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11 Examples of Inaction

Inaction is a lack of action. The use of this term typically implies that their is some expectation or opportunity for action that is foregone. The following are illustrative examples of inaction.

Strategic Inaction

In many cases, inaction is your best strategic move. For example, a politician who lets their opponent talk into their time in a debate because they believe the opponent is in the middle of making a mistake by saying something that is likely to damage their campaign.

Last Responsible Moment

Last responsible moment is a strategy that involves delaying action as long as possible without making things worse. This is done to prevent wasting resources on an action that may not be required. Waiting can also improve outcomes as more information may become available with time. For example, a firm that waits before following a competitor into a new technology that will take at least 5 years to develop. If the competitor fails, no investment may be required. Otherwise, information may emerge with time that dramatically reduces development costs.


Laissez-faire is an approach that allows things to take their own course without interference. For example, a manager who doesn't step in to a dispute in her team because she thinks it is better for those involved to work it out amongst themselves.

Not My Job

Failing to address a problem or opportunity because it isn't in your job description. This can be a problem in organizations with highly specialized roles whereby individuals are in the habit of deflecting any task that isn't specific to their job. For example, a customer service representative who becomes aware of a dangerous product failure who doesn't inform anyone or escalate the issue because they feel that issues of design and manufacturing are beyond their role.

Resistance to Change

Resistance to change is a tendency for people to defend the status quo. This can be described as a preference for inaction. By all accounts, this is common human behavior that can be driven by fear, nostalgia and a desire for stability.

Risk Taking

Inaction can be viewed as a form of passive risk taking. For example, an employee who is complacent in their job such that they don't learn or change may be taking more of a risk with their career than a peer who is always taking on new responsibilities and stretching into new areas.


In many cases, the window of opportunity for action passes while you are considering what to do. This is particularly common in an environment of uncertainty and ambiguity where there are many unknowns.


Complacency is smug self-satisfaction that prevents action. For example, a student who believes they are far smarter than professors such that they fail to learn from them.

Allowing Harm

Inaction that causes harm can be as morally corrupt as action that causes harm. For example, failing to call the fire department when you notice your neighbor's house is on fire.


Negligence is a failure to take proper care in fulfilling your duty. For example, the captain of a sinking ship who doesn't make every possible effort to evacuate passengers before evaluating himself.

Malicious Compliance

Malicious compliance is the act of misapplying rules in a way that gives you power. The classic example is an employee who uses an organization's own rules against it. This often involves inaction as you may find rules that allow you to slow processes. Malicious compliance is commonly used to resist a system that an individual views as unfair.
Overview: Inaction
A lack of action.
Related Concepts

Decision Making

This is the complete list of articles we have written about decision making.
A/B Testing
Abilene Paradox
Abstract Concept
Analysis Paralysis
Analytic Reasoning
Benefit Of Doubt
Boil The Frog
Choice Architecture
Cold Logic
Collective Intelligence
Convergent Thinking
Critical Thinking
Decision Analysis
Decision Authority
Decision Balance
Decision Costs
Decision Fatigue
Decision Framing
Decision Mapping
Decision Modelling
Decision Quality
Decision Rationale
Decision Support
Decision Tree
Devil's Advocate
Disagree And Commit
Divergent Thinking
Emotional Intelligence
Failure Of Imagination
Group Decisions
Keep It Simple
Maximax Criterion
Minimax Criterion
Motivated Reasoning
Non Decision
Normative Model
Opportunity Cost
Paradox Of Choice
Pareto Analysis
Predictive Analytics
Preserving Ambiguity
Reverse Brainstorming
Sanity Check
Serious Game
Strategic Dominance
Thought Experiment
Visual Analytics
Visual Thinking
More ...
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