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Affirms the occasional disobedience that I displayed as well as permitting others to do so. I also call this common sense and great intentions!

A Duty to Disobey?

It is never wrong to do the right thing in a skillful manner. Thank you for sharing insights from this post. I would also add that disobedience is the right call when we are asked to do something unethical or if it would breech your conscience. When is disobedience the right thing to do? Tough one, perhaps if this violates your moral issues, or you know for a fact the request is not correct, from experience, such as a ex.

Ask questions and present scenarios why I believe they are not seeing the entire picture. As I read this, I hear our Management telling us to carry out tasks the way they were put forth.

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Team Leaders may not feel they have empowerment. However, if the above is approached in a positive manner, it could satisfy both parties. Because of business, we would not encourage making changes without first advising management of what would happen if it were done the way management asked, and then advise their idea to do it another way which will work better. It shows that people want to do good work and have a commitment to make us all look good.

Thanks for the article. This is great stuff! This is a very interesting topic. Most people do not think about disobedience concerning their leader. I am not sure I agree with this theory. Great leaders would involve their teams in decision making and let everyone weigh in on the conversation. Seems non productive to me. Thanks for sharing! I totally agree.

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My team are actively encouraged to do this. Thanks partly to this, we are an incredibly efficient and connected department. Such instances mandate thoughtful contemplation prior to having such a crucial conversation but timeliness is also essential to minimize negative impact. Why would you disobey leadership? It can give you confidence to take the risk of bucking upper management. Communication during and after will be key to success or unemployment. Interesting article.

Disobey | Definition of Disobey by Merriam-Webster

The key is communication and mutual respect. If the leader is a true leader, not a boss, then they will appreciate the creativity and focus of trusted employees. How did you approach the situation? I can totally do that! Seriously, respectfully pushing back is something we all need to do from time to time.

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  6. Great advice. I am already doing this with my boss, but encourage it with my employees. Hard to do as it feels like putting your job on the line. Then follow up with a conversation and options. Most times its resulted in a re-think and change in strategy or completely dropped the original decision. Great article here. I have observed on many occasions, times where employees change course for many reasons.

    Old fear based leadership still continues to this day, sadly we still have old school leaders that believe this works. Fear based leadership will attack, second guess, and even pick a fight with those who disobey…Personally I welcome it as long as WE can justify and show positive intentions behind our disobedience.

    No company or boss, should want a bunch of automatons roaming the halls. Diversity and appropriately, respectful challenging conversations are how disruptive innovations come about. Makes sence to me. Not always simple, would be interesting to see how that applies in a millitary environment. I am not sure it would work in a military environment. We want to be the best at what we do, the only way for that is innovation. Innovation in health care generally comes from Direct Care and front line supervisors doing what needs to be done with an ever decreasing amount of resources.

    Also, in conversations with other agencies, I have encountered questions for interviews that specifically ask future supervisors about times they have disobeyed an order they found unethical, or reported unethical behavior of a supervisor. Great thought-provoking post!

    Disobeying management directives calls for a high degree of wisdom, discernment, judgment, tact, and accountability. I personally know of a very bright and sharp individual who implemented Theory of Contraints initiatives that improved operations in her company and got demoted three times for her contributions! There are also times when management has a more strategic or comprehensive view than might be available to us buried deeper within an organization.

    While management direction might not produce the best results from our siloed perspective, it may result in better results at a broader system level. Our role within an organization is based on trust. And we should be prepared to accept the consequences when our disobedience undermines rather than enhances company initiatives. It takes courage and character two other characteristics of effective employees and leaders. Some organizations have a culture that cultivates this; most, in my experience, do not.

    And it should always be done with respect. Interesting take on being a team player. Disobedience when asked to do something unethical, is the right call, but be prepared… not all leaders want to hear this and consequences do happen. Disobedience is key to avoid falling into group think and this is the only way good things are done.

    I was raised to be obedient to a fault but a benefit of age is my seeing that the best solutions to problems often come with some disobedience. I was a 2nd or 3rd year teacher — at an online high school.

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    The Asst. Principal called me and said the Principal wanted those grades changed to passing. Oh — and I was reassigned the next year to a different school. This can be very costly, but so worth it.

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    You have brought to mind questions I should have when interviewing for jobs, like: How do you handle it when employees disagree with you? Disobey you?


    The answers to those would be very revealing and address many of the concerns I see listed in the comments here. Great reminders!! Knowing your why and having respect and being wise with timing are all key factors. I so believe in this and have used this strategy my entire career and have yet to seen it backfire.

    I would love to read the rest of this book and share with all my Cerner associates. The ultimate ethical dilemma. Choosing the difficult right over the easy wrong is one of the hardest things we can do.

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    Practicing the art of intelligent disobedience can make the hard right an easier decision. What a practical post! Communication is key. The boss is not expected to be a know it all and should be open to input about situations that may put the company organization or the team in a bad light. The boss may have been given incomplete information and made decisions to move forward in a particular direction based on it.

    I have also seen politics at play which muddies the waters.