Quick and effective decision making helps organisations to run smoothly. Decision making is a substantial part of a manager’s responsibility and becomes more critical with the seniority of their role. Yet did you know that there are different approaches to decision making you, as a manager, can take?
While no one decision-making strategy is better than another, it can help to understand different styles so that you can adapt your approach to the situation in hand. Below we will take a closer look at five decision-making styles often adopted in workplace settings.
Autocratic decision making is when a leader decides on their own, using the information that is available to them at the time. They do not seek any suggestions or input from outside sources and therefore maintain complete control and ownership of a decision. Of course, this also means that they are solely responsible for the outcome of that decision – whether positive or negative.
Autocratic decision making usually leads to quick decisions and is especially useful in crises situations, for example, if a rusty nail got into a cake. Credibility is an important consideration when using an autocratic style.
On the other hand, junior staff can be de-motivated by a manager who ignores their viewpoints. And when things go wrong, they can lose faith in the leadership.
The information-seeking approach is when a manager obtains the information they need to make a decision from their staff. In this scenario, staff provide information, rather than generate or evaluate alternative solutions to the problem. Where information is not available, managers will have to make judgment decisions regarding missing elements of their knowledge.
One downside to this style is that gathering too much evidence and information can lead to information overload, which can delay the decision-making process. Additionally, in some cases, leaders could screen out information that does not support their preconceived ideas, or even actively seek information that confirms them, which can lead to poor decision making.
Consulting is when a manager shares the problem with relevant staff members individually, getting their ideas and suggestions without bringing them together as a group. The decision-maker maintains control of the final decision and the insights gained from staff members may or may not influence their final decision.
An advantage of this approach to decision making is that it promotes group participation and involvement, which can help with moral issues that an autocratic style could otherwise harm. Also, if the decision-maker is attentive to the information they receive, it could help them to reach a better decision.
However, this process can be time-consuming and therefore may not be practical where a snap decision is needed. The time taken to go through this process could also make it more expensive. Additionally, not everyone can be consulted, which could leave some individuals or groups feeling disenfranchised.
Like with the information-seeking style, consulting is still prone to confirmation bias, especially when deciding with whom to consult. Furthermore, as extra people are involved in the decision-making process, there is more room for bias to play a part, such as in-group bias.
Often confused with the consulting style, the negotiating approach to decision making has a significant difference. When consulting, an individual seeks information and remains responsible for the final decision. When negotiating, a group of people make the decision, and all members of the group take responsibility for its success and failure.
The advantage of negotiating is that with an appropriately skilled and educated group of participants, there is a higher likelihood of achieving success. A group committed to the project can also help with morale and a sense of achievement.
Nevertheless, facilitating participation by everyone can be more time-consuming and therefore incur delays in the decision making process. Working in groups and developing teamwork can be a challenge, requiring effort to ensure that participants can achieve the goal without discord arising.
Delegation is the process of giving decision making authority to more junior employees.
For the process to be successful, the junior staff must be able to obtain the resources and cooperation needed. It is especially useful where programmed decisions are frequent and where supporting data allows for a higher level of certainty and a risk reduction.
The process of providing junior staff with the tools to make the right decisions and the authority to act is often called empowerment.
However, while a manager can delegate authority, they often cannot delegate the responsibility. Therefore, the senior manager usually takes responsibility for the decisions made by their junior staff.
Delegation can lead to improvements in the quality of work, greater employee satisfaction and management development. It can also improve the speed of decision making.
While there are different ways to make a decision, no one style is better than the other. How you make your decisions will partly depend on your personality and preferences, and the situation.
Boddy, D. (2014).Management an Introduction, 6th ed. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited
Kastermuller, A., Greitemayer, T., & Zehl, S. (2014) ‘Leadership and Information Processing: The Influence of Transformational and Transactional Leadership on Selective Information Search, Evaluation, and Conveying.’ Social Psychology Vol 45(5), 2014, pp.357-370.