Never Ask Permission

Published 2 Comments on Never Ask Permission

Most people think that you should ask your boss for permission to do something out of the ordinary. I think this is a terrible idea. Here is why…

When you are asking permission for something, there is usually some risk associated with the action. Something could possibly go wrong. You don’t ask permission to do safe things. You only ask permission when you think you could possibly get in trouble. The risk is the risk of it going badly.

When you ask permission, the manager fundamentally has to assume all of that risk. In other words, if you fuck up, then you can say, “But my manager told me it was OK!” Now, you aren’t to blame. Your manager is.

So ask yourself, Why in the world would a manager want to assume risk for something they didn’t ask for and can’t control? There is no reason.

Asking permission is a selfish act. You are protecting yourself instead of protecting your manager. Your manager doesn’t want your risk. They have their own risk to deal with.

So what happens if things go wrong when you don’t ask permission? Well, you get in trouble, that’s what happens. It’s not magic. Someone has to get chewed out for fucking up. Take responsibility and act like a grownup. Own your mistake, learn from it, and do better next time.

Does this mean you might even be fired for fucking up? Yes. It means that. But it also means that you tried something you believed in, you took responsibility, and executed your solution. You were decisive and proactive. To me, you were an excellent employee, not a screw up. If your company is the kind of place that frowns upon that, you need to ask yourself if that is the kind of environment where you can grow as a professional. Do you want to work in a “chain-of-command-top-down” military structure? Or do you want to have some ability to make some decisions and run with it?

There is a special term that is often used to avoid asking permission. It goes like this:

Unless otherwise instructed, I am going to X, Y, and Z. – The non permission

– A good employee

By framing things that way, you give the opportunity of your boss to put on the brakes. However, it doesn’t block you from action. This does not count as “Asking permission”. It does eliminate plausible deniability, but also keeps them in the loop. Be strategic of when you choose your communication strategy.

Maybe this advice is harsh and doesn’t work 100% of the time. However, too many people are just doing as they are told and need to contribute more creatively and decisively. What do you think?



  1. Really well said. This is exactly what I have been pushing for at work. I want people to feel more empowered to act if the action is with good intent.

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