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Asking Forgiveness versus Permission

At work, I often hear "It is easier to ask for forgiveness then for permission."

While I agree that this statement is fundamentally true, it also represents a moral dilemma. In my opinion, to purposely avoid attaining permission in advance is admitting to the knowledge that the action in question has risks or negative consequences. As a result, it is assumed that the request for permission shall be denied because of these unfavorable results. Therefore, it is much easier to proceed without permission, and then later ask for forgiveness if necessary, especially if it is too late to change the outcome.

While it may seem logical to circumvent authority to attain the desired results, it is still unethical to execute any action knowing that the action would most likely not be approved or desired from someone of authority. For instance, the scope of the situation may be different or larger from another point of view. On the other hand, sometimes the authority does not always know what is best.

Even though it may not be ethical to intentionally circumvent authority, it may or may not be the correct course of action. Therefore, my only advice is to carefully balance the advantages and disadvantages whenever considering any action that may later require forgiveness.

by Phil for Humanity
on 09/28/2008

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