Making the difficult decisions easier

Being a manager is fun!

People pleasers, this one’s for you! (Also me. Because we’re always a work in progress.)

Think back to the last time you had a difficult decision to make that impacted others. No, not what you were going to eat for dinner last night. (That’s a different kind of difficult decision.)

I’m talking about those decisions that can make or break someone’s day. You choose whether or not someone should be promoted. You reprimand someone. You choose whether or not you want to approve the budget for a nice-to-have but not a must-have. You choose who will be working on a specific project, or perhaps you need to change who is actively working on this project.

All decisions have consequences – some more than others. As managers, we face these decisions every day, and we also face the consequences these decisions bring. The most difficult ones are the ones that make at least one person unhappy, which is why I called out the people pleasers of the world at the beginning of this.

One of the most challenging things I have learned over time as a manager is how to sit with and respond to a direct report or peer (or your boss) not being pleased with the decision I made. My default move is to rush towards a solution that makes everyone happy, even if it makes my life more difficult.

Here’s the thing. If you know you’re a people pleaser and you know you struggle with people not liking you, this is really, really important for you. Reflect back on the past 3 months of your work and make a list of the difficult decisions you’ve had to make, and list the outcome of these decisions. If everyone was happy 100% of the time with the decisions you made, I want you to raise a little warning flag in the back of your head and ask yourself, “Did I make these decisions because they were the right decisions, or did I make these decisions because I was avoiding having someone be unhappy with me?”

Now, this isn’t to say that if you make a decision and everyone’s happy that you’re immediately doing something wrong. Everyone loves free pizza, after all. But it’s healthy to reflect back on your decision-making and see if you (1) avoided making a difficult decision, (2) walked back on the decision you made because someone was unhappy, or (3) apologized for making a decision that didn’t warrant an apology.

I know I titled this “Making difficult decisions easier”, but I suppose it’s a bit of a misnomer. Like with many things, making difficult decisions and dealing with the aftermath of these decisions will only get easier with time. It’s not a bad thing to feel bad when people are upset with your decision - it means you care, and that’s healthy. But too much of this can be detrimental to you, and your organization’s productivity. This is a muscle you need to build over time, especially if you’re more naturally inclined to shy away from having people dislike you. Welcome to management, and welcome to life. :)


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