Why your boss waffles

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Aug 10

Waffling is big right now. After all, sports fans are now in the midst of the “Will he play? Or won’t he?” season of the waffling Brett Farve. Or, as shown in Wisconsin T-Shirts–and now ones in Minnesota, with the saying “We will never forget you, Brent.”

In sports, waffling is cause for celebration, attention, and instant analysis. But if your boss waffles, it is an affront to humanity. Or, at least your work. Waffle? Hey, managers are supposed to make decisions, not waffle.

But there are reasons for managers to waffle. Good ones. Frustrating for you, of course, but good reasons nonetheless.

Management doesn’t have an answer

Management isn’t made up of genius. Well, okay, you knew that. Yet employees want managers to be the know-all source of corporate knowledge. But managers may not have the answer. They may not have thought of the question until you brought it up.

When management doesn’t know — just like when you don’t know — you waffle.

Management knows, but can’t tell you

Managers, if they are any good, have good insight on what is happening in the organization. They know about a decision, but can’t tell you because the implementation part of the decision — how they will do it — is not yet completed. They know the budget needs cutting, but they don’t know how it will be done and by how much. Still waiting for the implementation part of the decision.

So management hedges. They waffle on what they tell you.

Management is not willing to take a stand

The previous two reasons were good ones to waffle. This one is not. When managers waffle because they won’t take a stand, they are not confident of the direction or the decision process in question. So they waffle, waiting until they know where the popular stand will be. Think of a politician waiting for the polls before making a decision. Waffle until then. Then make up your mind…so you side with the polls.

Yeah, that’s a waffle.

The manager hedges because there are not enough allies for the decision

The manager wants to go one direction, but can’t because the support isn’t there for the decision. So the manager waffles while building internal support for a decision or direction. Can’t lose face, after all. Have to get in with the majority and I can’t get to a majority until I have enough internal support. Working on that. But not there yet.

A manager waffles, then, to save face.

Know your manager. Know the waffle.

If you have a great manager on most things and all of a sudden there is waffling happening, evaluate what the waffle is about based on this criteria and see what the reason is for the waffle.

If your manager isn’t so great otherwise and continuously waffles, it’s time to leave the Waffle House and start working for someone who can actually make a decision.

Does your manager waffle?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.