For your review vs. for your approval

Posted on Posted in General, Meetings

“For your approval” implies need. You require it to move forward, because of an explicit rule, or implicit social contract.

On the other hand, “for your review” implies want. It can get you three things that would be nice to have before moving forward:

  1. Good will. You think the review is a courtesy to the reviewer, and you’ll get you a “thank you” in return (or it’ll at least prevent you from getting a dirty look).
  2. Cover. The review cleverly makes the reviewer an accomplice, someone to share (or take) the blame if things go bad.
  3. Value. The reviewer’s input or expertise will presumably make the thing being reviewed better.

Here’s the reality:

  1. What you think is a courtesy to the reviewer is often a burden. Sometimes when I do an interview, the interviewer will ask me to review it before it goes live. I know they’re trying to be nice, but most of the time, I don’t want to spend the time verifying. The same goes for managers and teammates who trust their people, and don’t wish to be over-consulted.
  2. Shirking responsibility isn’t clever, it’s destructive. It can eradicate trust, build resentment, and is the exact opposite strategy you should pursue if you want to be a linchpin in your organization.
  3. Someone else’s input can absolutely add value. But whenever possible “for your review” should be opt-in, time sensitive, and specific. For example:

    “Hi, Mary. This is going to print, and I’d really love your input. If you have any comments specifically about the layout then go ahead and send them to me before end of Tuesday. Otherwise, no reply necessary.”

    It’s rare that the benefits of their input are worth the cost of jeopardizing your timeline.

One final note:

It’s easy to convince yourself that you need an approval, even when in actuality, you simply want a review. Don’t.

3 thoughts on “For your review vs. for your approval

  1. I wish I had read this before I just sent a ‘for your review’ email just a few minutes ago! I should have sent for your approval, since that’s what I was looking for. No time like the present to start shoring up these kinds of things.


  2. Thanks Al, I can’t tell you how many times your message seems to drop into the middle of the exact situation I’m addressing…your perspective always provides a valuable calibration. Recently sent a video message for “review” to my boss prior to broadcast and when I had to foll up for comment I definitely felt “I’m now a burden” – good advice on the “opt in” solution when it’s truly necessary – great stuff

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