Indecision paralysis – Is it affecting your work?


Photo by Danka Peter

Growing up in my family, there weren’t many free passes to go around. It was expected that our opinions and actions be adequately justified any time an adult saw fit to question them, and as a child that felt very often indeed. Being painful shy, I hated being put on the spot. It seemed cruel and uncalled for. But as an adult, I’m thankful for it.

I’m thankful because it forced us to examine the things we said, before we said them. To stand behind our words and actions. To use our intellect to make an argument in our own defense. And if it was found that our judgments were misplaced, we were expected to say so, reassess our position, and show our work in arriving at a new one.

Now that I’m grown, I frequently find myself listening to someone wondering if they could defend their statements if pressed or if words are just falling from their mouths with no real forethought or analysis behind them. Oh my, how they would have crumbled under the white hot glare of my mother’s interrogations.

Coming to a conversation unprepared is a personal pet peeve of mine, but one for another post. There is another issue that comes along with this habit.

If you can’t justify what you’re saying, than it is unlikely that you can adequately justify your decisions.

How this plays out in your personal life is another matter, but when it comes to the work place it can have a very real impact on your success and the success of your company as a whole. When you can’t justify your statements one of two things happens; you either make equally unjustifiable decisions, or you avoid making any decision at all.

The potential impact of making careless decisions is clear, but I’ve found that indecision is surprisingly well received in many companies. Even the most trivial of topics can be discussed over months of meetings, tentative decisions, revisits to the matter, gathering expert opinions, polling, more meetings, and finally stating that a decision has been made without actually moving towards putting it into practice. And so, the issue sits, not being enforced or worked on, until enough time has passed that the cycle begins anew.

What could this aversion to decision making be based on? Refusal to accept responsibility. This responsibility-averse mindset is based on the premise that if you don’t make the decision you can’t be held responsible for the results. And if you don’t have conviction in your statements, you can’t be confident that those results will be positive ones. You will become paralyzed when confronted with making a concrete decision.

If this describes you, take a moment and think about why you have trouble justifying yourself. Maybe you don’t know enough about the topic at hand and, therefore, are insecure about your ability to make an educated choice. If that’s the case, then I would suggest you either make it a priority to learn, or put your ego to the side and defer the decision to someone better qualified to make it.

Alternatively, indecision can stem from insecurity about yourself in general or your ability to lead. The problem with this is that your personal insecurities are not a valid excuse to inhibit the work of those around you and grind your company to a halt. If you are ill-equipped to handle the responsibilities of your job, it may be time to look for one that you’d be more comfortable in.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. I was trained from birth to be decisive, but anyone can learn. Adopt Google’s motto, “fail fast, fail smart.” Just grit your teeth, hang on tight and take the plunge. If you make a bad decision, say so, reassess your position, and show your work in arriving at a new one.

There are a million ways we can tell ourselves that our procrastination is justified, that we really do need just one more person’s opinion or one more week of assessments. But understand, that just because you’ve convince yourself, doesn’t mean you’ve convinced those around you. Start giving yourself more credit and resolve to put conviction behind your statements and choices. The scariness is part of the fun, you’ll see.


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