So who was your worst boss? I know who mine was. Years ago I had a boss that just wouldn’t make up his mind in regard to a key issue that would determine the direction of my group. We had a specific proposal with him and it was weeks before we finally asked him what was going on. He fumbled around a bit and then asked us to go get some additional data. We had the proposal back with him within a couple of days and then he sat on it again for a couple of weeks. When I again asked, he indicated he liked the direction a lot but he just hadn’t had time to think it through and make a final decision. This whole process went on for three months and it was highly frustrating for me and the people in my organization. Even worse, he behaved this way for virtually all key decisions.
Bosses who are super slow in making decisions create delays and uncertainty and it is a huge detriment to progress. One thing a leader needs to understand is how paralyzing it can be to sit on proposals and not make decisions.
If you have a boss who exhibits this kind of behavior, what do you do? Having lived through this kind of situation a couple of times in my career, here is what I would suggest:
1.) Continually discuss the implications of the uncertainty with your boss – He or she needs to know what the impact of not making the decision.
2.) Keep all options protected while waiting – This can be difficult but again, involve the boss so that he or she knows what it is you are doing in order to protect all options.
3.) Be persistent – You will feel like a real pest, but you need to graciously bring the subject up frequently so that it’s clear it’s causing your organization some degree of pain.
If this kind of behavior is persistent, look for a new job – Some bosses you just don’t want to work for. It’s not only frustrating it can be damaging to your career.
If you are a boss, constantly ask your direct reports the following question: Am I holding up the progress of any of your efforts because I am not making a decision I need to make? Don’t be a HPB!