Decision making skills concept of a person with question marks over their head and two blocks with arrows pointing in opposite directions on a yellow background.
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How to improve your decision-making skills at work

29 May 2023

Nobody thinks making decisions is super easy, but there are tools and approaches that can make the process a lot easier, no matter how you work.

The Clash wrote a song about it; Robert Frost wrote a poem inspired by it … decision-making affects everyone from punks to poets. It also affects people in the workplace on a daily basis. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time for a song and dance about every decision we have to make – we would get no work done.

Decisions are a part of life and a part of work so it’s better just to confront them head on. Whether it’s a decision about what tasks to prioritise in a day or a bigger decision about a product or business plan, you can use different strategies to help you out.

Here are some practical tips on how to improve your decision-making skills at work.

Look at your options

We don’t necessarily mean compile a detailed spreadsheet of every possible scenario that could result from whatever is decided, but do spend a few minutes thinking things through.

Running through each option can help clear things up in your head, which means you are making the decision for yourself in an informed way.

Pros and cons

If you’re really struggling, the old-fashioned method of writing a list of pros and cons is generally very helpful.

It’s another way of looking at your options, albeit a more focused and deliberate method. Pros and cons lists are useful for tougher decisions like who to hire or who to promote.

Decision Matrix Analysis

Don’t worry, this is not another cultural reference. The Decision Matrix Analysis is the name of a method that can help people make decisions.

It works in a table format. You start by listing all your options as rows and the factors you need to consider as columns. So, if you are trying to work out which communication platform your team should use, your options will be in the rows – Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc – and your considerations will be in the columns – how easy it is to use, deployment, price etc.

Then you score each factor from 0 (bad) to 5 (excellent) and calculate your scores.

Force Field Analysis

This is another tool that is used to assist people making changes and planning business decisions. It was invented by a psychologist. You can do it with your team as a planning exercise – templates and a detailed explanation of how FFA works can be found in this article by Creately.

Know your biases

Everyone has biases, but what is important is acknowledging them and the fact they inform your judgements.

At work, it’s always a bad idea to make a big decision when you’re feeling emotional or very sensitive.

If you need to make a big decision that could affect you or someone else in a major way, give yourself some time to mull things over. Put some distance between yourself and the scenario – i.e. sleeping on it can help.

Get good advice

Sometimes we have to make decisions alone, but in a workplace our decisions often affect team members.

Asking for help or someone else’s input when you are trying to decide something is not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that you’re thinking strategically and considerately. Ask the right people for their view on whatever it is you’re trying to decide.

Learn something new

The psychology of decision-making is interesting and it is worth learning about if you’re intrigued.

Udemy has a course that claims to help learners master strategic thinking and problem solving. It’s a short course that is aimed at business people. It has modules on topics such as cost benefit analysis, conflict resolution and general decision-making skills.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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