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 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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More articles on Effective Meetings:
- Remote Facilitation in Synchronous Contexts: II
- Facilitators of synchronous distributed meetings — meetings that occur in real time, via telephone
or video — encounter problems that facilitators of face-to-face meetings do not. Here's Part II
of a little catalog of those problems, and some suggestions for addressing them.
- Twelve Tips for More Masterful Virtual Presentations: II
- Virtual presentations are unlike face-to-face presentations, because in the virtual environment, we're
competing for audience attention against unanticipated distractions. Here's Part II of a collection
of tips for masterful virtual presentations.
- 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.
- Rationalizing Creativity at Work: I
- Much of the work of modern organizations requires creative thinking. But financial and schedule pressures
can cause us to adopt processes that unexpectedly and paradoxically suppress creativity, thereby increasing
costs and stretching schedules. What are the properties of effective approaches?
- Preventing Sidebars
- Sidebar conversations between meeting participants waste time and reduce meeting effectiveness. How
can we prevent them?
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 27: Stone-Throwers at Meetings: II
- A stone-thrower in a meeting is someone who is determined to halt forward progress. Motives vary, from embarrassing the chair to holding the meeting hostage in exchange for advancing an agenda. What can chairs do about stone-throwers? Available here and by RSS on March 27.
- And on April 3: Career Opportunity or Career Trap: I
- When we're presented with an opportunity that seems too good to be true, as the saying goes, it probably is. Although it's easy to decline free vacations, declining career opportunities is another matter. Here's a look at indicators that a career opportunity might be a career trap. Available here and by RSS on April 3.
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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.