Views on improving the integrity of global capital markets
06 December 2019

When It Is Smart to Say No: Exploring the Concept of Intelligent Disobedience

Everyone knows what it means to be obedient. It is following the rules or adhering to an established way of doing things. But when is it smart to not obey an order or request? What if an authority figure asks you to do something that could cause harm to others, be unethical, or violate the law?

“Nearly every week we read about a tragedy or scandal that could have been prevented if individuals had said no to ill-advised or illegitimate orders,” according to Ira Chaleff, president of Executive Coaching and Consulting Associates in Washington, DC, and author of Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told To Do Is Wrong.

Chaleff sat down with Sonia Gandhi, Director of Ethics Education and Professional Standards (EMEA) at CFA Institute, to talk about Intelligent Disobedience, a concept inspired by practices used in training guide dogs. He talks about when and how to disobey inappropriate orders and the pitfalls of the “just following orders” rationalization. He also discusses how you can start to effectively express opposition when it is required.

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