When no offense is the best defense
Have you ever been called out into a public battle? I don’t mean Thunderdome style hand-to-hand combat. I mean being unfairly, aggressively challenged during a business meeting on your ideas, facts or opinions. And when everyone else is watching, it adds a level of intensity and heightens your need to mount a defense. Or does it?
When a peer chooses a public forum to go after you, it’s usually for one of the following reasons:
A) They’re just a big jerk and need to take a chill pill
B) They are envious and want to knock you down in front of the boss
C) They are hoping that others join in on their criticism
D) They have a legitimate point
If the reason is A, B or C, don’t join the fight. Find a tactful way to take the discussion offline, which translates to “let’s not perform for the group.”
If the reason is D, this is an opportunity to show your receptiveness. Say something like “That’s a good question. We actually considered that issue in our planning, and apparently haven’t covered all the ground we need to. I’d be happy to get your suggested solutions in a follow-up meeting. Will Wednesday work for you?”
Of course this all depends on who’s calling you out at high noon. If it’s your boss, you may just have to take the bullets in the town square. Because challenging the boss in front of others is a major CLM (Career-Limiting Move.) But don’t accept hostility from peers in public. Take a breath, listen and deflect like a pro. Bullies won’t know what to do with you.
Of course, once you get them alone…