When It’s OK to Disobey Your Boss

stop sign

My directive was clear: take a massive amount of emails and import them into Excel so we could track all the different kinds of feedback we’d gotten on a project.

I was looking forward to the data because it would tells us what our customers thought was the most important thing to work on next.

But importing hundreds of emails into Excel? Manually? Ugh.

So I started going into the emails and copying the first section, pasting it into a column.

Copying the second section, pasting it into a second column.

And on, and on, and on.

It sucked.

I had to find a better way if I wanted to keep my sanity and get anything else done. Besides, I’m obsessed with efficiency—especially if I’m the one stuck with the tedious task.

So I decided to disobey my boss and stop working on this project and work on a new one: finding a better way.

The Plan

I figured Outlook had to have some way of exporting messages in bulk, and that was easy to find. And I was pretty sure Excel could to the rest of the work…somehow. I had taken some Excel classes at my old job. Nothing too advanced, just enough to know that it’s one of the most underrated programs of all time.

It can do some pretty amazing things that none of us really know about.

Two and a Half Hours Later

Success! After some workarounds to compensate for Outlook and Excel not playing nice together (I had to go through Access and then to Excel…go figure), I figured out a way to do what we were doing manually in a semi-automatic process (search and replace is also amazing).

I wrote out all the instructions and double checked what I’d done: it worked.

Let me add here that I had the best possible motivation you can get: succeed or you’re in deep trouble. If I would’ve spent two and a half hours not doing the task my boss had given me, we’d have fallen way behind and I would’ve come out looking like an idiot.

Instead, here’s what happened:

Me: I have good news and I have bad news (real somber for effect).

Boss: Oh god, give me the bad news first.

Me: The bad news is for the past two and a half hours I haven’t imported any of the emails into Excel.

Boss: (Turns to look at me…) Umm, that is very bad news.

Me: But the good news is that I figured out a way to do it all automatically, as many emails as we want, in less than two minutes.

Boss: Really? That’s awesome!

It is awesome. I don’t have to do this tedious work for hours on end. None of my coworkers need to do it. Nobody wastes any time on it anymore. We get the reporting of the data that we wanted and we get it faster than we would’ve otherwise.

Win-win.

Initiative Sometimes Means Disobeying

These are the kinds of things I’m referring to when I say that you need to bring more value to your job.

One surefire way to stand out is to take a little initiative and figure out what you can do that is clearly above and beyond your call of duty.

Just make sure you’ll find a way, because the downside of this isn’t pretty: you disobeyed your boss and you wasted time. Sure it’s high reward, but the risk is also high.

Anyone out there have any examples like this?

6 thoughts on “When It’s OK to Disobey Your Boss

  1. Reminds me of a time when I was employing some initiative to develop a new process for something related to my work. Went and told my boss I was going to do it.

    Boss: You don’t have time for that.
    Me: I’m almost done with it.
    Boss: Oh

  2. There used to be a bumper sticker: “Question Authority” I never agreed with that. If you question authority, it makes excuses for itself, digs its heels in, asserts itself. I just ignore authority.

  3. Always a bad idea to disobey your boss ALWAYS! Instead, talk it over with him/her and explain your disagreement. Attempt to get buy-in. If you can’t do that, make it clear that you disagree with the plan but that you’ll still execute as requested. Then DO IT to the BEST of your abilities. If the plan fails, then explain the failure in a professional but firm way.
    I’ve had experience with trying to get around my bosses’ plans but with consistently bad result and I get blamed regardless of the outcome if I’m insubordinate.

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