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October 16, 1990

Coming to Grips with Authority

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Who is like the wise man? Who knows the explanation of things? Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance. Obey the king’s command, I say because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?” ECCLESIASTES 8:1-4
It should come as no surprise that King Solomon recommends that we pay attention to rulers and other forms of authority. As always, however, his recommendations come with a practical edge: Don’t offend the person in authority unnecessarily. Be careful to disagree only when you feel it is absolutely essential. Be strategic in the way you call your boss to account.
Current best-practice business philosophy calls for us to participate in decisionmaking and to engage fully in discussions that affect the course of our companies or our businesses. Long gone are the times when employees simply did what they were told even if they knew that what they were doing would result in catastrophe. The wisdom of the day tells us that our jobs are to make our voices known.
Solomon might applaud that business philosophy, but he still asks us to be careful. Despite current best practices, the same general principles apply. When working with someone in authority over us, it is still best to be careful, to be strategic, and to be diplomatic—always in the context of being honest.
How well are you doing with this? Are you quick to offend or to disagree with your superiors, or have you learned to hold your tongue? Our boss might invite our input, but after all is said and done, he is still the boss.

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