On more than one occasion, my Dad has told me this story, and he swears it is true:

One day, the President of his company was walking into their headquarters. As he was walking in, he noticed that some workers were erecting scaffolding around the outside front of the building.

When he got inside, he went to the Building Services Manager and asked “What’s all the scaffolding for?” The manager interpreted the question from the President as a sign of disapproval and ordered the workers to take down the scaffolding.

At the end of the day, as the President was leaving, he noticed that the scaffolding was all gone. So he sought out the Building Services Manager again and asked him “Where is all the scaffolding?”

If you’ve spent enough time in the workplace, you’ve no doubt encountered this phenomena before. Someone in upper management questions a project you’re working on or something you’re specifically doing at that point, and someone (or you) interpret the questioning, or the tone or delivery of the question, as disapproval.

A friend of mine was telling me about a promotional email schedule he created, which was questioned by his manager as the emails were starting to go. Instead of explaining why he made the schedule the way he did so the manager might understand the rationale, he altered the schedule at the last minute in the way he assumed the manager would want it.

By altering the schedule, the entire production and creative staff had to reshuffle their work schedules and priorities at the last minute. This lead to all of the emails going out later than they needed to, and behind the timing of the original schedule.

When management questions a decision you made on a project, they’re often simply seeking information. If you don’t stand up and explain the thinking behind what you’re doing, you risk management making a poor decision because they don’t have all the information they need.

And if that happens, and things go poorly, that’s not managements fault because of the decision they made. It’s your fault for not giving management all of the information they need to make a good decision.

Everyone wants to be seen as a good worker who’s making intelligent decisions for the company. But management will have a far bigger issue with you if you allow them to make a poor, uninformed decision by withholding information. Better to have the courage to stand by what you know and what you’re doing. If they want you to change course, that impression will only last a minute. But the respect they will have for you will last much longer.