Category Archives: Decision-making

Communication and the Challenge of Conveying Rationale

Of the many content areas workplace communication can be divided into, few are more prone to difficulties than organizational choices and decisions.  The who’s, what’s, and where’s of decisions are typically conveyed with acceptable clarity and consistency. The rationale behind them, however, is not. 

In practical terms, this means that while employees typically receive the operational outlines of upcoming changes—this project is being cut, that department is being reorganized—the reasons necessitating those changes — the why behind them — will often remain a mystery.

As a result, employees are able to follow the narrow instructions they are given, but are powerless to go beyond this task or this job. They are therefore unable to help leadership accomplish the higher-level goals that those  instructions were designed to achieve.

A leader might, for example, ask that a lamp be removed from a table.  His employees can comply with that request easily enough, but unless they are told why—the room is being redecorated and the lamp is the wrong shade of yellow, the desk needs to be dusted, more light is needed in another part of the room—they cannot undertake other initiatives that would further the leader’s ultimate aim.

Without more information about the rationale behind the decision, they cannot take it upon themselves to remove the yellow potted plant as well, or retrieve the duster from the closet, or turn on an overhead light. They can do nothing but wait for their next directive.

Explaining the thinking behind decisions also helps employees’ participation become increasingly sophisticated. It allows employees at all levels to gain a management-view of organizational challenges, which enables them to make greater and more effective contributions to solving future problems.

As a leader, then, you can have enormous impact on your organization simply by communicating the reasons underlying decision as widely as you communicate the decisions themselves.

Spelling out the “why” of choices makes the decision-making process more transparent, helps build trust, and helps employees accept decisions that may be difficult.

Employee Involvement and Participation: Do We Really Want It?

The benefits of involving employees in decisions that affect them are clear. Victor Vroom, one of the seminal pioneers in areas of motivation and decision-making, once wrote: “Participative decision processes…can provide a training ground in which people can think through the implications of decisions. Participation can also perform a team building function, building positive relationships… Continue Reading

Involvement, Group Decision-Making, and the Path to Optimum Solutions

Involving employees in decisions that affect them and their work is crucial to capturing the human spirit in the workplace. Leaders, however, often resist involving employees in day-to-day affairs. Such reluctance stems in large part from leaders’ perceptions of both themselves and their employees. Because they were promoted into a position of leadership (and their… Continue Reading

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