Decision Making at Work (Birkbeck Business Week)

This post was contributed by Patrick Lucocq.

In my work I have to bridge the gap between academia and working applications to provide relevant and effective coaching and consultancy. The impact of decisions affects all areas of the workplace and Chris’ lecture was both informative and compelling.

The combination of heuristics (mental short cuts that we use in making decisions without all the information available) and that the outcome of decisions is always in the future means we are evaluating a decision’s potential and probability of success. There is always an element of uncertainty in every decision made. How this is understood is a part of good decision making. An organisation seldom demands the best decision every time (maximising) but rather makes decisions that are good enough for now and reflect and evaluate their impact (satisficing).

Self-Regulation and Decision Making

Self-regulation theory is based on the idea that people regulate themselves and this requires the use of mental energy. It is estimated that 20% of the body’s blood glucose is required by the brain. Making decisions that resist instant gratification lead to ‘ego depletion’ reducing stamina and persistence leading to procrastination and avoidance in decision making. Was Chris saying that we would have more energy if we acted purely by heuristics? Are we by nature lazy thinkers? Is rational decision making counter intuitive? Do the great minds and decision makers use less energy by making good use of their heuristics?

It’s easy to think of decision styles in terms of a fixed trait, where in fact it is a process that is influenced by many continually changing factors. Chris broke down decision making styles into System 1- as intuitive, automatic and fast; involving heuristics and parallel processing and System 2 – which was analytic, rule-based and slow; involving sequential processing. But there were 3 decision making styles which did not fit this, brooding, avoidant and dependent. A fourth was also considered: anxiety. Emotion does effect decision making, as well as framing language used and risk avoidance bias triggering a certain way of appraising and ultimately making a decision.

If you are anxious, your brain will have a great need for energy to make a decision. It is actually tiring just thinking like this whilst I write!

Decision Making Anxiety and Consequences








System 1 and System 2 Decision Making








Cases were presented to study that appraisal theory was affected by fear and the amount of effort required to make a choice/decision. It also revealed that maximising in decision making is associated with anxiety. Chris concluded that there was evidence that an anxiety related process plays an important part in avoidant and regretful decisions and as decision making is part of the self-regulation process it is in principle possible to improve decision making with training. 

A great hour.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.