movement from moderate to severe frustration at this stage is inevitable. As the waiting increases so does the frustration level.
George moved from scorn, distain and disapproval of his no-decision boss into severe frustration and contempt of his him. He, the boss after all, was in a top management position with extensive experience. He was awarded a high salary and was paid to make decisions. Yet he did not.
But severe frustration is not the end. The next and ultimate level of frustration while working with a no-decision boss is ‘fundamental frustration’.

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