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Also, I don't intend to suggest that Bob's actions are OK *because* he's prepared to accept the consequences. I do believe that what Bob did is OK, and -- separately -- I believe being prepared to accept the consequences of a willful violation is a third option alongside "follow orders" or "resign."
What more can I say? I'm an avid libertarian. :)
I'll (likely) leave it at that (though I will certainly read any further comment you might have). Thanks for the discussion!
I'm not saying that disobeying your boss is universally good. I am saying, though, that there is -- and should be -- room for discretion, on the part of the employee and the boss. Bob applied discretion when he did what he did regardless of his boss's warning. The boss applied discretion in simply reprimanding Bob rather than simply thinking "violation equals 'you get fired.' "
And more simply, I still believe in the existence of that third option, the Bob Option: Do what you believe is right and accept the consequences.
For me, there's no "social media Kool Aid" in this equation. Let's swap out that piece of the puzzle for something else Bob could have done within the company that he could see as positive but his colleagues could justifiably see as negative. Like, perhaps, subverting an established chain of command in the customer support department and just fixing customer issues without the needed approval or review. Using his judgment and whatnot. Being flexible on warranty coverage or something.
Perhaps I'm being a little too utopian here, but as I see it, if an employee is acting out of good intentions, making customers happy, he or she is doing no wrong. Even if those actions are in violation of the boss's orders. That's right: Disobeying the boss in favor of the customer is not a wrong. (Albert, are you reading this comment? Maybe I should have used a fake name... :)
Now, is that boss within reason to can that employee? Yes. And if Bob's violation -- disobeying his boss -- really were so flagrant and offensive to the hierarchy, he probably would already be canned.
The issue isn't "you can't ignore your boss." The issue is "the boss can't ignore the customer." Yes, there are all sorts of legal, regulatory and organizational rules in place that could cause serious headaches here. And if Bob were in violation of anything like that, he could and probably should be fired.
I believe what Chip means is "you can't ignore your boss -- and expect to get away with it." "Get away with it" as in avoid getting reprimanded, fired, causing harm to the company or the like. And Bob didn't "get away with it." Without having all of the necessary facts, I'm going to jump to the conclusion that Bob received his due response from his employer. If he were in one of those exceptionally tightly regulated industries (Chip mentions pharma as an example) and he ran afoul of those regulations, the response surely would have been harsher.
Chip writes: "Employees do not have the right to ignore corporate policies they disagree with. It's fine to disagree, make your case, or ask for an explanation. But the choice is clear: follow legitimate orders or resign."
I disagree. There's at least one more option -- Bob's path: Do what you believe is right and accept the consequences.