More from the “Double Secret” Handbook for bad Executives

Found this chapter neatly folded and tucked away in a copy of Execution. An apt hiding place?

Chapter 5 Tips and Tricks for Saving Face

We all know that while it’s rare but sometimes you may find yourself in a tricky position with subordinates or peers. You’re busy and important and it could happen that you may have given out some bad information, promised something you couldn’t deliver or sent someone on a time wasting wild goose chase. While it’s more likely that the aggrieved party may have simply misunderstood the brilliance of what you said or what you meant, you may be confronted or challenged from time to time. Even if the accusations are true, you cannot afford to appear guilty or God forbid apologetic for such transgressions. That would result in a loss of face and be perceived as a sign of weakness. You must retain you personae of prestige and power no matter what the circumstance. To help you overcome such dilemmas, we have devised several techniques for not only extricating yourself from these situations but also solidifying your position and authority. You’re probably already familiar with these simple formulas but a quick review is always helpful.


Suppose you suspect that a subordinate or even a peer may confront you over something they think you said or did. Have a plan. Prepare a speech in advance. It doesn’t even have to be about the issue at hand. “Fast-Talking” is something you’re already familiar with. It requires speaking a mile a minute without coming up for air and completely ignoring the other party. Remember, the outcome here is to cause them to forget about their petty issue and focus on your power.

This technique works very effectively when confronted in your office or in a public area. Once you’ve started, never allow the other party to get a word in edgewise. If you must take a breath and they begin to speak, cut them off immediately. Your words must be delivered in a sharp staccato manner, like a machine gun. Avoid any eye contact. Act frenetic and move around a lot. If seated, shuffle papers and stand up and walk around. Show no emotion other than “passion” about the subject you’re talking about. Once satisfied that they are now stunned and speechless, leave the area quickly. Always mutter something as you walk away with your back to them. Look up to the heavens and shake your head in disgust as your words trail off and you disappear. They’ll think twice about confronting you again.

The Shocked Stare

If ambushed and not prepared, the strategy is to freeze and stare them straight in the eye. Do not show any emotion and do not blink. Appear to be slightly shocked. The moment they stop to take a breath, immediately interrupt them and in a cold and clinical manner and say something like,” I can see that you’re very agitated. Please try to compose yourself.” That should shut them down for a moment and give you enough time to either change the subject or leave the area without further comment. If they persist, switch to Fast -Talking. Hell, if you can pull this off in public or better yet during a meeting, you might really embarrass the poor SOB. After all, they have the problem now.

The Bombshell

Suppose you get a tip or suspect that you may be confronted or challenged by a peer during a meeting in which your superiors or higher-level management will be present. As a seasoned executive, you should always have some little tidbit socked away for just such a situation. You know, some embarrassing statistic or bit of gossip that will deflect attention away from you and onto someone else. Timing is everything here so ensure that the bomb is detonated right before your antagonist has a chance to speak. Mention it in passing and act naïve. Make it sound like an innocent remark. So what if you have to finger a colleague. Your prestige is at stake. Even if it’s not true, the temporary damage will get the focus off of you. They’ll be vindicated later – after the meeting. If the peer against whom your innocent remark was directed raises a fuss, use the shocked stare technique. It was just an innocent remark. Why are they so emotional? Do they have something to hide?

The Shill

Here’s another technique that works very well in meetings. It’s a little trickier and does require some teamwork. Teamwork really pays in business you know. Here’s where you call in a favor or convince someone of influence to help you out. This person must be prepped for in advance. You might try giving them a sob story about how the aggrieved party really has it in for you and how they are intent on destroying you, your career, family, pet dog etc. Lay it on thick. Sympathy is a powerful emotion that you can conjure up in people.

All you require of your shill is to wait until your antagonist begins their attack upon you and interrupt them with the words, ”That was a cheap shot!” The impact of those words coming from a third party will quickly take the steam out the attack. Others may even nod in agreement. An apology may be called for – but not from you.

We hope this little refresher will provide some tools guaranteed to save face in a variety of situations.

PS from The Corporate Cynic. Guaranteed to save face all right – both of them!


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