Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 16, Issue 48;   November 30, 2016: How to Hijack Meetings

How to Hijack Meetings

by

Recognizing the tactics meeting hijackers use is the first step to reducing the incidence of this abuse. Here are some of those tactics.
A leopard stalking its prey

A leopard stalking its prey. In this slinking gait, leopards (and most cats) achieve stealth by limiting the ability of the prey animal to notice their movements. Other contributions to stealth include the leopard's coloration, and, in this instance, the use of the tree for cover.

Meeting hijackers can achieve stealth by means of seemingly innocent overt actions, and by undertaking less-than-innocent actions out of the awareness of most meeting participants. The former are analogous to the slinking gait of the cat, while the latter are analogous to using a tree for cover. Photo (cc) Sharp Photography courtesy WikiMedia.

Disclaimer: I am not advocating meeting hijacking. If meetings are orderly, and conducted fairly and with respect for all participants, hijacking is an unethical abuse. It's a means of achieving results disrespectfully and unfairly. Understanding the tactics of meeting hijackers is therefore a sound basis for controlling their behavior and limiting their success. With that goal, I offer this field manual for aspiring hijackers.

Be stealthy
Conceal your intentions. Stealth delays the response of anyone intent on keeping the meeting on track.
Various tactics seem innocent, but actually are helpful to you, the hijacker. For example, if the Chair doesn't create an agenda, or if the agenda is weak, offer to write (or improve) the agenda before the meeting. Or to keep an item off the agenda, in advance of the meeting, propose other items that might pack the agenda, so there won't be time enough to address items you don't favor. Or encourage others to propose additional agenda items. If agenda packing doesn't work, don't oppose addressing the disfavored item. That just alerts people to your objective. Find other ways to freeze out the disfavored item. Pushing it off to the end of the meeting can work, if other items take longer than expected — a condition that you can bring about yourself.
Be judicious about personal attacks
It's important to undermine the credibility of any meeting participants who oppose your maneuvers. Because doing so in public is a tad risky, do it privately in advance. Find ways to suggest arguments to others, or to raise questions about the integrity of your opponents, or to subtly encourage others to attack your opponents, either before or during the meeting.
The credibility-destroying Understanding the tactics of meeting
hijackers is a sound basis for
controlling their behavior
and limiting their success
information you provide need not actually be true. To protect yourself, you can cite unnamed sources: "I heard that…" or "I saw a report somewhere that…"
Disrupt the parking lot or not-agenda
If a topic you want to address has been allocated to the parking lot or not-agenda, raise it anyway, along with a persuasive case for addressing it immediately. This tactic is also helpful for agenda packing to prevent discussion of disfavored items.
Caution: using this tactic more than once per meeting risks exposing your hijacking attempt for what it is.
Exploit the power to write history
Volunteer to be the meeting scribe or secretary. In case all your attempts failed, and the disfavored item was actually addressed, or an item you did favor was not addressed, you can "adjust" the meeting minutes to reflect your favored outcome, whatever that was. You can do this even if you aren't the official scribe, if you distribute your version first.
As the official scribe, don't be too heavy-handed. The minutes must bear some resemblance to reality, if you ever want another opportunity to use this tactic. Bend the truth — twist it into knots if necessary — but don't break it in any undisputable way.

Have you seen these tactics in use in your meetings? Next time, we'll explore some preventative tactics. First in this series | Next in this series Go to top Top  Next issue: Preventing Meeting Hijacking  Next Issue

101 Tips for Effective MeetingsDo you spend your days scurrying from meeting to meeting? Do you ever wonder if all these meetings are really necessary? (They aren't) Or whether there isn't some better way to get this work done? (There is) Read 101 Tips for Effective Meetings to learn how to make meetings much more productive and less stressful — and a lot more rare. Order Now!

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See also Effective Meetings and Devious Political Tactics for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

The United States curling team at the Torino Olympics in 2006Coming November 22: Motivation and the Reification Error
We commit the reification error when we assume, incorrectly, that we can treat abstract constructs as if they were real objects. It's a common error when we try to motivate people. Available here and by RSS on November 22.
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When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.

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