Would you trust or allow your employees to take decisions at work?

During an employee empowerment interview, one company leader said to me, ‘We all make big decisions in our lives; we buy cars, houses, we rear families, we make decisions about their education, employment and many other things, so why do we think people can’t take decisions at work?’

He also supplied answers to the question – main reasons are fear and lack of trust.

Leaders and managers would like employees to take decisions at work, but the fear is what happens if employees take the wrong decisions? Worse, what if the leader/manager has problem trusting their employees?

There is also another quirky reason – what happens if the employee takes a better decision than his/her leader/manager? This may lead to positive promotional prospects for the employee and the fear of possible redundancy of the leader/manager. This is also a genuine fear not to be ignored!

But, whether leaders/managers like it or not, employees do have to take some decisions at work, because it is not feasible to run up to the leader or manager every time a decision needs to be made.

From the psychological perspective, there is an argument if employees are empowered and have the authority to take decisions, it makes them more motivated to help organisations achieve their goals and objectives. By way of contrast, ‘… disempowered employees tend to become over-reliant, dependent, demoralised and not very willing to use their initiative’ (Heslin, 1999: 54).

Whether it is a small decision or a big decision, each decision has an impact on the organisation. It is in the best interest of the organisation that a ‘system’ is created whereby each employee asks the following basic questions:

  • ‘Why’ – why are they taking decision?
  • ‘What’ – what are the required outcomes of the decision?
  • ‘Who’ – to approach for information and resources?
  • ‘What to do’ – what to do in case decisions need to be changed? Or things don’t go the expected way?

There needs to be open communication and employees should be aware of what kind of decisions they are expected to take and leaders/managers equally need to be aware how much responsibility they are putting on employees, within their job roles and duties. And, by the way, it is important a ‘system’ of accountability and step by step ‘transparency’ is also created in case of complicated decisions where other people are involved, so that everyone can work from the same ‘hymn sheet’.

People often forget that fear can apply both ways. It is not always the leader/manager, employees too can sometimes be afraid to take decisions. What if they took the wrong decisions; what if their leader/manager did not like the decisions they took? These are also questions that employees have to deal with. Fear needs to be eradicated on both sides.

It is important to remember that just as it is in life, not all decisions may end up with perfect outcome. We don’t always take decisions that ends up in the perfect house or car, so too leaders/managers, employees need to accept not all decisions will be the ‘best’. But, the culture of the company should be that employees can take decisions, they have the talent and the ability. It is about giving people respect and dignity at work.

Value your employees and declare your value!

© Copyright Dr Rozana Ahmad Huq.  November, 2014.

Thank you for reading, until the next Huq Post ….

Heslin, P. (1999); Boosting Empowerment by Developing Self-efficacy, Asia Pacific Journal of Human Resources, 37, 1, pp. 52-64.

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