I watched Pick of the Litter, a fascinating documentary about what it takes to become a guide dog for the blind.

Guide-dog-wannabes receive training in socialization, obedience, and guide functions (such as going right, or left) but one of the most crucial skills they are taught is when to disobey commands of their handler. The owners count on the dog to use judgment as to when an order would cause harm, such as ignoring a “forward” command that takes them in the path of a car backing out of a driveway or onto a track when the subway car has not yet arrived. It is essential that the guide dogs execute the orders of their owner – except when they know another course of action is best.

Isn’t it interesting that we teach dogs to use judgment and disobey but we too often forget to do this with humans? There are times when a supervisor’s mandates, or more frequently, directives that are imposed by several layers removed, fail to take into account the circumstances that those close to the issue can see. In those cases, it would be best for the organization if the front-line staff ignored the order and did something else but we fail to provide the permission and latitude for good judgment to intervene.

Let those who can see the situation at least weigh in on the impact of the request you are making. It’s not just guide dogs that may save you from peril by doing so.


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