Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How We Follow Orders

(Illustration by Rabbi Dovid Sears)

How do you respond to direction that you perceive as nonsensical?

Do you fight it tooth and nail and refuse to follow the command because it is illogical or do you follow the order and do what was asked?

99.9% of the time, I follow the order because I understand that the issue at hand is insignificant and that it is not worth my time to get upset about it. For example, if a boss told me, "I want you to change the text of your report to 72 pt. Wingdings purple font.", I would simply respond "ok" and then turn in my new purple report.

It precisely this aspect of my character, however, which causes a number of people I know to shake their heads, as if in digust. They just cannot bring themselves to do something when they feel that it has no logical basis, it bothers them when they hear me say say "ok" and not fume and attempt to fight a new order that they take umbrage with.

Reflecting on this phenomenon, I concluded that it is easier for me to do this than a non-Jewish co-worker because I am accustomed to perform mitzvos even if I don't understand them. It does not make any difference whether I understand or "agree" with a particular mitzva, I am commanded to do them and any bit of argumentation on my part can never change the fact that the obligation on me remains.


At February 10, 2009 at 8:52:00 AM EST, Blogger Alice said...

Mature people learn that there are times your boss will ask for something that seems stupid or illogical when it isn't, so it's best to do what they say and just move on with your day.

Though it is difficult when you have lots of reasons to question your superior's judgement.

At February 10, 2009 at 10:00:00 AM EST, Blogger Lars Shalom said...

follow on

At February 10, 2009 at 2:14:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Following orders without understanding them is a double-edged sword.

For obvious reasons, the education system in post-war Germany (and Austria) made a point in teaching that you should not "just follow orders".

So where is the golden middle ground?
I suppose, what you say should be tempered with the following guide lines:
- there have to be moral guidelines that you will not cross, no matter what the order is (and who gives it. e.g. akadat itzchak)

- You should investigate/you should not turn a blind eye when something seems amiss.
By the way, this is also your responsibility as a worker: If he says "purple" and you know it will be printed on purple ground, you should
1) draw his attention to the fact
2) If he insists, have him sign that he really wants that, so that you will not be blamed afterwards.

At February 10, 2009 at 5:01:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

We need to choose our battles wisely, and not waste time losing them over trivial matters.

By the way, if we want to get things done successfully at work, the best way is to convince the boss or customer that it was his idea from the start.

At February 10, 2009 at 6:44:00 PM EST, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This can be dangerous too (i.e. doing without thinking).

At February 10, 2009 at 9:17:00 PM EST, Blogger Neil Harris said...

Truly overwriting your desires for what Hashem's wants isn't always so easy when it comes to "grey" area. Great post.


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