PEOPLE AT WORK COLUMN: Are You Too Fickle?

WOMEN are usually tagged as fickle or unable to make firm decisions. While this is generally seen as a negative trait, women try to turn this weakness to their advantage and say, “Women have the prerogative to change their minds.” But in the workplace, as in politics, “flip flopping” or changing one’s decisions, is seen as a negative managerial trait. Firmness in decision making is the preference.

Inability to make firm decisions traces its roots to an inability to analyze a problem and hence, inability to solve a problem. This is a serious handicap for anyone who wants to reach top management levels. Problems abound in the workplace and managers are there to solve, if not prevent, problems.

Thus, women, who are perceived as fickle, suffer a severe disability when they try their hand at breaking the glass ceiling in the company. A working woman should be aware of such damaging perceptions and ensure that she has the tools to analyze situations and make firm decisions that will solve or prevent problems at work.

One thing that I learned in MBA at the Ateneo is a framework of problem solving and decision making which was drummed night in and night out (we had evening classes, you see) by our professors. I was not aware at the time that such boring (I thought then) routine would serve me well in my subsequent careers.

The framework I am talking about is the WAC or written analysis of case. Practically all our subjects required us to do several WACs with a group. Writing WACs were so numerous, even my dreams and analysis of dreams were in WAC form. Aside from making this thinking a reflex, doing WACs in a group encouraged each student to engage in a healthy debate with other group mates and to adopt (and sometimes tenaciously hold) a position in each discussion.

A case is usually presented related to the subject matter and we would analyze it using the following steps:

1.     Making the problem statement

On this point alone, we devoted hours of discussions, usually over coffee and cigarettes (when cigarettes were not yet considered yucky). The correct statement of the problem is very important because if this was not correct, the whole WAC would be off board. Wrong problem, therefore wrong solution.

2.     Determining areas of consideration.

This was the easy part. This involved picking out from the case the factors that caused, affected and brought about the consequences of the problem. The areas of consideration were usually very obvious.

3. Coming up with alternative solutions

Solutions (at least three) had to be offered and analyzed as to their pros and cons based on the areas of consideration.

4.     Recommending the best alternative

From the alternatives, one solution would be selected based on its cost-benefit rundown and we would have to state why this was the best, based on the priorities given to the various areas of consideration.

This is a simple way to problem solving and decision making that any working woman can adopt to hone her skills in these areas. You don’t need any complicated decision trees to arrive at the best decision. Once you go through this process, the solution should be clear to you. And the probability of flip-flopping is minimized.

Firmness in decision making is not a masculine trait. Women should and can have it too. Let’s not pamper ourselves by perpetuating the myth that women are fickle. In important matters such as your career, it pays (literally and figuratively) to do your homework.

Author: Regina Galang Reyes. Original version of the article published in Metro Working Mom November 2002.

Photo credit: www.sxc.hu

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