Solve the Permission vs. Forgiveness Dilemma: Apply “Per-Giveness”

Have you had this experience? You need to choose a course of action. Yet you wrestle with whether to run it by your boss first. You think, “Maybe she’ll say ‘yes.’ But maybe she’ll say ‘no,’ which will frustrate me. Or maybe she’ll say … nothing. I’ll be left in limbo, which is even worse than ‘no.’”

If you’re a boss, have you had any of these experiences? Your employees keep you in the dark about what they’re doing. You think, “I have to guess what they’re up to!” Or the opposite is true. You think, “I have to tell them everything. Can’t they think for themselves?!”

If any of these scenarios resonate, I’ve got a tool for you. The next time a decision needs to be made, don’t treat permission or forgiveness as an “either/or.” Create a third category: “Per-giveness,” which goes like this:

  • Permission: Prior authorization from the boss is required. Without it, you don’t go forward.
  • Forgiveness: As the saying goes, “Just do it.” If things go wrong, read my post on how to apologize
  • PerGiveness: Let the boss know (a) what you’re planning to do; (b) why you think it’s a good idea; and (c) when you’re planning to do it. Give the boss an opportunity to weigh in but don’t require it. Here’s a sample email message.

Hi Boss,

I would like to because . I plan to do so on . Let me know if you have questions or wish to discuss this first.

                   If you hear nothing by the date and time specified, do it. 

What are the benefits of per-giveness?

  • For employees, per-giveness creates a healthy balance between management and micromanagement. Employees have more freedom to act and are spared the dreaded limbo state.
  • For bosses, per-giveness keeps them informed. You have an opportunity to weigh in but aren’t required. You can delegate responsibility without creating a hands-off/micromanagement dichotomy. Also, if you’re struggling with “yes,” “no” or “maybe,” you have another option—quietly let your employee make the call. No more stewing in indecision while leaving your employees hanging.

So give per-giveness a try. You won’t regret it. 


I plan to wash the dishes after the Super Bowl.

Let me know if you have questions or wish to discuss this first.