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Stress And Decision Making: The Hidden Influences


​There are days when we all wish we could automate the decision-making process. If only we could feed all data into a machine and let it tell us what to do! Often, such fatigue comes in when there is a particularly important decision looming on our heads, or if there have been too many of these decisions to make over time.

Research shows that when we are stressed, we revert to the patterns of thinking and doing that gives us the most comfort. An intuitive leader begins to rely too much on his/her intuition while a careful leader gets swamped looking at all the data worth considering.

Here are a few examples of instances where stress plays up and influences our decisions, and what we can do to resolve it.

  1. Delegating vs DIY: Most of us fall into one of these two categories. We are either very comfortable with the delegation and are happy to do so, or we think only we can do it best anyway and avoid delegation entirely. When faced with a stressful decision, it is very likely that we then depend too much or too little on the views of the team. In the end, we end up with a decision that belongs to no one, or to everyone, depending on our choices. Instead, balance is critical. We need to delegate decisions, but to an extent where our involvement is not entirely necessary.

  2. Bad News Delivery: Businesses have no shortage of bad news to deal with on a weekly basis, at least. Leaders who spend too much time getting to the point often lose their audience’s attention. Worse, those who see it coming usually do not appreciate a long preamble. Likewise, delivering a blow is not recommended either. In such cases, it is best to accept the decision you have made, first, as an individual. You can then deliver it in as efficient a manner as possible.

  3. High-risk Choices: When a decision weighs very heavily on the future of the organisation, leaders often either retract into their shells and refuse to come out until they find a solution, or they make decisions that come across as brazen in the future. Recently, some startup founders have been criticised for being the latter in times of high stress. Usually, individual work in the form of coaching to identify stress patterns and separate their influence from work often helps set these people on a new, more productive course.

Many recommendations have been made to help control stress in the work environment. As we begin to see the effect it has on our decisions, it is only wise that we choose to separate decisions and stress. Find a practice that works for you to keep stress low and stay consistent in implementing it. Your decision making will surely benefit.

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