The Authority To Make Bad Decisions

by Matthew on July 12, 2011

“I want the authority to make bad decisions.”

This was my response to a question posed by a manager years ago when he asked me what I was looking for in my career. I followed that up with a clarification: “I want the authority to make decisions that you think are bad.” I dare you to tell your boss this. :)

I’m not saying my manager was a problem (my comment probably wouldn’t have been wise if he was), but this is how I cut to the chase and explained things in a way easy to understand.

I wasn’t in some raw quest for power, I was getting at a common management problem which exists in a lot of environments today: a failure to demonstrate real trust in the abilities of people who work for you. When the rubber meets the road, lots of people just can’t help micromanaging. They want to personally vet every significant action taken by their direct reports and veto the ones they don’t like or understand. Sometimes things get vetoed because it might make the manager look incompetent. Classic Pointy-Haired Boss (Dilbert) stuff, but the jokes don’t seem to be changing things. These kinds of managers are convinced they’re helping the right things get done while they aggravate their best and brightest employees so much they eventually go away. They also pretty much ensure that no one smarter than they are will work for them for a long time.

If you’re like I am, sometimes you are convinced you actually do know better than your manager, perhaps because it’s your job to know certain things and you are better situations to make certain decisions.

You have two options if you want to avoid this situation. Either find a manager who realizes this (and isn’t micromanaged themselves) and empowers you, or you become an entrepreneur and you can make all the decisions you like and let your customers tell you whether they’re good or bad. :)


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