Still, you should know how to do it so you can recognize treachery when someone else makes an underhanded move. These tried-and-true techniques (many from the U.S. State Department) can thwart policy changes, dodge direct orders, and reverse decisions.
If you face a new course of action that you don’t like, act fast:
First, insist on a personal hearing and suggest reasons for reconsidering.
- Say this is the wrong time to implement the change. Perhaps it’s the wrong time of year, the wrong time in the budget process, or the wrong time in light of public opinion as influenced by recent events. In fact, there might never be the right time.
- Say it has unforseen implications and describe them in gory detail. Be creative and don’t confine yourself to likely events.
- Say it merits a special task force study. By the time the task force is appointed and finishes its meetings, months will have slipped past. Remember, the more people on a committee, the longer each meeting takes, so think big.
- Propose something different. If it’s attractive enough, you could create indecision and confusion, paralyzing the whole process.
- Control the information your superiors receive, and distort the facts if you must. This is dirty and dangerous fighting at its most foul, but if you’ve been following the news lately about the White House, you’ve seen that it works.
If that doesn’t get you what you want, demand a meeting to discuss the change.
- Win the support of the discussion leader before the meeting – or better yet, suggest an ally as the leader.
- During or before the meeting, imply that your opponents will suffer negative consequences if they fight for their decision. You can do this by winning the support of their superiors or by making them feel under-informed and out of place at the meeting. They might decide a fight isn’t worth it.
- Make sure your supporters are a majority at the meeting. If necessary, juggle the overall size of the meeting to make the numbers work.
- Have them approve your proposal. To clinch the debate, arrange for someone else to introduce the idea so you can back it effectively and selflessly.
If all else fails, stall. Make sure no one ever implements the decision.
- Define the issue or decision in complete, excruciating detail. You’ll run out of time before you run out of details.
- Find a problem with the decision and show how the problem cannot be separated from related problems. That way, you can’t solve the problem or implement the decision until you first solve everything else.
- Look for all the methods to approach the decision. If you draw this out long enough, you might never find the opportunity to approach the decision by any of those methods.
- Advise against moving “too rapidly.” With luck, you’ll never get moving at all.
- Redirect the issue. For example, everyone wants more efficient administrative work, but right now you especially need to get the billings out quicker, so stay focussed on the small picture.
- Wait until some expert can be consulted. Try to pick someone far away and very busy.
- Conclude that everyone has the same problems, so it’s just the normal way of doing business and you don’t have to change anything.
- Focus on personalities. Suggest that the person who made the original suggestion is unhappy with her job, so if her job can be improved, the problem will be solved.
- Start the search for the perfect answer. Since nothing will ever be perfect, you’ll never find it.
- Search for scapegoats. You’ll find plenty. You can blame sales; sales can blame management; management can blame the lawyers; and you can all blame the daily excess of email messages that require immediate attention.
— Sue Burke