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Why IT Pros Need to Accept the Premise of Intelligent Disobedience

What if you were approached by your CEO and asked to commit an action that you know is wrong, maybe even illegal? Don Tennant, writing for IT Business Edge, explores this idea of intelligent disobedience and how it differs greatly from civil disobedience.

Intelligent disobedience is a situation in which you are approached by a supervisor and asked to do something that you know could have detrimental results. The key difference between this and civil disobedience is that you are obeying a chain of command and not simply developing these actions independently.

Ira Chaleff, author of Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do Is Wrong, elaborates on what to do to not only avoid illegal action, but to appease your supervisor. You need to weigh your short-term risk with the long-term consequences. The possibility of losing your job is far less detrimental than being incarcerated. There is also the possibility that you simply heard the supervisor’s request wrong, and asking for clarification can reveal they do not actually want you to commit any illegal acts.

If the situation is that your supervisor is asking for you to do something illegal, then you need to assert yourself then and there, refusing to do this potentially destructive action. You need to steer the CEO and the company itself away from this predicament, take a step back, and ask the CEO what he or she is really attempting to accomplish. Perhaps you can suggest a better solution that has less risk. Sometimes IT professionals need to educate others on what they are actually able and unable to do.

Chaleff gives an excellent example of how IT specialists can address risk from the beginning:

Let’s say you were asked to do something with some code that you knew wasn’t a best practice. It’s a shortcut that makes the system more vulnerable, and the system could get hacked. And three years down the road, there’s a hack that causes power to go out in a hospital, and somebody dies. If you know that what you’re being asked to do potentially has that danger, and there are safer ways to do it, you need to take a stand now.

The bottom line is that issues such as these are a matter of risk management and need to be approached with caution.

You can read the original article here: http://www.itbusinessedge.com/blogs/from-under-the-rug/why-it-pros-need-to-accept-the-premise-of-intelligent-disobedience.html

About Danielle Koehler

Danielle is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. She has degrees in English and human resource management from Shippensburg University.

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