7 Ways to Be a Better Decision Maker at Work

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In the legendary book The Art of War, Sun Tzu wrote: ‘The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim’.

Decision-making is a soft skill that many of us lack or have not fully mastered. Every employee at work needs to make a decision each day, from the entry-level clerk to the senior vice president – even the lazy Wally character from Dilbert needed to be decisive from time to time, like what strategy to employ to avoid an assignment or how much coffee to consume in a single workday.

Knowing how to make a good decision could be the key to getting the job done, developing your career or receiving a nod of approval from your boss. Unfortunately, for so many busy professionals, it is a lot easier said than done to be a better decision maker, but there are steps you can take today to be more effective, enhance your leadership and have a good head for business.

Here are seven ways you can be a better decision maker at the office or for your career.

1. Eliminate Your Bias

Let’s be honest: everyone has a bias, whether in our personal lives or in our professional endeavours. But the quantity and type of bias can create a ripple effect at work that can then hurt the business or impact your subordinates.

There are generally four types of biases that could affect your decisions:

  • confirmation bias – executing an option that supports our presumptions
  • status-quo bias – taking a business-as-usual approach that keeps everything the same
  • action bias – moving ahead with action because you’re perturbed by inaction
  • self-serving bias – applying a preference that only benefits you, not the company.


Ultimately, you will need to either eliminate or minimise these biases. So, the key question is: how would you rate the quality of your decision-making?

2. Limit Your Overconfidence at Work

Researchers have found that most people overestimate their performance, accuracy and work ethic. Every office has that one person who thinks they can get eight tasks completed in less than an hour or informs a team leader that they’re wrong about a particular projection. In other words, you’re an overconfident know-it-all, a characteristic that leads to frustrated coworkers and lacklustre results.

Overconfidence will never improve the quality of your decisions. Should you wish to be a better employee, manager or businessman, it is imperative to begin winding down this personal trait. Remember: a good decision maker is one who recognises that their overconfidence could be a major problem.

In the end, you will need to adjust your behaviour, management style and way of thinking. By doing this, you will see the fruits of your efforts, which can result in a boost in your career or profits.

3. Think about the Tough Decisions

You have likely heard of the expression ‘you better sleep on it’. Well, this applies to a wide variety of circumstances, ranging from taking that position with another firm to imposing a new system to streamline operations. By having a good night’s rest, you allow your brain to process all of the information and to perform some critical thinking.

It is true that there will be times when you need to make a crucial decision at that very moment. However, a lot of your day-to-day activities at the workplace or life-changing career options can be accomplished by taking the necessary time to think about it.

But there is one thing you should be aware of: overthinking can stress you out and can really make you indecisive. So, you need to weigh the pros and cons, but you must find a balance between not mulling over the decision long enough and taking too long to be decisive. Everyone will eventually develop their own system.

4. Consider the Other Side

In Jordan Peterson’s new book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, he writes: ‘Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don't’.

In today’s world, people are stubborn, and they fail to consider the other side when they’re about to reach a conclusion. Despite all of the challenges by our colleagues, evidence put forward by management and suggestions made by clients, many of us follow the concept of ‘my way or the highway’, and this breeds a toxic company culture because workers feel ignored.

This also extends to a diverse panoply of everyday instances, too. For example, you might believe that you’re socially awkward at business functions, so you rarely head out to these events. Or you may think that you’re a terrible communicator, so you avoid applying for that promotion.

Simply put: by examining all possibilities, you naturally become a better decision maker.

5. Use Evidence for Decisions

How many times have you depended on that little man inside your stomach to make a call? Well, it’s time to kill him, bury him and forget him. He’s been a hindrance to your career for far too long.

Consultants generally recommend businesses to adopt evidence-based management, or EBM. This is a style of management that utilises scientific evidence to make decisions, instead of using what’s worked in the past or relying on your instincts. If the status quo has not succeeded, then it’s time to make sure you incorporate evidence into your final decisions.

Evidence should be current, complete, relevant and objective. If not, then the data, details and information will be of no use to your firm or your career.

6. Forget the Past

Yesterday is gone. You cannot keep looking in the rear-view mirror. The past is dead and buried. These may be clichés, but they are still relevant to your daily decisions.

One of the key factors that’s holding back your true potential is a mistake that happened a day, a week, a month or a year ago. We all make errors; that’s why they installed erasers on the back of pencils. Nobody is perfect, and it is important to realise this before yesterday’s mistakes become a liability.

The only way to make your mind up is by learning to ditch the past and focus on the present and the future. As long as you learn from your blunders, then those mistakes will have no bearing on the decisions you present today.

7. Never Lie to Yourself

Self-deception will derail your career. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday and for the rest of your professional life. Studies have found that 33% of graduates generally lie on their CV's – but as the lies accumulate and become more frequent, you could risk believing them. It is self-destructive, and we even realise the chaos we’re imposing on our own lives. But why do we do it?

Unfortunately, a lot of entry-level staffers, young entrepreneurs and even executives lie to themselves because they’re frightened that they were wrong or they fear the other person was right. Even if you do it unintentionally, you still feel the warning signs, such as being inauthentic or making extreme statements.

To avoid telling yourself fibs, you need to challenge your own preconceptions with objective evidence and to be aware of your own motivations. The most important step is to accept these things without any hesitation, otherwise you’re stuck on that treadmill without moving forward.

Let’s be honest: in today’s world, where we Google and ask Alexa for everything, we’re not making our own decisions. It is true that being decisive is not an easy characteristic to adopt, but it is one that we need to start embracing if we wish to get that raise, obtain that promotion or advance that career.

To be a good decision maker, it will require a long, arduous and frustrating process. As they say: if it isn’t hard, then it isn’t worth doing. And if you want to attain career success, you will realise that this personal investment will pay dividends down the road.

Can you think of other ways to be a better decision maker? Join the conversation down below and let us know!