Permission or forgiveness: which do you ask for?

The saying (as I say it) is: “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.”

But not everybody is that way, of course. Some people believe/act that it’s better to ask permission than to ask for forgiveness (my wife for example).

What about you? Do you ask permission, or do you do what you need to do and then, if needed, beg for forgiveness?

A couple of links…

An example of somebody asking for forgiveness, not permission.

Source of the quote: Grace Hopper (she is also the one who coined the phrase “debugging”. I’m embarrassed to say I never heard of her - she sounds like she had a fascinating career.)

None of the above

Permission unless there’s an absolute emergency and no way to contact those who could give it. And the other half of the world pisses me enormously - I do not consider that asking me for forgiveness means that I have to grant it, and way too often they’ll do things for which permission would not have been granted (such as, oh, dunnow, stealing).

Let me clarify the phrase a bit:

In a situation where you may need to exceed your authority (say, a corporate environment like the example posted, or in the military (as I’m sure Grace Hopper meant it)), do you ask for permission to do what you think needs doing or do you do what you think needs doing, then later tell whatever authority figures who need to know?

For example, you’re at the register, a customer comes up and demands that his meal be comped because of an issue that you deem valid. Corporate policy is that the manager must authorize all refunds, unfortunately, your manager is indisposed (and we’ll assume you don’t need his key card to get in the register) and asking him now is very inopportune (say he’s getting an ass-chewing from his boss).

Do you give the refund and tell the manager who/what/when/where/why, or wait until the manager can authorize it?

Please don’t read it as “is it ok to be an asshole?” :slight_smile:

I’ll go with permission if I feel it will almost certainly be given. If not, I’m going with forgiveness later. In short, I pretty much do what I want. Now that I think of it, I suppose this is why permission is generally given!!

I guess I’d say forgiveness because I’m not one to run to ask every time there’s a vague point of policy; I just take care of business. That said, I’ve been given the authority to do that – nobody has ever asked me to uphold such points of policy, so it’s not really beyond what I have the power to do, either. My employer gives me pretty sweeping powers within my department and as long as everything is going well, I never hear about it. Nobody’s going to rake me over the coals for refunding a customer, not ever.

At other places that were far more bureaucratic and procedural, I asked for permission because it was expected. That said, I hated those jobs. Don’t look to hire a self-starter with initiative and intelligence and then make them come over to a manager hat-in-hand every time they want to do something. (I left my last job largely for that reason.)

Permission 99% of the time. Forgiveness only if it’s a situation where asking permission is bullshit and I don’t particularly care if I’m forgiven.

At work, because of all of the red tape, I will often do the forgiveness route just because it would otherwise take weeks to get things done. In my personal life, I will tend to do the opposite because I think that level of grace is important in interpersonal relationships and it is a non-entity in business relationships.

The “forgiveness” position assumes that you have all the power and the other parties have none; I prefer to deal with them as equals, and give them a say in things I do that may affect them.

Depends, I usually like to ask for permission, but there are exceptions. The only exception I can think of recently is something I didn’t even do. The parkour club at our school went to Campus Health and Safety like good little boys and girls and tried to get everything clear, it took 4 excruciating months to get all the paperwork through. A UAPD officer later told us that we should have just done it, because health and safety drags its heels but it gets the paperwork through much faster when you’re begging for forgiveness.

Totally. Not from anyone.

If I can’t ask for permission and my manager gets angry because I got things solved, I don’t ask for forgiveness, I polish my CV. So far I’ve never been in a situation where I wasn’t able to solve whatever the problem was, except if the problem happened to be “boss with control issues”.

Absolutely, seek forgiveness before permission. I’ve found that, most of the time when I’ve taken matters into my own hands and made an “executive” decision because it needed to be made, I’ve generally been praised for my initiative in handling/solving a problem and it turned out, I didn’t even have to ask for forgiveness. I will run straight to the prevailing authority as soon as convenient/possible to make sure they know what I did. This seems to negate the need for apologies because I took responsibility for the decision in the first place.

I might even play it off as a bit of a joke, “Seeing as how confession is good for the soul, I need to let you know that I went ahead and gave Client X a refund because of [insert business reason justification here]. You may proceed to lash me now.” This sort of “confession” is usually met with a laugh, a shrug, and a thanks for taking care of things. I’m willing to do right by the client, regardless of the personal cost to me so that means if I have to take being disciplined (written up or fired or whatever) because I was trying to do my job the best I could, then so be it. So far, I haven’t ever actually been disciplined or in real trouble because I took initiative instead of waiting for permission. I’m generally rewarded for showing leadership skills (GEICO translation: balls).

In matters of business I seek forgiveness but with personal relationships I lean toward permission because that equates to communication.

Whenever possible, I try to do a hybrid of the two. You know the old saying, “If you give an inch, they’ll take a mile”.

I try to get that inch (the little bit of permission to get my foot in the door), then I ask for forgiveness for taking it too far (the mile).

Same here.

Your poll is too black and white. For me, it depends on context both in business and in personal matters.

Usually forgiveness.

If it’s permission, it’s often accompanied by a bribe (e.g. alcohol) or potential blackmail material (e.g. incriminating photographs) to encourage persuasion.

For work, definitely forgiveness, and I’ve rarely had to apologize. In the environment I’m in, I probably know better than my management, and anyhow I have enough of a track record so I don’t have to worry. If there are solid rules I’ll follow them - but game the system wherever possible. This has usually worked out really well.
Being 60 is very liberating in this regard. They’d probably have to give me so much money when they fire me I could retire early. However, having seen that process from the other side, I know it is very unlikely.

As a manager, I’d much rather have people just do it except when there is money involved or some sort of commitment involving more than just the person.