How to Help Indecisive Employees

Working with indecisive employees can be wildly frustrating. It also greatly inhibits progress, productivity, and the sanity of your employees. Employees can spend a lot of time wavering, hesitating, and avoiding decisions. A combination of training, mentoring, and empowerment can help indecisive employees at any level.

I once observed two senior executives discuss and debate a new product strategy for over a year. One strategy was a new twist on a marquee product and one was a brand new approach. Both strategies were valid but neither of the executives would decide which direction to take. Our weekly meetings on the project were confusing and awkward trying to navigate the polite indecision.

A variety of soft skills training could be the remedy. Here are some suggestions on how to help indecisive employees.

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Step #1 Set a Deadline

I think one of the challenges with the executives I just mentioned is that we never set a hard deadline for the new product launch. We have all learned about SMART goal setting and know the “T” stands for time-bound. With no target date, there is no sense of urgency and no pressure to make a decision. This makes it easy to procrastinate and not make a decision.

Step #2 Avoid Procrastination

All of us are guilty of procrastination at some point. I have to be in the right mood to tackle an expense report so it may sit on my desk for a few days but this doesn’t really affect a larger project or timeline.

Offering the indecisive employee some training on time management and procrastination may help the employee understand why they procrastinate. Maybe they lack confidence in their decision-making skills and are afraid to fail. Maybe there is not enough accountability in your culture to motivate them to make the decision. They might be overwhelmed with their workload and unable to gather the information needed to make the decision.

Step #3 Build Confidence

Years ago I had a manager tell me that I had strong decision-making skills. It really built my confidence when managing large marketing projects that required quick decisions on a daily basis. This piece of feedback has served me well for my entire career.

You can help your indecisive employee build their confidence in making decisions by working with them to make more frequent, smaller decisions. Praise the good work and help to change their mindset with positive self-talk. Our course on building confidence also suggests not setting unrealistic standards. A manager can monitor the workload and the scope of the decisions to be made so the employee doesn’t feel overwhelmed or afraid of failing.


Step #4 Empower Employee Decisions

Sometimes employees need to be empowered to make the decisions. There was a situation when my VP-level client left his company. The president left the position unfilled so the three directors could battle it out. My projects with them went on and on because no one felt empowered to make the decision. They were all too polite and no one would step up like the president expected.

Empowering employees builds confidence. They feel more invested in the work and in the success of the company. Set boundaries so the employee understands their responsibility and when they can use their own problem-solving skills, and what situations require higher approval.


Step #5 Develop Problem-Solving Skills

Many decisions are made in response to solving a problem. An irate customer calls your 800# with a problem and your customer service rep needs to decide on the solution: replace or exchange the product, offer a credit or a refund or a combination of these. A new app is due to launch but user testing has identified issues. Do you launch the app or delay?

Providing training on problem-solving skills will help your indecisive employee define the problem and root cause, generate and evaluate solutions, and make the appropriate decisions on the solution.


Step #6 Offer Decision-Making Training

This last step is probably the most obvious, but indecisive employees may simply need training in decision making. Our topic includes a variety of courses to help employees at any level of decision-making experience. Things like:

  • Decision-Making Models
  • Gathering Information
  • Facts vs. Opinions
  • Generating Options
  • Avoiding Mistakes
  • Making Group Decisions
  • Going With Your Gut

Working with a company like ej4, you will have a full library of off-the-shelf training videos at your disposal when a manager comes to you with training needs for an indecisive employee. You could quickly find these topics, assign them to your employee and have them on their way to making more confident and effective decisions.


Additional Resources

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in April 2013 and has been updated for freshness and comprehensiveness. 

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