As you probably know by now I’m a pretty big proponent of asking for things, but the one thing I am not a fan of is asking for is permission.
However, many adults feel the need to ask for permission to advance in a professional context, like Kal.
Kal reached out to me because Kal was interested in taking one of my courses.
I’ve been enjoying your weekly newsletters, and I’m really interested in taking your Confident Communicator Course. I’d like to showcase the product I’ve been working on at an upcoming conference, and I think the course would help me prepare for my first talk.
However, I’m concerned about the timing for classes, because it’s during work hours.
See my boss doesn’t really appreciate us taking time during work hours to do other things. So I’m going to check with my boss and ask if it’s OK for me to attend.
I followed up with Kal and asked if the company was sponsoring Kal’s attendance. Turns out Kal was footing the bill!
I cringed when I read Kal’s email.
Maybe it’s just me…
But the thought of having to ask a boss permission to step out for an hour a few times a week for just two months to attend a course that would ultimately benefit the company got to me.
It got to me because asking for permission is often a sign that employees are working under a boss who leads by fear.
I didn’t want to jump to conclusions about Kal’s boss, so I followed up asking if others in the company had sought out training and how the boss had responded.
A couple colleagues had tried to before, but ultimately there was no financial support or even encouragement provided. Our boss made it seem like it was a huge inconvenience. My colleagues who were committed to advancing themselves didn’t bother to ask. They’d often lie and say they had to go to the doctor or pick up their kids.
What happens when we ask for permission
When we ask people who are in a position of power such as a boss or supervisor for permission to do something, that doesn’t really impact them or the company, it gives them too much control over our lives and careers. Control that they don’t deserve. Their job is to guide us, not mandate what we can and can’t do.
It also make us rely on their approval to move forward, and if they don’t approve then it stunts our personal growth.
Permission seeking is also a form of procrastination. Often people who are reluctant to make decisions for themselves will seek permission as a way to procrastinate. If they don’t get approval, they’ll say things like, “I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.” They don’t acknowledge their own ability to make a decision and move forward.
Inform don’t ask
If there is something you really want to do during work hours, it’s OK to inform your boss and team. Here’s a simple example, “I’m going to be taking a class three times a week at 3pm for an hour for two months. I understand this is during work time, but it’s important to my personal growth, and I’d appreciate your understanding. During this time, I’ll be away from my computer and unable to respond to messages, but once the class is over, I’ll be sure to respond to your requests.”
This is especially important when you have a boss who leads through fear, because when you inform, rather than ask for permission, they quickly realize they don’t have power over you.
When you do ask
I don’t want you to think this is carte blanche to use up company time. There are situations where it makes sense to ask permission.
Such as a situation where your actions are going to impact your immediate team or organization, or you’re planning to make use of company resources.
However, even in those situations, you want it to be a balanced conversation.
For example, I had an employee who wanted to attend a conference and wanted to take a couple other developers along. The employee approached me, told me about the conference, mentioned how the other developers attending would benefit the team, and then asked if there was a budget to sponsor it.
At the time our budget was limited, so sending 3 developers would be a lot of money. I knew I could send one for sure.
The employee made a gentle request asking me, “Would you mind checking with the CFO?”
It wasn’t a bad idea, and I was open to the suggestion. The CFO approved and they were happy to have the opportunity to attend the conference together.
Now I want to know, when was the last time you informed your boss rather than asked for permission to advance? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below!