How to support a decision you don’t believe in

Image of a red button with a "thumbs down" hand outlineIf it hasn’t happened yet, it will. Eventually you’ll be asked, as a manager and leader, to support a decision you disagree with.

Maybe it’s a project you don’t think will succeed. Maybe it’s a corporate acquisition – a merger with another company. Maybe it’s a round of cost-cutting and associated layoffs. Maybe it’s a single employee being terminated.

Whatever it is, it’s not the path you’d choose if you were in charge.

It’s hard. Acknowledge that.

When faced with an unpleasant reality, all too often we expect ourselves to just “let it go” and carry on.

But that leaves us frustrated, resentful, and only half (or less) engaged with what needs to happen.

So start by acknowledging that it’s hard. You disagree with whatever this is that you’re being asked to support. You don’t want to. Your inner child is having a tantrum. Your inner adult is listing all the reasons why this thing is wrong.

Acknowledge that you disagree. If necessary, write down why (privately, just for yourself).

You have choices.

When I talk with clients in this sort of situation, they inevitably tell me, “I have no choice. I have to go along with this.”

Actually, you DO have a choice. Several, in fact.

  • You could choose to quit.
  • You could choose to defy your manager or leader.
  • You could choose to gather a group of co-workers and stage a sit-in.
  • You could choose to call in sick.

And so on.

I’ll grant you that some of those options aren’t entirely rational – but they are choices you could make.

The reality is, you don’t choose to take any of those options.

The reality is, you’re choosing to go along with your leaders’ decisions.

And yes, you may be making that choice based on some hard realities of your own – such as, you want to maintain your lifestyle and therefore you need your paycheck.

Just don’t fool yourself into believing you have no other choice.

Communicate

As a leader, you have a responsibility to your team to help them understand what’s happening.

You may not be able to tell them everything. Confidentiality around mergers, layoffs, and other big leadership decisions is real and valid, and you must honor that.

But you also need to control rumors and gossip as much as possible.

So explain what you can, as clearly as you can. You’re not obliged to be wildly enthusiastic, or even mildly enthusiastic; in fact, if you don’t feel enthusiasm, don’t try to fake it, because that will be obvious.

Depending on the situation (and that’s a call only you can make with your understanding of your position and what’s happening), you may be able to say that you don’t entirely agree, but that it’s how things have to be.

Just let people know as much as you can, without overstepping confidentiality or becoming a loose cannon.

Make a choice

Maybe this is one step too far for you. Maybe this decision you’re being asked to support is too much for you to stomach.

In that case, make the choice to start looking for another job.

gljudson Leadership