To Stay or Not to Stay (in My Lane)?

J. Keith Hughey


Volume XXI, Number 13 (Issue 1017) March 27, 2023

To Stay or Not to Stay (in My Lane)?

When was the last time you thought “It’s none of my business?” There again, what might qualify as your business? How do you make that call? What would be the proper course of action should you decide it is your business? In this post-9/11 era where we routinely hear public safety announcements telling us “If you see something, say something,” the need for and course of action when it involves something suspicious seems obvious. But is it the same for other things? I’ll explain…

Not long ago, someone I coach asked about a situation they encountered. To keep it brief, they are a manager in one division and they overheard an employee who works in another division get a little testy with a customer during a phone call. As she recounted the event, the employee’s behavior was not beyond the pale. Still, she wondered how to best handle such a situation should it happen again. To her way of thinking, she had three options in that moment: do nothing (as in it is none of my business/outside my lane), say something to the employee (who might think I am overstepping), or say something to the employee’s supervisor so that they might address it (but they too could think I am meddling – and thus getting outside my lane).

We all know individuals who choose to step outside their lane to travel in ours. If no one like that comes quickly to mind, you might look no further than some members of your family, a friend, a nosey neighbor, someone in another business unit who relishes sharing their wisdom at other’s expense, and so on. Barring information to the contrary, I think we ought to ascribe good intentions to these individuals. So, the real problem might lie in the delivery. Either that, or their input is problematic because they genuinely lack details, context, and/or their perspective is subject to one or more biases. Finally, there is the matter of their input being unsolicited.

On the other hand, one of the hallmarks of effective teams is the willingness and ability of the team members to put the interests of the organization first and foremost. We can add to that mutual accountability. There is also the wisdom found in the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” That pearl also squares with the “see something, say something” mindset. Add it up and perhaps we should take a keener interest in the things that go on around us. That is especially true if the actions strike us as inconsistent with our agreed service standards and shared societal values.

If we can agree on that, the next questions are when and where to intervene? Early intervention is usually the wisest course of action since allowing any questionable behavior to go unaddressed tends to convey the unfortunate message that the behavior is acceptable. As for who should be made aware of a needed change, I believe it is best if you start with the offending party. Escalating it too early can produce walls that will be hard to scale going forward, let alone dismantle.

As for the timing, content, and tone of the message, it is best if the input is delivered quickly after the event, in private (never in front of others), and in a tone and with language that conveys a critique of the event, not criticism of the individual.

You may see it differently. If so, I would welcome your feedback.

Soli Deo Gloria

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1

J. Keith Hughey

Mobile: (210)260-0955
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Transforming Potential into Unmatched Performance
Copyright 2023 by J. Keith Hughey. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction and redistribution of this essay as provided under the copyright laws of the United States of America. The entire early library of Monday Morning Musings issues may be found at Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

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