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Topics: Career Development, Ethics, Organizational Culture
Is Verbal Approval Enough?
Recently I have been asked to take verbal directive to bypass a procedure in our company. The person giving the verbal does not own the process however, I do work weak matrix to functional structure and they are in charge of the group I support. I feel like verbal is too risky and I should get something greater in writing. Am I totally off base?
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Verbal approval must be accepted if and only if it is the decided method for a procedure in the governance process. Take into account I am talking about governance process. What you describe is dangerous beyond the approval itself. Is dangerous because something is wrong just in case a directive is "violating" a standard procedure she/he is the first person to defend and support it. By the way, I lived this situations lot of times. In fact, in my case, is funny because the same people that hired me to avoid the situation put me in the situation they tried to avoid.
Ruth -

If you are looking to get approval on an exception to a standard procedure you should definitely get "something" in writing from an appropriate authority. Otherwise, if there is an audit on the work done, that would be a clear finding.

It depends on the governance structure. Generally, people do not have the authority to bypass a process owned by another function, or who's process owner is higher up in the org chart.

For minor things, some team leaders may be delegated that authority. For major things, especially those that impact regulatory requirements, it may result in disciplinary action by the company up through fines, civil or criminal penalties, and getting barred from future contracts.

If you feel uncomfortable about it, then it sounds like it could be unethical so I would probably ask for it in writing to be safe. The downside to that, is you can get negative marks on a performance review for things like working together or something related to efficiency, if the management values expediency over process compliance.

In your situation, I would highly recommend getting something in writing even if it is as simple as an email. Circumstances might change in the future so it is always best to have such decisions documented.

1 reply by Ousmane Maiga
Aug 01, 2022 8:17 AM
Ousmane Maiga
Hi Rami - You are absolutely right. The best way to secure the project's deliverables to have a written endorsement from the right person.

I work in a weak matrix structure and the reason that I sometimes accept a directive to bypass a procedure is that the actual procedure is cumbersome and the person giving the directive is authorized to bypass the procedure.

However, I always make sure that I write an email to the person stating the verbal discussion and the decision as discussed. It depends on the work culture and the level of trust between the team members.
Hi Ruth,
You said "Recently I have been asked to take verbal directive to bypass a procedure in our company.. it sounds risky already... Getting something written and singed or via mail is good for documenting evidence....
Everyone has made good points. I can only say that in the pharmaceutical industry the "if it is not written, it doesn't exist" is impregnated everywhere.

So I would request this request / permssion recorded in paper or electronic format.
Hi Ruth,
if it were me I would send an email back to the requester starting with "on the foot of your verbal instruction to proceed I am undertaking the following actions. Can you confirm you are ok with this course of action?"
Hi Ruth,
It is not advisable to take a verbal acceptance.
I would prefer to involve process quality representative into this topic and the depending on the impact of that decision, I would also take it to relevant stakeholders so everyone is on same pace and document it as an MOM at least.
This will make it an acceptable solution.
Hope this is a possibility in you case.

Verbal or documented directives are ok as long as the directives come from the authorized person. In your case, the person who gave you the verbal directive did not own the process so I guess he or she also did not have authority to ask anyone to bypass the process without consulting the process owner. Follow Alan tactic to protect yourself when bad things may happen in the future.
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