If Nobody Wants To Make A Decision Then Who Makes The Decision?

Vantage Points Header Joel ElvesonIN EVERY ASPECT IN LIFE at some point, a decision or decisions will have to be made. Some will be of the “life changing variety” while others will have different ramifications. Being the deciding or final decision maker may be a very enticing proposition to some, to others being in that position scares them to the point where they shy away from any part of the process altogether. If nobody wants to make a decision then who makes the decision?

Ultimately somebody has to (and will) come up with a decision. Rarely has there been a decision that had to made but was left to sit due to the fact there wasn’t anybody that was qualified enough and willing to step-forward to bring the matter to a close. On jury trials, if no consensus verdict is reached after several attempts to do so a mistrial is declared necessitating a new trial with a new jury.

Often times people will shy away from decision-making as all the necessary pertinent facts are not provided or clear. Without verified facts, a fair and just decision cannot be made. Few will want to be thrust into that situation. Once all facts are made clear it will be easier to put a proper system in place whereupon a decision can be reached as expediently as possible.

The question that often arises after a decision is made is “was that a wise decision?” Therein lies a big part of the problem as well. After going through their checks and balance that led to the decision that was made there is the fear that they will be subject to doubt. There will always be somebody or even a group who questions the wisdom of a decision that was made even though by choice they were not actively involved in the decision-making process.

Your right to openly question any decision made by almost anybody is inalienable. In the instance above where you made a conscious decision not to involve yourself in the process subjecting people to your doubt or criticism destroys any credibility you would have had if you had participated. “Monday morning” quarter backs have yet to win any games.

In actuality my article title question as to what happens if nobody wants to make a decision then who makes the decision is, for the most part, a moot point. Almost any type of organization you can think of will have a board of sometime who will make their recommendation to the person who has been duly empowered to adjudicate these matters who will do so. This person may want his advisors to come up with more suggestions or provide more concrete facts but at the end of the day, a decision will be rendered.

The oft talked about “leader” may not be adept at decision-making. Some are and some are not. Leadership and solid decision-making are not always synonymous with each other. You may have demonstrated an ability to lead but do you have the capacity to (if necessary) make decisions “on the fly?” If you cannot size up a situation with diligent thinking chances are you cannot make decisions.

It would not be fair nor accurate to say that once a decision is made it cannot be reversed. The ideal scenario is to make a decision and stick with it. Continually changing your mind will always bring your decision-making skills into question. When cases arise that your decision that has far-reaching effects and is subject to question, then you will have to let the arbitrary proceedings run their course.

In those cases where your decision is overturned, you should not automatically interpret it to mean you made a bad decision. Depending on the circumstances your decision may have been fundamentally correct but unappealing to enough people that they were able to muster enough support to return things back to their original state. Bear in mind you are not the first person this has ever happened to nor will you be the last. Once the reversal judgment has been made it is not prudent to rehash things repeatedly in your mind to determine if there was a different approach or course you could have taken that led to your decision.

Decisions are not always popular. People’s lives are affected by them. In the final analysis, somebody has to make them and will make them irrespective of the fact that nobody wants to make them. Not wanting to make a decision and being incapable or even resistive to decision-making are all part of the difficulty this need presents. Incapability may be excusable while being unwilling is not.

Maximize your opportunity’s to make decisions but remind yourself you do not have to decide everything on your own. Build up your own personal support network to assist you as do other multi-tiered structures. Successful decision makers go far in life.


Joel Elveson
Joel Elveson
INDEPENDENT Executive Recruiting By Joel is an "up and coming" Executive Search Firm formed and headed up by Joel Elveson whose visionary ideas, leadership & creativity have brought to life a more "user-friendly" approach to recruiting. His clients and candidates form powerful strategic partnerships that we use to help you. Joel’s Firm offers Permanent, Temporary (case by case), & Temporary To Permanent staffing solutions for all of your Human Capital Requirements. Contract IT/Consultants are available if needed. Above and beyond they are experts (by way of their personal industry work experience) with mortgage, mortgage banking, middle-market banking, accounting, along with many others under the vast financial spectrum of disciplines. Their business goes beyond candidate recruiting as they also train, mentor and develop your internal recruiting staff with an eye towards helping you reduce the cost of hiring. They will also work in areas such as compensation, effective onboarding processes and alike. In other words, their business is to help your business by becoming an extension of you by filling in gaps that cause delay or waste. The recruiting methods employed by Joel’s team are time tested that results in a high rate of successful placements. Joel was trained in the art of recruiting by some of the top staffing industry executives in addition to the best recruiter trainers who to this day drive me to exceed the lofty goals he has set forth.

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  1. Another great insightful post Joel – Thank you.

    Decisions –resolutions or which ever word we use, is ultimately a ‘Choice’ one way or the other. Our entire life on earth is made of choices and, as many have already commented, Larry, pointed out that even not making a decision is a decision in itself.

    In his book, A Story of Faith, Hope and Love , José N. Harris writes, “Waiting hurts. Forgetting hurts. But not knowing which decision to take can sometimes be the most painful…”

    “Every decision brings with it some good, some bad, some lessons, and some luck. The only thing that’s for sure is that indecision steals many years from many people who wind up wishing they’d just had the courage to leap.” Doe Zantamata.

    We build our lives on “decisions” Let us therefore decide/choose wisely.

    • Jonathan, Thank you for your compliment. Decisions are made even more difficult due to the fact we never know in advance if our decision is the correct one or if we have created a disaster. Each of us has our own decision process that we use. I agree with you when it comes to indecision. My question or curiosity is who makes the decision during those times when nobody wants to make the decision which brings us back to your point about indecisiveness and the consequences thereof. Thank you, Jonathan, for your very insightful comment.

  2. Lots of good points in your article, Joel and for sure there are lots of people who shy away from making decisions for fear of making the wrong one. Collaborative decision making can take away that fear and seeking input from others that you trust is not a bad way to go. Thanks for your great insights.

    • Sandy, Thank you for your comments. Collaborative decisions sound like it could be a great alternative to those who are either reluctant or incapable of making decisions on their own.

  3. Joel, Thank you for pointing out that many run from any decision. I recall a comment that not making a decision is still a decision. And I agree with you that it is not one that fosters respect or helps an organization move forward.

    • Mary, Thank you for your very insightful comment. I would never have thought that not making a decision is in of itself a decision. The lack of a decision maker in almost any environment will lead to confusion that can make for a very bad state of affairs.

  4. Decision making is rarely easy, especially when it affects an entire organization….most of us do not have a crystal ball. Nonetheless, the leaders of any organization are the ones that need to step up and make the necessary decisions to keep their organization moving forward. And, as you mentioned, Joel, usually there is no decision that cannot be reversed or corrected if it turns out to not be the best one after all. It takes special people to take those risks when necessary and most good leaders have to be able to take risks from time to time… they must always be forward thinking.
    Thanks for sharing your expertise once again!!

    • Sandy,
      Thank you for your perspective on my article. Decisions that affect business or your personal life can be difficult to make. They must be made and somebody has to make them. Many times there is a lack of leaders or others involved who will make the decision and accept the ramifications if there are any. The result is a dangerous game of “pass the buck.”

  5. Great article Joel. We have a tool box that we have collected over the years. It is filled with the tools we need in life. One of the most powerful tools we have is the ability to listen and seek advice. Even not making a decision is a decision with it’s own set of results.

    • Larry,
      First of all, let me thank you for your compliment along with your comments. You raised a very interesting point that few people would have thought of which is electing not to make a decision is in actuality making a decision.

  6. In today’s age of decision-making, all risks of a decision are included in the decision-making. What is the risk to make this decision? What is the risk to not make this decision? What are the risks of making the decision based on the current facts?

    There is also the psychological risks too. If I procrastinate with a decision, that will lead me to procrastinate with my other decisions and with my other activities. If I’m high enough up the food chain, my procrastination behavior will be emulated by my subordinates; leading us to a measurable impact to our bottom-line.

    There are times when we must delay a decision. There is never a time to procrastinate with one.

    • Chris,
      Decisions should never be made without thinking out all the ramifications. Even with looking at what could happen if you make a decision from all angles it is still a wise move to consult others and gather a consensus opinion before making you make your final decision. Delays caused by procrastination are unacceptable. Delays due to considering all the facts and risks are acceptable. Thank you Chris for you well thought out comments.

  7. Joel, I think a leader/manager that resists or fears making decisions is a poor leader/manager. If that is the case then either the BOD, the clients, or economic circumstances will eventually replace that person.

    No one likes to make decision that are unpopular of course. But doing the hard things is why executives get paid big bucks. If they shy away from doing hard things then why does the company need them? Looking like, acting like, and dressing like an executive doesn’t cut it.

    As you note, leadership and popularity are not synonymous.

    • Ken, Thank you for reading my article in addition to posting your comment. Indeed a leader that can’t make a decision or is a poor decision make is generally a poor leader and should be replaced.

  8. If the decision maker has a few trustworthy people to use as a sounding board, it can make difficult decision making easier. Usually a person that is removed from the situation can provide some insight and a fresh perspective. A list of pros and cons always seems to help me when I am having a difficult time.
    Thanks for posting a thoughtfully written article!

    • Nolan,
      Thank you for reading my article in addition to your comments. Thank you as well for your generous compliment. In the case of a business somebody has to be the decision maker. Decisions by committee can lead to gridlock if everybody is on board with the final outcome. It is always best to have a final decision maker who good or bad has the final say so.

  9. Joel, thoughtful article about situation that shows leadership skills. In many cases, people do not want to take a decision as it comes with responsibility, and could follow with failure, criticism, and humiliation . The leader would notcare for those things rather focus on what is right to do and take a decision.