The Dangers of Emotional Decision Making [Guest Post]

disciplined leader

The ability to make good decisions can make or break your career over time. Yet, a really bad decision can end your career in an instant.

Over the past 55 years, our clients have consistently told us they made some of their worst decisions when they were emotional. While emotions can guide us, they also can trigger reactive feelings that alter our perspectives and prevent us from understanding what’s really going on at a given moment. Making important decisions when emotional can also hinder logic and weaken our ability to reach vital goals.

As a leader, you’re going to get mad, worry, or feel frustrated at times. It’s normal–but stay the course. Recognize those emotions but then learn how to avoid making rash, reactive decisions that could hinder goal achievement by taxing your time, money, or other such precious resources.

With the leaders we coach, we’ve noticed that poor choices, as a result of reactive, emotional decisions, commonly happen in the following areas of business. Can you relate?

Dealing with poor performers. It’s all too easy to demote or even fire someone when you’re reacting emotionally to poor performance. But when you’re feeling frustrated and tempted, find a way to cool off. Then manage that person with your head, not your heart, avoiding any tendencies to let reactivity and emotions dictate your leadership habits or create any passive-aggressive tendencies. Discipline yourself to stay cerebral, keeping your focus on the person, and don’t make their poor performance about you or the company.

Managing conflict. Learning to effectively manage conflict and decision-making applies to your professional and personal life. With both, find ways to practice setting emotions aside when making important choices. Allow emotions to be but resist the urge to get fired up, match their energy level, and react immediately and perhaps erroneously. Develop a plan you can follow and trust for healthy decision-making. For example, perhaps when feeling angry or otherwise emotional, you may promise yourself to wait 24 hours before responding. In this time, you may commit to gathering more facts and how you’ll communicate productively and proactively.

Career changes. In the past, we’ve coached many professionals who told us that they were sick of a boss—and suddenly quit an otherwise great job because of it. After leaving, however, they ended up regretting the rash decisions because they found themselves out of work and that the job search was more difficult than anticipated. Looking back, these same people realized making career changes is a very serious matter and that when they used their wits instead of their emotions to guide professional decisions, they were less apt to make costly mistakes. If you’re ever facing that same situation, try not to jump ship in response to desperation, anger, or other emotions. Use your off-the-clock time to build a job-hunting plan and then be purposeful and proactive about following it.

As leaders, when else are we prone to make emotionally based decisions?

Originally published April 3, 2015
John Manning is the president of Management Action Programs, Inc. (MAP), and author of The Disciplined Leader – now available on Amazon. Learn more about his work at, or connect with him on Twitter @JohnMManning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s