Better to ask for forgiveness

The workplace holds endless surprises and divergent philosophies. If I were to map out everything I learnt in life, the maximum have emerged from experiences at work. And just when you thought you’ve seen everything, you see a bit more.

Today’s life lesson comes from yet another incident at the workplace. While you may or may not agree with the philosophy (I am yet to decide for myself), it is a good insight into how a segment of population thinks. While rebuking one of the leaders recently on steps taken, I heard him comment – ‘It is better to ask for forgiveness than ask for permission.’

At first, I was jarred. Then the more I thought about it, the more I realized where the belief stemmed from. Often, when we ask for permission to carry out a task, design or idea, the first thing we face is opposition. The opposition can come in the form of questions, lack of support or just the lack of response. The effort to carry out a task is easier when done sans permission than with, especially if you sense opposition.  Had the leader approached me with the task at hand, he would have, without doubt, faced considerable opposition. However, now that the task was done, the focus lay on fixing and rebuking but only because the experiment had not worked out. Had it never been caught or been successful, the business would have been all the better for it.

The statement made a larger impact on me because not so long ago, yet another leader I admired said – ‘To ask for permission, is to ask for refusal.’ Possibly because most people like to play it safe.

I wonder. Do you agree? Would life be easier if you’d just asked for forgiveness vs permission? Does this jar your value system? Maybe under certain scenarios, it is the wiser thing to do.


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