When no offense is the best defense

locking horns

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…

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5 Comments on “When no offense is the best defense”

  1. Jenny Says:

    Does this have anything to do with our JC iPod track idea?

  2. John Says:

    Maybe you can tell us how to “listen and deflect like a pro”.

  3. Larry Baker Says:

    I always try to welcome these public challenges. Not only to get to the root of what is that particular challenger’s agenda, but also to encourage discussion amongst the group. The trick is to keep it positive and under control. The ‘follow-up meeting’ tactic continues to amaze me on its effectiveness.

    Personally, what gets under my skin the most are the ‘passive aggressives’. Those people that are very vocal on the topic before and after a meeting, but remain completely silent during the meeting.

  4. Roland Takaoka Says:

    Interesting, David… This is great advice.

    One thing I do know is that the one who starts the agression is usually already “up” for the fight. They show it in their countenance, and it is so obvious, that most people won’t step into the challenge, whether the darts are cast AT them, or just to the group in general. Often just that display of attitude deters others from participating further, and then the initiator has the floor with no reciprocal counterbalance. It catches others off-guard, and that can make the recipients of that negative energy feel a bit shaky.

    As formible as this move seems to be, it’s probably not a good idea whether it comes from the boss or an underling. I am a true believer that motivation of employees is higher (the same applies to parents with kids…) if they are excited in a positive way, and not scared to speak and threatened into action.

    …not to mention that if the aggressive move does come from an underling, that person is afraid of something… like being pointed at themselves for not doing THEIR job, or being exposed as incompetent. Hence, pointing the finger at others is a great tactic under which they hide… so they think. However I don’t think a good administrator will fall for this.

    One other thing to consider is that if someone has a problem that they wish to direct at someone in the group meeting, perhaps putting them IN the spotlight is a good idea. Something like, “…sounds like you have a good feel for this, Mr. DooDah… How do you think we can better handle this, and how will we all benefit?” This is best handled with little emotion and only professional investment.

    …then if that person really does have a better idea, the pin-pointed person has been wise to include the finger pointer’s opinion, and potentially everyone can win, including that you may have the opportunity to turn a challenge into a one-sided team sport… maybe even a new/better friend and co-worker.

    Now, THAT sounds like a challenge I’d like to take on!

    Roland.

  5. Fred Hensel Says:

    David such behavior is usually a lack of testicular fortitude on their part. When I use to encounter that kinda thing I would sleigh them as fast as possible and warn them never to bring a knife to a gunfight. They hate you but they don’t screw with you. But that’s me!


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