Make Good Business Decisions, Not Popular Ones

Pop quiz hot shot. You and your friend are going out to a huge party. They come out of the bedroom with this HIDIOUS, unflattering outfit that they just paid way too much for. I mean body parts are hanging out of all the wrong places, the color is completely wrong and outdated, the fit is offensively ugly…so ugly you just couldn’t bear to be seen with them. Now naturally, they excitedly say to you, “How do I look?!?!” What do you do? What DO you do?

A) Say, “WOW! You look perfect! That outfit is super flattering…you’re gonna be the talk of the party!” knowing full well that they’re going to be whispered about and laughed at. You look like the supportive friend at the moment, all while setting them up for failure.

B) Tell them the brutal, honest truth…that they look a hot mess and that the outfit doesn’t do anything for them…and that if they even think about stepping out of the door with that on you’ll never speak to them again.

If you answered “A”, I never want to work with your type. If you answered “B”, I respect you…and I’ll be mindful of my appearance around you.

Turns out, when arriving at the party, there’s someone else in that same outfit and the friend is able to see just how bad it looks on someone…helping her to realize that the friend was truly looking out for her.

We are constantly presented with workplace situations where clear, honest feedback or unpopular decisions are needed. The choice may not be pretty. It may not be fluffy. But it is SO necessary. Just imagine how much respect the one friend would’ve lost for the other if she knowingly let her embarrass herself, all while worrying that she would seem like the mean friend. Knowing they were going to fail, you stayed silent, gave them the nod or ignored the impending doom.

Just like in the above scenario, feedback we give might sting initially, but the long-term good will outweigh the immediately hurt. If the fashionably challenged friend heard what she wanted to hear at the time, she would have surely walked directly into insults, ridicule and pain that would take a lot of time to heal. However, by handling the business and making the tough, timely call, it enabled the friend to correct the issue and walk successfully and confidently into the situation. The resentment they may have felt at the moment would go away as soon as she saw first hand what her friend had the foresight to see and communicate to her.

Poor business decisions made in lieu of seeming like a jerk come back to haunt us when the superficial/temporary moves fall through. Naturally, those in power want to seem like heroes/heroines and good guys, but we must be careful not to make critical business moves based on popularity alone. The temporary spike in popularity will crash even harder when the audience sees that the promises can’t be fulfilled or that the decision has actually made things worse.

My advice to decision makers is simple. When tough decisions need to be made, anticipate the displeasure and communicate that, “Yeah, this might suck initially, but this is how it will benefit us/increase production/make us more money in the long run.”

  1. Employees will respect you for not pulling punches or the wool over their eyes
  2. Once the work has been put in and the plan comes to fruition, they will believe in your ability to get things done, not just make superficial promises

By being transparent with your bigger PICture and greater vision for the organization, your employees will stick it out with you because they know you’re more concerned with being efficient than being liked. We all know cool managers that are useless in business. But we also all know straight shooters who get stuff done. At least with the latter, we know exactly what we’re going to get, where we stand and that best interests are being considered.

Employees are done a huge disservice when their leaders are more concerned with how things look versus how efficiently things are run. How many employees do we negatively impact by trying to please everyone? If we are going to move our organizations to the next level of success, it’s imperative that we be able to establish creditability and a reputation for integrity. Sometimes that means being unpopular, as being respected for the right reasons is far better than being liked for all of the wrong ones. If popularity is what we seek, let it come eventually in the form of being known for:

  • being honest even when it hurts
  • being able to speak up when things aren’t right
  • being success-oriented, not just PR-oriented.

Making the right decisions is oftentimes the unpopular thing to do. But if you simply can’t function without the popularity, it will come gradually once the organization begins to function properly, reaping the benefits of your ability to make the tough call.


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