Why Your Gut May Be Right and Your Boss May Be Wrong

Most of us grow up learning not to question authority. But gut instinct can be a valuable guide to making better decisions at work, if used in conjunction with facts and data.

Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels
Photo by Moose Photos from Pexels

In my role as a business leader, I often see that whenever I ask for feedback about my opinions at work, most of my peers tend to agree with my point of view. There are very few who challenge it or ask ‘why?’ From early on in our lives, it is deeply ingrained in our minds to concede to authority, even if our instinct says otherwise. This is especially true in India, where the ‘power distance’ is among the highest in the world. However, doing so not only undermines one’s perspective, but may also lead to ignoring one’s gut instinct, which more often than not points you in the right direction.

Delegating is very important for high-performing teams and organisations. It’s the most effective means to build the next line of leaders. Here we often talk about empowering employees in the organisation, encouraging them to share their thoughts, reach out to senior management or even their managers if they have any doubts/suggestions regarding company strategy. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to happen. More often than not, employees tend to ignore their instincts and follow fairly straitjacketed approaches in line with deliverables and expectations.

We must learn to trust our instincts and have faith in them. The question is: how do we begin this journey and transform our thought process?

Listen to your inner voice

In today’s hyper-rational world where everything is backed by data, I’m sure you ignore that tense feeling in your stomach, when you sense what’s happening around you is wrong. Don’t get me wrong here; data is an important tool to provide logical reasoning for any decision you make. However, that inner alarm system of your body is also important as I feel it is an accumulation of all your experiences. This alarm rings only when you make an effort to listen to it. I have sensed it many times while making decisions at work. I give myself a moment, pause and understand what’s going around. I ask myself: is this the only way I can go about a certain situation, or is there a better alternative? And then, the answer comes to me. It does not happen overnight but comes from experiences, interactions and most importantly, from being aware of things around you. Rather than blindly follow what you’ve been told at work, understand why it is happening. And if you don’t have the answer, ask for the reason behind it, and if possible, suggest a better way to go about it.   

Discuss your thoughts

Keeping your gut feeling to yourself won’t do any good. Discuss it with your colleagues and boss and share your thoughts. Understand the background; what others have to say about the situation; whether they are open to a different approach; whether it would require any further analysis; and whether it is worth diving deep into the situation. This discussion gives you an initial sense on the acceptability of your perspective helps you understand others’. I have always believed in discussing my thoughts and voicing my concerns. It not only helps you understand what others think, but may also give others a fresh perspective which they may not have thought of and can be explored further.    

Back your intuition

Just because your gut says something is wrong or there is a better way to handle a particular situation, it is not enough. It’s important to justify it appropriately as well. You need to provide others a substantial reason to believe that feeling. Figure out if there is any precedent or data which supports your position. Understand whether your thoughts are constructive or a mere inkling. You can accordingly take it ahead and portray your stand to your seniors or colleagues. This attitude not only makes you trust yourself and builds in confidence, but also instils faith amongst others who start believing in you. Most of the time, your instincts may lead to the right choice. Occasionally, they may not. I strongly believe that the more you learn about trusting your instincts, the more you will know how to tune them properly and use them aptly to make decisions. It’s only when you trust your inner voice and beliefs that you can empower yourself and make a difference.

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