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Home > Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations > Avoidance management Part I: A decision from a hat?

Avoidance management Part I: A decision from a hat?

July 15th, 2009

For corrections professionals, firm but fair is the universal expectation.  However, ‘firm’ is not so easy to attain.  Despite all of our training, confrontation is often difficult to deal with.  Some of us simply steer clear of disagreements due to our inherent make up.  Enter the specter of avoidance management.




Avoidance management is the practice of dodging problems within your area of control with the hopes that they will just go away.  Unfortunately problems left untended can blossom into something that is difficult to settle. In other words, from the tiny acorn, the mighty oak will grow.



When you have a choice, often people are watching.  Than manner in which you make your decision may be under scrutiny.  Here is an example of avoidance management. I once heard a story of an indecisive principal in a very small school.  The school had only six teachers and less than seventy students.


It was the end of the school year and the principal had to make classroom assignments for the next year.  There was an interesting mix of dynamics between the teachers.  Teacher A could not have a classroom next to Teacher B.  No one wanted to be around the annoying Teacher C.  It was very complicated for a number of reasons.  There was no doubt that this would be a difficult decision.


All teachers pressed the principal for information about their upcoming assignments.  In fact, many of them offered their wisdom on the matter.  The principal was one who needed to have people like him and was not keen on making unpopular decisions, even if the decision was for the good of the school.


As the day of decision drew closer, the principal made up his mind.  He told each person that he would draw names out of a hat and “let fate decide!”

All of the teachers were outraged, as they had supplied the principal with ideas and suggestions. The wanted a firm decision based on professional knowledge rather than a random roll of the dice by the agents of fortune.


 In the end, however, the final lineup looked well-thought out. The names were not drawn in front of the teachers. There was no evidence that this was truly driven by randomness.  It appeared that the principal was hiding behind “fate” of a draw from a hat.


This left me with a series of questions:


1.     What happens when decisions are put off until the last minute?

2.     How can the input of many force unpopular decisions?

3.     Is there ever a case when everyone will be happy?

4.     How do you feel about random selection of assignments?

5.     How do you feel about random selection of assignments that only appear to be random?

6.     How would you have handled that if you were the principal?

7.     What is the priority for the principal?  Who is the person/group that needed to be considered when making the choices of room assignments?

8.     How would the teachers feel about the principal if he pretended to draw from a hat in order to ease his badgering by the teachers?


The avoidance style of management turns a blind eye.  Often, when a small problem is called directly to the attention of the Avoidance Manager, that person may speak in determined terms of resolution.  However, it is the follow up action that is lacking.



For more on avoidance management, see

Avoidance Management Part II : The Garden

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joebouchard Assessing the organization, Self Scrutiny, Staff relations

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