When Is It Right To Question Authority At Work?

"Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." – John F. Kennedy. How often do we let this happen to us at work? We go with the vagaries of the loudest shouters without sitting down, truly thinking about the issue and doing what is the right path for you, your organization, and your customers?

I know JFK meant this for the political process (and it is so apropos today) - but I love to take great quotes out of context and apply them to different situations.

When has it become a bad thing to question authority at work? Because of the economy and changing marketplace, almost every company is in control and the executive is at their mercy.

Many times during my career, I came to these crossroads. When I started with a large advisory firm, management was enthralled with a powerful vendor (who was charging millions for their services). The vendor’s name was hallowed through the halls - you don’t buck them!

I was tapped to take over a struggling team to launch a totally new product with a new website built by this vendor. After working with them for about a month, I realized they were doing nothing and constantly running out the clock.

I thought about it and put my job and reputation on the line by speaking with my immediate superiors. I wanted to fire the vendor. Surprisingly, they wanted to do it too, but were afraid to do it. So I did. And in less than three months, we had a fully-functioning site up and running, blowing away the rest of the company who still had to work with the vendor.

Bottom line, think hard, do your research, and buck the consensus when required.

Have you ever been in this situation?