Discourse Tactics of the Weak Minded Executive

Watch out if you use these arguments…they show you are lazy.

Now and then, you come across a management tactic that is as frustrating as it is weak.

This article is about a few deflection tactics I’ve seen managers use, and why they convey a weak mind.

Picture it:  You are recommending a course of action to a senior manager.  You’ve done your homework, figured out the right course, and put together a solid set of facts.

And then you get smacked in the face with a bit of lazy logic…only it’s the kind of lazy logic that can’t be argued with…because it’s the kind of argument that, if you call it out, proves the arguer is a raving lunatic.

Try these on for size… 5 argument tactics of weak minded executives.

Type 1:  The Straw Man

You:  We really ought to protect Bill in accounting during this round of layoffs…he is a strong contributor.

Them:  Yeah, but we can’t save everyone…

Hey…mister manager…I didn’t say “let’s save everyone.”  I said, “let’s save Bill.”  There’s a difference.  “Saving everyone” is a straw man.

Type 2:  The false dichotomy

You: Investigating the salty snacks segment has merit.  There could be a few gems in there.

Them:  Yeah, but I’m not going to sink millions in capital to get in there, so why bother.

Dear leader: There wasn’t an investment proposal, much less one that requires millions.  You made that up.  Your idea that it’s all or nothing?  That’s a false dichotomy.

Type 3: The ad hominem

You: The marketing team put together this outstanding set of data that says we should pull back from the frozen snacks area.

Them:  The marketing team?  The next time I get a good recommendation from them will be the first time.

Dear boss:  Perhaps this is the first time. Attacking the group that created the data does nothing to advance your strategy (or reputation as a critical thinker).

Type 4: The pocket veto

You:  We are ready to make a decision on the omega project.

Them:  Where’s my jacket, I have a lunch appointment.

Managers who won’t make decisions are worse than those who make bad ones.

Type 5: The reductio ad absurdum

You: He’s a bit high priced, but he’s the best sales rep I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot.

Them: Yeah, but if we hired everyone at this price, we’d go out of business.

This manager not only makes an absurd generalization, but he also betrays ignorance of how talent markets work.

I’m sure you have plenty of examples of argument tactics used by managers when they just want to avoid the issue.  The key for all of us is to address decisions directly. Using weak minded tactics not only proves that you are a lazy leader, but it makes you look bad, too.

These are tactics used by little minds everywhere. Often, some of the “smartest” executives go to them on a daily basis.

What do you think?

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