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 successinformation 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.
Do you spend
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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- Let Me Finish, Please
- We use meetings to exchange information and to explore complex issues. In open discussion, we tend to
interrupt each other. Interruptions can be disruptive, distracting, funny, essential, and frustratingly
common. What can we do to limit interruptions without depriving ourselves of their benefits?
- Questioning Questions
- In meetings and other workplace discussions, questioning is a common form of conversational contribution.
Questions can be expensive, disruptive, and counterproductive. For most exchanges, there is a better way.
- The Perils of Piecemeal Analysis: Group Dynamics
- When a team relies on group discussion alone to evaluate proposals for the latest show-stopping near-disaster,
it exposes itself to the risk that perfectly sound proposals might be inappropriately rejected. The
source of some of this risk is the nature of group discussion.
- Discussion Distractions: I
- Meetings could be far more productive, if only we could learn to recognize and prevent the distractions
that lead us off topic and into the woods. Here is Part I of a small catalog of distractions frequently
seen in meetings.
- Meta-Debate at Work
- Workplace discussions sometimes take the form of informal debate, in which parties who initially have
different perspectives try to arrive at a shared perspective. Meta-debate is one way things can go wrong.
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- Suggesting a better way of doing things can sometimes backfire surprisingly and intensely. Making suggestions privately reduces that risk, but introduces a different risk. Available here and by RSS on November 21.
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- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.