Patterns for Success: Playing it Loose

Career SuccessThe boss comes in and asks you to stop what you’re working on. He’s got something very important for you, and the more you hear, the dumber it sounds.

“No. That’s stupid.”

For many of us, that’s the gut reaction. It’s the first thing on our lips, and because we’re good, honest people, we say it. Right?

The problem is, you’ve probably alienated everyone in earshot with those three words. And your very job might not be secure anymore. And the worst of it is, you might be wrong. Yep. That happens.

A business is a big complex machine made of people. Fallible people. People who don’t know everything about everything, but make decisions anyway with some degree of not knowing being an acceptable risk.

And when you said “No. That’s stupid,” you didn’t know all the facts yourself.

Part of the reason that businesses have a hierarchy of managers is to pass information around the giant hive mind that everyone’s working within. Managers don’t have to know everything, but they have to get the broad strokes of what’s going to affect their areas of responsibility. And hopefully, if they know someone else is going to be impacted by what they’re doing, they’ll communicate that out, too. But there’s a whole lot that they hear in their meetings that you might not need to know.

This is why there is a cliche about team building exercises where someone on the team falls backwards and everybody else, hopefully, is there to catch them. It’s meant to illustrate the importance of playing it loose, of trusting that people who know more than you do about something are going to do the best they can to do the right thing. Heck, they might not even know more than you. But they are accountable for a decision, and refusing to act on that decision would be what we call a career-limiting move.

It would be completely appropriate to assume that maybe the boss didn’t have all the facts when they made their decision. Instead of saying “no“, perhaps lead in with a question of clarification: “Sure, boss, but were you aware that Bob’s team was already doing this in a different way? Are we going to be stepping on their toes?”

If the boss has the necessary knowledge to make a good decision, but still makes a different decision from you, that’s okay. Try not to roll your eyes. Try not to put up a defensive wall. The right thing to do now, as a member of the team, is to figure out how can I make sure this succeeds?  Then do it.

One of the biggest challenges for being autistic in the professional workplace is figuring out how to play it loose. It’s hard to not have access to all the facts, to take the time to learn everything about everything before making a decision. Decisions in business are often made with a lower standard of being in command of the facts than we might be comfortable with. In business, there is value in taking risks, in being just a little unsure. Moreover, we work together more effectively as a team of people if we’re willing to let go and share control, and trust that even if we make a wrong turn together, we’ll recover together and get back on-course.

Try it this week and let me know in the comments how it works out for you. And may success be yours!