When Taking the Order Isn’t the Right Answer

Sometimes doing what you’re told isn’t the way to go. You know it. It doesn’t feel right. But what do you do? Particularly, if the person telling you what to do is a superior.

A little “self coaching” may be in order. Ask yourself, “What’s bothering me the most about this?” Notice what comes up. Will the intended action violate a value of yours or the organizations? Is it the wrong answer to a good question? Will taking this action likely create an unintended consequence later on?

Notice if you’re “caught” in your own emotional reaction to the situation. If you are, it’s probably not a good idea to take this on right now. You’ll need to get yourself to a neutral place before you engage this conversation. Otherwise, you risk provoking an argument, which is more likely to reinforce the other person’s position, than change it. Consider asking a peer to coach you if you’re really caught up in your reaction. Once you feel you’re in the compassionate observer role, you’re ready to proceed.

Now, turn it around. What does the other person care most about? Being respected? Getting ahead? Making a difference? Not wasting time? How can you frame your concern in a way that helps the other person either attain more of what matters most to her or avoid a possible detrimental situation?

It’s good to begin by acknowledging that you understand the request and the intention behind it. You can say something like, “I can see how doing ABC would help to address XYZ.” Then shift gears by offering your concern in a neutral tone, such as, “What concerns me about moving forward with this is…” Be sure to connect the dots to the higher good that would be served or more difficult issue that would be avoided for the other person by taking a different approach.

Sometimes you just need to do what you’re told. And sometimes you can use your own insight to ignite the insight of others to shift gears and move things in a different direction.  Sharing your insights with genuine compassion and regard for the greater good is foundational for becoming a trusted advisor to others.

Dianna Anderson, MCC
CEO, Cylient

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What lessons have you learned from handling these kinds of situations? 

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