Bosses make the tough decisions. Right? Not always. Sometimes you have to deal with an indecisive boss. And that can be a major challenge. But it is possible. Indecisive bosses can be challenging because often times a subordinate’s work load and progress on projects requires a decision from her manager. When a boss either avoids making a decision or stalls and keeps asking for more information, an employee can feel stalled or like the work she is doing has no impact as long as her boss doesn’t make a decision, says career strategy coach Leila Hock.
It can be difficult to know how to handle working with bosses who are indecisive. Remember that your boss’s priorities are different from yours. Your day to day work may hinge on your boss making a decision, but good managers generally have the bigger picture and know when they need to make a decision and when they need more information, says Hock.
So how do you deal with a boss who doesnt like to make decisions? Figure out why they are indecisive and don’t jump to conclusions, suggests Gabrielle Loehr, behavioral health coach and president of Loehr Consulting LLC. Here are some reasons why a boss might be indecisive: they have no idea what they are supposed to do; they are not trained for their position and can’t figure it out; their boss is even worse than they are; they are being used somehow by people above them and can’t make decisions; and they have no administrative support and are overwhelmed. There are more reasons than this, but these are some more common situations.
Adds Loehr, Once you have an idea why your boss is indecisive, figure out how to help them without explicitly saying you’re helping them. For example, if you are bringing them a solution, start by phrasing the problem so they know why they should pay attention (i.e., “We’ve had a lot of customer issues with problem x and solution y addresses all of the customer needs. What do you think?”). Don’t push them for immediate answers. Use email and give them time to think. Try to give some sort of solution when you present the problem, even if you know the solution isn’t the best one or won’t work. You are just trying to start the dialogue and avoid more indecision.
Take a different approach with this type of manager. Make sure she/he is in the loop always. Over-communicate, says Hock. Get in the habit of sending friendly emails on a weekly basis to remind them that they have a decision outstanding and casually bring it up in every meeting or conversation you have with them. If it needs to get done, they’ll appreciate the nudge. If not, a good boss will let you know you can hold off. If all else fails, let it go. Try your best and document your effort through email and conversations, and if they are, ultimately, unwilling to make a decision, just let it go.
Still, remember your boss is your boss. Dont overstep your boundaries. To avoid stepping on your boss’s toes, always try to make them look good without blatantly giving away credit, notes Loehr. Emphasize team and group efforts and don’t publicly talk about what your boss didn’t do. Don’t challenge them directly about something- indecisive people can make terrible decisions when put on the spot, especially if they feel like they have to save face. You don’t want to have an example made of you to accommodate someone’s incompetence.