The Benefits of Questioning Authority

April 13, 2022
Posted in blog
April 13, 2022 Lindsay Tighe

The Benefits of Questioning Authority

Not many people in ‘authority’ like to be questioned. It is often interpreted as a criticism or a slight on their authority, so they prefer to not open themselves up to questions. Even if they do say they are open to questions, it is very rare for the person to not try to defend themselves or argue against the different viewpoints offered.

It is because of these issues, that people get scared to challenge or question and so the status quo prevails, based on what the person in authority wants.

Of course, there is also a chance that people have become too lazy to question. The ‘why bother’ attitude prevails (possibly because of the previous adverse experiences of questioning) and the ‘authority’ gets away pretty much with doing what they want.

Another prevailing issue here is that of ‘trust’. If the authority figure is trusted, then no-one thinks to question, because it’s not possible that the trusted authority could be wrong. Whilst this is flattering to the person in authority, what if their agenda is indeed questionable, and yet no-one asks the questions because they blindly put their trust in that person.

I am challenging you today to stop and think about which of these ‘personas’ maybe you.

Are you the person in authority that doesn’t like to be challenged? Even if you say you are open to being questioned, please be honest and do a reality check.

Are you the person that is too afraid to challenge? Do you do what you are told without questioning or challenge because you fear the consequences of speaking up and what are the adverse consequences of this?

Are you the person who can’t be bothered to challenge? Are you easy going and accepts ‘whatever’ simply because it’s easier. What are the adverse consequences of this?

Are you the person who trusts authority? Whilst we could say this is admirable, how do you know who to trust? What are the adverse consequences of this?

Clearly not questioning will ultimately have adverse consequences on many levels, including:

  • We create a top-down authoritarian approach
  • People will be less engaged and motivated
  • People will become passive and possibly resentful
  • We miss out on new ideas and any creativity, assuming the authority knows best
  • We can end up somewhere where we don’t want to be

By way of inspiration and action here are my reflective questions:

If you are a person in authority

What will you do to not only encourage but enable challenge and questioning?

If you are a person who doesn’t question authority

What will you do to either:

  • Be more courageous
  • Be less accepting
  • Ask more questions rather than simply trust

By having the freedom to question and suggest we not only create a more open culture where everyone has a voice and feels valued, we create far better outcomes from having the benefit of the collective voice rather than the voice of authority.