Some Methods for achieving greater Participation in Decision Making


1 The idea that Members should participate more in decisions in their Organisations appears worth consideration. Some Organisations have tried to gain more participation – they want people to have a say, more say, or actually make decisions in areas where, previously, they did not do so.

2 However some Managers have found that some Subordinates have no (apparent) interest in making a decision and/or participating in one.

3 Thus some Managers have the problem of wanting to achieve greater participation but needing better methods to achieve this objective.

Why do People decline to make, and/or participate in making, Decisions

4 An analysis of why people reject the opportunity/right to participate should help find methods which will encourage people to participate more.

5 At least two broad reasons exist to explain why people do not participate (more). Subordinates can -

     (a) lack confidence that the Organisation/Manager really want them to participate (more), and/or

     (b) have no personal interest in using the chance to participate (more)

A Lack of Confidence

6 Sometimes Subordinates reject the chance to participate because they do not believe that the Organisation/Manager really wants them to participate (more). They do not want to risk trying something which may not exist.

7 They may class the whole approach as a trick. Thus, why should they accept it, get tricked, and run the risk of feeling hurt and frustrated.

8 If they do not perceive the participation offer as genuine they will not want to alter their previous behaviour.

9 Sometimes, they will have evidence that one or more Managers have made a similar offer in the past and it has not proved genuine.

10 Thus the lack of trust can result from:

     (a) a general lack of trust with the Organisation and/or specific Managers with respect to keeping its (their) words and matching actions with words and/or

     (b) a specific lack of trust – some Subordinates will know that specific Managers have failed to keep their promises in the past.

No Personal Interest

11 Some people have no interest in whether they make a decision because they do not perceive their job as very central to their life. They simply want to come to work and do the minimum amount to keep their job and keep themselves out of trouble. Thus they lack the minimum amount of interest in their job and/or their Organisations to want to participate (more).

12 Other people do not use the chance to participate because they lack confidence in themselves.Thus, consciously or unconsciously, they say to themselves: “Why should I take some part in the decision and risk experiencing the feeling of failure”. For these people, the offer and/or demand that they “participate” becomes a threat to their own personal well being.

13 A third class of people do not want to participate (more) because it offers them insufficient reward in comparison with the other rewards that they can gain.

14 Further, some will see a refusal to participate as a method of “punishing” one or more of theirManagers and/or the Organisation as a whole, These type of people can gain satisfaction by “beating the system” and/or acting “against the Government”

15 It will prove worth distinguishing between:

     (a) a general tendency for a particular person to take one or more of these approaches and

     (b) the tendency to take the approach for a particular situation – the tendency will alter depending upon which Manager approaches the Subordinate, about which particular decision, and the manner of approach.

16 Thus, to diagnose the problem for a particular person who has refused to increase participation, the Manager offering the participation should consider (a) the general attitude of the Subordinate to the participation as well as (b) the approach used on the particular occasion.

Some Specific Objectives to help gain greater Participation

17 The following sections provide some specific objectives related to achieving greater participation.

Obtain sufficient Trust for People to “try out” the Opportunities for gaining greater Participation.

18 Managers will need to gain sufficient trust from people so that they do not feel suspicious of an offer of more chance to participate in decision making. The Organisation/Manager will need to avoid losing trust. Thus Managers should aim to – never offer the chance to participate unless completely confident that all people concerned will honour any guarantees made.

Remember it takes a long time to build up Trust and/or Increase People’s Confidence in Them

19 Managers should remember that it takes a long time (perhaps six months to two years) to build up significant trust between people. The time period will depend on the amount of distrust (or trust) which exists between the two individuals/groups under consideration.

20 Probably it will take a lot longer to build up trust than it does to destroy it.

21 However, once two groups (people) do have a relatively high degree of trust, probably they will feel more tolerant towards the errors of the other party. At least they will prove receptive to the suggestion that they investigate a situation which will lessen trust if proved accurate. They will want to find out whether other reasons exist which would explain the person’s actions and show that one party has not really acted in an untrustworthy way.

     22 Example. Mary read something which Harry wrote and formed the conclusion that Harry had deliberately lied. Mary trusts Harry so she gives Harry the chance to explain the meaning of what Harry wrote. After hearing the explanation, Mary perceived what Harry had written in a different light. She perceives the written ideas have at least two different interpretations and the one Harry suggested shows that Harry did not lie.

23 Managers who try to increase participation by their Subordinates should not expect to gain success with some of their Subordinates in a short space of time. Sometimes it will take half a year for a change to occur. Often Managers stop trying too quickly.

24 They should try to look at the matter from a Subordinate’s viewpoint. A Subordinate might think – even unconsciously – I have never made any real decisions before; I need time and assistance to help me change. I trust your attempts and I would like to try, but I need help to gain appropriate skills.

Offer the Chance to Participate more; Do not demand it.

25 If people lack confidence in themselves and/or the Organisation Manager’s trustworthiness they will feel threatened by a demand to participate and/or view it with suspicion.

26 An offer of the chance to participate allows people to take whatever small-sized steps towards greater participation they want to take – in their own time. Such an approach should arouse fewer suspicions about the motives of the Organisation and/or the Manager.

Reward People who take steps towards greater Participation

27 This suggestion of a reward does not imply a monetary payment. In fact, a payment might cause suspicion. However, where a Subordinate does try to participate more, some praise from the people concerned should prove an appropriate amount of reward. At least it shows and reminds such people that they have taken the opportunity for greater participation

28 Where the participation proves successful (e.g. a correct decision) such praise should include congratulations for the result – as well as praise for taking the greater participation.

29 Where the participation leads to some type of failure, probably the Subordinate will need some re-assurance that not everyone makes the right decision. The initiator of the greater participation can point out that he/she does not necessarily blame the Subordinate in this situation. Such initiators can praise their Subordinate for taking the opportunity to participate – even though the results did not prove particularly successful.

Find Areas of the Organisation’s Activities which interest most of the People with low job Centrality

30 People who do not feel particularly interested in their job (in relation to the rest of their life) will have some parts of their job which prove more attractive than others. Probably these areas will prove the most likely to produce more attempts at participation by these people. However, this point assumes that they have sufficient trust in the Organisation and/or relevant Manager and/or have sufficient confidence in themselves as people to take the opportunity.


31 Managers should not expect to achieve more participation quickly. For some Subordinates it will take careful analysis of their reasons for not participating and patient care to give them sufficient trust and encouragement to make them want to try.

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