You have my permission to tell your boss they are wrong. Here’s why

That’s right. While everyone around the table is in apparent agreement about something (and especially if the boss is there!), you’re going to raise your hand and say, “Are we sure about that? Maybe this isn’t such a good idea…” Or, "That idea is terrible! And Mark Phillips told me to tell you that!" (OK, maybe leave me out of it.)

Aftermarket Intel Editor and Publisher Mark Phillips

I have a love-hate relationship with meetings. While I enjoy meeting face-to-face with people, I also understand that while we’re meeting, it means other work isn’t getting done. And if the meeting doesn’t result in a decision or meaningful dialogue, it’s best not to have a meeting. Maybe a quick email or video call would suffice.

The Tenth Man concept is intended to challenge what everyone else in the room thinks and approach any problem from a new angle. It’s intended to smash the “conventional wisdom” that is often pervasive in the working world.

But if you are going to have that meeting and a decision is being made, you have a new duty: You’re going to play devil’s advocate and say “no.” 

That’s right. While everyone around the table is in apparent agreement about something (and especially if the boss is there!), you’re going to raise your hand and say, “Are we sure about that? Maybe this isn’t such a good idea…” Or, “That idea is terrible! And Mark Phillips told me to tell you that!” (OK, maybe leave me out of it.)

Let me explain all this. 

The concept, known as The Tenth Man (or Woman, Person, could be anyone), was developed after The October 1973 Yom Kippur War, known in the Arab World as the Ramadan War, according to the book “Why Dissent Matters” by William Kaplan. 

The Tenth Man concept is intended to challenge what everyone else in the room thinks and approach any problem from a new angle. It’s intended to smash the “conventional wisdom” that is often pervasive in the working world.

I’ll give you an example of a time when I employed the technique: 

Several colleagues and I once were pulled into a meeting with upper management to discuss a new product we were developing. 

Upper management, who had no role in developing or implementing the product, were insistent on telling the ones who would do the work how it would be done and who would be the potential end-users of the product. Dissent was not appreciated. 

The idea didn’t sound right to several of us around the table. So I raised my hand and explained my objections. This was despite the fact that many people, even though they disagreed with management, were shaking their heads in the affirmative to go on with the flawed idea. I was overruled and the product proceeded as planned.

The result? The product failed. Now, I’m no Nostradamus but I took into consideration a lot of information I gained from knowing the very people who should have been end-users of the product. But many of these people would be ignored in the eyes of management and the wrong people were seen as the consumers of the product.

Many bad ideas are pursued every day in business and while business moves fast, a little bit of dissent and more time considering other points of view could avoid them.

It’s important that if your company would like to implement such a policy that it’s discussed openly beforehand. This can help ensure that the person acting as The Tenth Man doesn’t endure attacks or bullying as a result of going against the grain. (I experienced neither but certainly a fair amount of eye-rolling!)

Here’s what I know: People working in companies around the world are just as smart as all the people who built this world and came before us. Why don’t we use their knowledge and ideas to the fullest? So, congratulations! Along with your other duties at work, add to them the title of Chief Dissenter. You could save your company time, money and other resources. You may not get a raise but just know that you’re doing something for the greater good.

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