How To Make a Hard Decision in the Workplace
Making decisions in the workplace can sometimes be challenging, but developing the ability to make good decisions in any situation can help you in your career. The greater the impact of your decisions, the harder they can be to make. It’s important to learn how to make decisions, feel confident in your decisions and stand by them. When you do, you can more easily demonstrate your leadership abilities to others on your team. In this article, we explore proactive strategies to help you make hard decisions confidently and efficiently.
There are plenty of choices that you will have to make in the workplace every day but luckily there are also many different methods for making those decisions. Here are some ways you can make hard decisions more easily and be happier with the outcomes:
How to make hard decisions
1. First, set aside time to think
Tough decisions can seem even more difficult when they are time-sensitive. In fact, oftentimes a hard decision can feel urgent, regardless of the presence of time constraints. This can all add up to feeling like you lack the time necessary to truly weigh all of the options. However, making decisions is a task that deserves your dedicated attention.
It can be helpful to schedule a time in your day or week that is devoted to making the hard decision. Depending on the magnitude of the problem, you may need more time. For example, a small decision may only require 30 minutes to an hour of your day, while a larger decision could necessitate a few hours of dedicated time each week for two or three weeks. Regardless of the attention required, block the time off in your calendar and regularly add it to your to-do list.
2. Second, define the issue and the decision
Before you can make a truly informed decision, you’ll first want to view the situation comprehensively. It’s important to take some time to fully grasp the choice that you are making. A helpful way to do this is to list out the key factors that are involved or will be affected by the decision you are making. By detailing all aspects of your choice, you will be equipped with a better understanding of the problem, which could provide you with the clarity that you need to make a decision.
3. Third, consider all of your options
Though there are some decisions that require a simple yes or no answer, there are often alternative options that are possibly less obvious at first. In fact, there are some situations that can resolve themselves without requiring you to make an actual decision. Spend some time brainstorming all of the solutions, including compromises and letting the choice pass, before reaching a final decision.
4. Fourth, rely on your values
When faced with a difficult choice, it can be easy to forget about the values and guidelines that should lead all decisions for yourself and/or your company. Take some time to think about whether a decision will infringe on these predetermined values. It’s possible that your values have already made the choice for you before you could realize it.
5. Fifth, talk through the issue
If you tend to process information verbally, it may be helpful to adopt the strategy of discussion. By talking through the decision and all of the elements involved, you may be able to reach a decision much faster than if you contemplated it silently on your own.
To use this strategy, you just need to find a good listener who will allow you the space and time to hear your monologue. In fact, finding someone who is knowledgeable about the topic is unnecessary. You really just need someone who will listen and occasionally help you reflect on the thoughts you have shared. By the end of the exercise, you will likely come to a conclusion or, at the very least, have a much clearer idea of the issue you have been presented with.
6. Sixth, ask for another perspective
Though having someone who will listen can be helpful, sometimes you need a little more than that. Asking someone for their opinion about a decision can be beneficial if you are contemplating doing something for the first time and you know someone who has relevant experience to the situation you are facing. Asking for wise counsel can help you to make a more informed decision much quicker.
Though getting advice from others can be beneficial, avoid accepting their suggestions without careful consideration. Even if you decide that their proposed plan is undesirable for you, it could help you to realize the decision that you need and want to make.
7. Seventh, view the issue by using cause and effect
Along with considering all of the factors involved in a decision, it can be helpful to view the problem in terms of cause and effect. Take some time going through every solution and weigh the possible outcomes. If there are some decisions that result in more favorable consequences, that will help you eliminate and choose the best possible option.
A helpful way to approach this strategy for decision-making is to use a technique that allows you to think about the situation in if/then terms. For example, ‘If we cut this budget, then we will lose X and gain Y.’ Another strategy for using this technique is to create a pro/con list to consider all of the effects, both positive and negative, that each choice will carry.
8. Finally, use a timer
If you have thought through all of your options, solicited additional opinions, collected data and considered all possible outcomes but are still faced with uncertainty, it may be time to realize that the choice will remain unclear. In these situations, it can be the best practice to just commit and make a decision.
If you are able, you may want to minimize the decision, allowing you to test the choice without significant commitment or investment. However, it will be beneficial to make a decisive choice regardless. The time that you will save by finally reaching a decision will aid your productivity as well as your clarity.
Email a friend.
It’s not a lifeline on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, so yeah, you could text said friend or even meet up in person for a (socially distanced) coffee or walk. But when you’re choosing to, say, end a relationship—or make any decision that involves multiple people—it may be best to utilize human capital for help, Richardson says. Just be sure to ask someone who knows you and the other person well, is someone you trust to be honest, and who is completely neutral about the situation. Not only will that friend be able to think objectively, but they can also give you feedback based solely on the facts. (To really create an unbiased effect, Richardson says you could also email instead of talking face-to-face, as most people are more likely to give honest input that way.)
That said, keep your convos to just one or two confidantes, as Seide says too many opinions can add to your confusion. “When random people are weighing in on your deliberations—like your cousin, Uber driver, and the neighbor you never talked to before—you may be speaking to people who don’t truly know the inner workings of your life but won’t hesitate to offer an opinion anyway,” she explains. “These people just might be putting their fears and limiting beliefs onto you,” and could ultimately cause you to make a decision that isn’t necessarily the best.
Throw a dress rehearsal.
For more visual learners, Seide says it may be helpful to take a day to inhabit the results of a choice you’re thinking about making. Visualize how you would spend your day, considering who you would be interacting with, what you would wear, and where you would go. If you can, it may even be helpful to actually do all of those things.
“Try that life on as much as you possibly can and see what feelings come up,” she says. “Then, spend the next day in the other option, and tune into the emotions associated with that.” Doing so can reveal how you feel about your decision, which is just as important as the tangible details. Capitalizing on the opportunity to re-enact and sit with those feelings can help make your choice more clear.