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:
- 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?
- Decisions, Decisions: II
- Most of us have participated in group decision-making. The process can be frustrating and painful, but
it can also be thrilling. What processes do groups use to make decisions?
- The Perils of Piecemeal Analysis: Content
- A team member proposes a solution to the latest show-stopping near-disaster. After extended discussion,
the team decides whether or not to pursue the idea. It's a costly approach, because too often it leads
us to reject unnecessarily some perfectly sound proposals, and to accept others we shouldn't have.
- Speak for Influence
- Among the factors that determine the influence of contributions in meetings are the content of the contribution
and how it fits into the conversation. Most of the time, we focus too much on content and not enough on fit.
- Costs of the Catch-Me-Up Anti-Pattern: II
- When we interrupt a meeting to recap the action so far for a late-arriving attendee, the cost of the
recap itself is just the beginning. There are some less-obvious costs that can be even greater.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 17: Overt Belligerence in Meetings
- Some meetings lose their way in vain attempts to mollify a belligerent participant who simply will not be mollified. Here's one scenario that fits this pattern. Available here and by RSS on October 17.
- And on October 24: Conversation Irritants: I
- Conversations at work can be frustrating even when everyone tries to be polite, clear, and unambiguous. But some people actually try to be nasty, unclear, and ambiguous. Here's Part I of a small collection of their techniques. Available here and by RSS on October 24.
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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.