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“Often greater risk is involved in postponement than in making a wrong decision” .

Harry A. Hopf, School of Commerce

While employed with Milwaukee Public Schools, I had the opportunity to serve on Administrative Teams formed to evaluate high potential Assistant Principals for future Principal positions. The Assessment Center, as it was called, was an intensive 5 day process comprised of various exercises and activities designed to evaluate how Assistant Principals would execute functions Principals might face over any given period of time. Assistant Principals had to make decisions based on simulated exercises, and explain the rationale, if any, for  decisions. Members of Administrative Teams would assess and rate individually and on a collective basis Assistant Principals on the exercises and activities. Lastly, Administrative Teams would construct Action Plans based on the strengths and development areas of Assistant Principals. These Plans would be  used as guidelines for preparation for future Principal positions.

A recurring issue Administrative Teams would discuss with Assistant Principals during assessment interviews was why  decisions were not made on certain activities. Responses would include: “I didn’t have enough information to determine a course of action; I didn’t think the issue was a priority; or I thought that over time the matter would resolve itself”. Administrative Teams would express this as: ” a decision to not make a decision is still a decision”. In essence, when no action was taken,this was a case of  a de facto decision; a conscious and deliberate means of handling a situation. Initially, I had a difficult time with this expression since over any given  time frame not all decisions can be made, or that occurring issues rise to the level of needing some action to be taken. But as time went on, I developed a better understanding of this expression, particularly how it impacts managers and supervisors in the workplace.

On a daily basis, managers and supervisors face difficult employee relations decisions. While established  personnel policies, procedures,and guidelines may be in place to assist, managers and supervisors who are indecisive or non decision makers cause, in my opinion, one of the major reasons for the frustration of employees. Indecision also impacts the ability of one to manage or supervise, as it can lead to perceptions of weakness, and/or not being qualified. There are myriad reasons for indecisiveness including a fear of confrontation, criticism, and second- guessing the  decision. Training, peer mentoring, and gaining experience are just a few potential remedies that can assist managers and supervisors. Removal of  supervisory duties and other changes in job functions are other options. However, it is important for organizations to immediately address issues of manager and supervisor indecisiveness and the decadent effect this can have on the workplace. Decisions of organizations to not make a decision about this are still making a decision.

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