The Decision-Making Skills You Need at Work

For some of us, decision-making awareness starts to come into play as we’re getting dressed. What’s the weather like today? What’s it going to be like midday? Should I bring a sweater? Are these shoes waterproof? What about a scarf?

A good decision-maker is someone who glides though decision-making processes by quickly and thoughtfully analyzing all options. A great decision-maker tends to make the right choice, every time. How do they do it? It makes sense that organizations would value an expert decision-maker at C-level and directorial roles. However, good decision-making is valuable across the board. Remember, we are making decisions all the time.


So, you decided to wear a red shirt today (and you look great!) You may or may not be aware of how much decision-making went into choosing that shirt. Without really thinking about it, you determined it was clean, unwrinkled, weather-appropriate, work-friendly, and that it went well with your favorite work pants.

When you break apart seemingly inane decisions, you start to realize what a great decision-maker you actually are. Since you already have the skill set, it only needs to be developed for bigger decisions.

As your career progresses, some of the bigger decisions you will make occur in the office. Whether it’s a decision that affects your own career or a decision that could potentially affect your entire team, decisions can begin to weigh heavily.

Here is how to break apart your decisions into a few pieces—to make a decision as minute as what type of milk to put into your coffee or as large as who should head up a multi-million dollar project.


A decision needs to be made, sure. Before gathering a ton of information, data, and projections, think about the ideal end goal. If the end goal is to improve productivity within a certain team, you might have a series of decisions to make.

By identifying your end goal—whether it’s productivity, a new addition to the team, or an allocation of a budget—you can base your final decision on achieving the goal and cut out other noise.


So, you’ve identified the goal! Depending on the importance of the decision, there may be a good amount of research to do in order to reach a sensible solution.

Guess what we are going to recommend here? You guessed it—a list! Make a series of lists to help filter your decision. Whether you compile a physical list or compose one in your head, weigh out the pros and cons of each potential decision. If you are building a team of employees for a certain project, make a list of who would be a sensible add and what skills each person could bring to the table.

If applicable, create projections of benefits or outcomes. For example, if you are choosing a new suite of software for your team, weigh out the price and the cost-benefit of each. Decisions, especially when they involve money, will benefit from logical, data-driven research done upfront.


When faced with a decision to make, you might have a good gut intuition about what to do. Some people have great “gut feelings” and seem to have the ability to make decisions solely on that.

Gut feelings are important to acknowledge and consider. However, it is important to differentiate gut feelings from emotional responses. According to Forbes, it’s important to take your own temperature when faced with a particularly tough decision.

Harvard Business School professor Francesa Gino explains that we need to get into the habit of “asking ourselves questions in the moment of decision.” If you feel that you are getting angry or anxious in the face of a decision, take a step aside. Once you’re back in a more rational state, attack the decision with a steadied mind.


If you are the final decision-maker, there is value in listening to others—but not so much so that it fogs your clarity. In the workplace, it is always important to listen to your coworkers and employees—even more so when faced with a decision that could affect everyone.

However, when faced with a particularly tough decision, it might be best to gather perspectives, opinions, and ideas from others. From there, take this input back to your proverbial drawing table. Filter others’ input through these four questions:

  • Is this good for the entire team or one person?
  • Is this a permanent fix for the team?
  • Is this fair?
  • Does this pass my own gut test?


Once you have cut out the noise from those around you, it’s time to employ the oldest trick in the book. Sleep on it. Of course, not every decision allows for days of rumination. If you have a day or two to make a decision, take the time. Do not make rash decisions borne from excitement, fear, or the desire to just cross it off your list. 

Take time to sit with your options and make your final decision from there.


By now, you’ve done all the legwork necessary to make a decision that benefits everyone involved. Even if it’s a tough decision to make—like letting an employee go—you have probably determined that it is best for everyone to part ways at this juncture.

Go ahead and make that decision. If your decision includes an announcement—whether written or verbal—make sure to use powerful and decisive language. Do not undermine your well-researched and thoughtful decision by using weak language. Do not apologize for any decision. Rather, make yourself available for any questions or concerns around your decision. If you followed the steps above, you will be well-equipped to answer any and every question that comes up.


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