Study with 950 managers from a public institution investigates frequency and causes of defensive decisions

phys.org | 8/18/2015 | Staff
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Despite their better judgment, decision-makers such as managers often don't pick what is objectively the best option. Instead, they opt for a safer alternative that protects them against negative repercussions. A research team from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development has investigated how often decision-makers make such defensive decisions and how this behavior is fueled by a negative error culture and a lack of open communication. To this end, they surveyed 950 managers from the public sector. Their findings have been published in the journal Business Research.

Whether in private corporations or in the public sector, managers are constantly making decisions that have implications for their colleagues, the organization and, of course, themselves. Ideally, they will choose the option that is best for the organization. But that's not always what happens. Often they decide on an alternative that is suboptimal from the organization's perspective in order to cover their own back. This alternative may be more convenient, meet with less resistance, or ensure that someone else will get the blame if things go wrong.

Frequency - Causes - Decisions - Team - Max

To investigate the frequency and causes of such defensive decisions, a team from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development surveyed 950 managers from all hierarchy levels of a public sector organization. Around 80% of respondents reported that at least one of the ten most important decisions they had made in the past 12 months had been defensive. On average, some 25% of the most important decisions made were not in the organization's best interest. What's more, preliminary findings from private corporations show that defensive decisions are even more widespread there.

"Defensive decisions are common in many organizations—whether in the public sector, in private companies, or in hospitals. Even at the highest levels of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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