Ask Forgiveness

At work, there are things that you will definitely be allowed to do (go to the washroom) and others that you definitely won’t (punching the CEO in the face). But in between the two extremes lies a vast expanse of gray. Can you skip a process step when no one remembers its purpose? Take a more expensive flight when the travel policy is unclear? How about joining your firm’s new project in Japan?

Everyone knows that if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you ask, sometimes the answer is still no though. There are many requests that people are ambivalent towards, but will deny simply to maintain the status quo. And contravening someone’s wishes by disregarding their refusal is a great way to engender ill will with that person, at best.

So what if you didn’t ask at all and… just did it? By taking action without permission, you are creating a fait accompli situation – what you wanted is the new status quo. Because Newton’s first law states that it is easier to maintain the current status quo than to revert back to the previous status quo, there is a good chance that people won’t bother.

Note that it is not advisable to skip the permission step for that which is mission critical. And recognize that asking forgiveness instead of permission is always a risk. You may not get the forgiveness that you were hoping for.


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