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Ask Your Team – or rather not?

  • 5 min read

The art of decision-making determines the success of companies and organizations. The search is on for the “best” decision-making alternative. In this article, we look at the potential benefits and pitfalls of involving employees or members in the decision-making process.

In the English-speaking world, this is an own research field named Participative decision-making. We have also read and analyzed relevant publications from the management literature for you. The aim of this article is to provide you with concrete and target-oriented examples for your Ask Your Team project.

Participation boosts motivation

«Decision making is simply the best way in the world to develop people»1, says the successful entrepreneur, Dennis Bakke. The most obvious benefit of team participation in decision-making is the increased satisfaction and motivation of employees or members. Many studies have shown that team participation also leads to higher productivity and reduces staff turnover 2. So far so good, but what are the benefits of participation in terms of the quality of decisions in your organization?

Decisions are also made based on gut instinct 

From a management perspective, the optimal rational decision is the result of a cost-benefit analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of the alternatives. The whole process is usually quite complex and is subject to the laws of non-cooperative game theory, among others. This is also why decisions are often made using heuristics or “gut instinct”. As a rule, operational decisions are best made by the managers responsible because line managers and specialists have immediate and unrestricted access to relevant information, and time may be limited. This means that, almost always, management decisions are made by the CEO, the marketing team decides on advertising campaigns, and so on.

However, the bias of decision-makers can be a significant source of errors.  «Virtually all current theories of decision making are based on the results of research concerning biases in judgment»3. From this we can conclude that decisions based on participation may be beneficial as the experience and instinct of the team – as a whole – can generate added value and individual biases may be balanced out. Below are a few examples where an online team vote promises real added value..

Ask Your Team: working conditions and company culture

Issues that directly affect employees and require their support are ideal for team votes. These include: 

  • proposed options for home office arrangements
  • a new working time model
  • changes in organizational culture

Most team members are likely to be affected by such decisions, so it is in the company’s interest to find common ground. Secure E-Voting with a guaranteed secret ballot ensures that the opinions of individuals are as independent and unbiased as possible. In the spirit of transparency, we recommend communicating to the team whether the vote is binding or if it will merely be used to support the decision-making process.

Ask Your Team: strategic initiatives

Are you planning a strategic initiative, i.e. a major project that will catapult your organization into new spheres? Your management will need to be convinced but it is important to get buy-in from non-managerial stakeholders – preferably the whole organization. Team involvement can increase motivation for change, especially in situations like:

  • realigning the company to, for example, become carbon-neutral
  • planning a costly petition or initiative for, e.g., an NGO
  • a decision to open a branch office in Mars 😉

Of course, such strategic decisions are ultimately made by management, so survey results are only guidelines, but they indicate team endorsement with a high level of participation and approval, which can strengthen your position. If the result does not meet your expectations, you still have an opportunity to adjust and improve.

Ask Your Team: the empirical decision

There are some situations in which management cannot make a clear decision despite highly qualified managers and external consultants. When you are struggling to choose a course of action, asking the team can help get you unstuck. If the question is not discipline-specific and can be answered based on the experience and perception of your team members, then a team survey is the ideal way to find a solution. Here are some examples:

  • choosing a new logo or company colors
  • introducing a new customer service offer
  • questions on the public image of the organization

In such cases, the perception and experience of the members or employees are relevant and may tip the scales. You can increase the quality of the team vote by providing for the possibility of abstention.

(Rather) not!

The reality is that today very few companies and organizations take advantage of team participation in decision-making. Research and literature on the subject are unanimous: bosses do not (yet) want to share. Arnstein says: «There is a critical difference between going through the empty ritual of participation and having the real power (…)»4. Of course, for discipline-specific expertise or day-to-day decisions that need to be made quickly, organizations need decision-makers who can act independently or with a small team. What is needed here is not democracy, but autocracy. However, purely hierarchical decision-making does not always lead to good and sustainable results in the long term, as many of us often experience as shareholders and members. Sometimes it even leads to disaster. 


Real participation of employees and members in the decision-making processes of companies and organizations is rare and has not been well researched. This is unfortunate because the latest findings show that, when correctly applied in suitable situations, such participation promises real-world successes like better decisions in terms of added value and quality, and improved team motivation leading to increased productivity. The use of an E-Voting solution with anonymous voting (secrecy of the ballot) is essential for the success of participation, because: «People often base their individual judgments on how others react to them» 5 6.

We hope this article has inspired you to consider promoting participation in your organization. If you have any questions or would like to send us feedback, we at will be happy to help.


  1. The Decision Maker, Dennis Bakke, Pear Press, 2013 ↩︎
  2. Revisitingthe «Authoritarian Versus Participative» Leadership Style Legacy: A New Model of the Impact of Leadership Inclusiveness on Employee Engagement, Ronald Busse, Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, 2018 ↩︎
  3. The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making, Scott Plous, McGraw-Hill, 1993 ↩︎
  4. A Ladder Of Citizen Participation. Arnstein, S.R. Journal of the American Planning Association.35: 431–444. 1969 ↩︎
  5. Judgment in Managerial Decision Making, Max H. Bazerman, Wiley, 2005 ↩︎
  6. The Future of Decision Making, Roger C. Schank, Dimitris Lyras and Elliot Soloway, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010 ↩︎
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