Thursday, July 21, 2011

Face-Plant in the Brine

This funny little animation can be a metaphor of what it feels like when leaders that you trusted decide that you have:
  1. out-lived your usefulness,
  2. become a threat to their agenda,
  3. or in general, have become attractively expendable.
You're just walking along, thinking everything is normal, and then suddenly WHAP! you're face-first in the cold, icy water, and you aren't even sure who slapped you in the back of the head to put you there.

If this has never happened to you, be grateful. I hope it never does. But if, perchance, you ever find yourself in this unenviable position, here's a few thoughts.

One of the most unsettling things that can happen is when the leader(s) pull out The List of Flaws -- prepared secretly in advance -- which is then used as validation for getting rid of the expendable person.

Typically, The List will have been created by a single person, even if it ends up being presented for the first time in a group setting. It's not uncommon for the rest of the group to be unaware of the existence of The List until it is read. It is equally typical -- contrary to Matthew 18 -- for the imminently-expendable person to also be unaware of The List until this moment.

Now, the last thing you want to get involved in at this point would be the picture at left. Do not respond in kind, no matter how slanted and defamatory The List (inevitably) turns out to be. On the other hand, while exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit known as self-control, don't allow false charges (character assassination) to be read without challenging them. Silence will be interpreted as agreement by the others present.

There is often the mistaken notion that if the items on The List can be challenged and refuted, that the situation will right itself. However, at this point it's necessary to look at the Big Picture:

What's on The List, item by item, isn't really the issue. The mere existence of The List is. Its presence simply reveals that a decision has already, irrevocably been made. Everything else is just attempts at justification.

Contesting the List will only result in even further injury to the expendable person. Resist the temptation to "clear your name". Leave your reputation in God's hands, and get out before things get worse.

A great way for the expendable person to keep their composure intact during the Pearl Harbour-esque dynamics of these meetings is simply to take notes on what's been said. Grab a pen and paper, and scribble as quickly and accurately as possible. This has several benefits:
  1. It gives the expendable person something to do with their hands.
  2. The concentration involved with recording what's been said keeps the expendable person calmer and more objective.
  3. It lessens the possibility of responding verbally without careful fore-thought.
  4. It makes the creator of The List nervous to realize that records are being created that he/she has no control over (and "control" is a passion for List-making types).*
(*A friend suggested this one facetiously, and then we both laughed and agreed that it's never a good idea to make List-makers nervous -- there's no telling what they'll do, but it won't be good.)
Again, I sincerely hope that the majority of those who read these words have no idea what I'm talking about. But for those who may, I hope this may help, in some small degree.


  1. Spot on. Brings back a few memories.

    Can you clarify this statement "don't allow false charges to be read without challenging them" in light of this statement "contesting the List will only result in even further injury to the expendable person"? I agree with the latter, there is no effective defense in this situation.

    Love the suggestion to take notes. I wish we had done that, but considering the stealth nature of the smackdown, it might not have been possible. I also wish we had not been so naive, sincere, devastated, and submissive.

    If this does happen to you, be grateful also. Because even if it hurts like hell at the moment, the List-maker is doing you a favor by revealing that they are not the type of person that you want or need to be involved with. In the end, you will be much better off free of their judgment.

  2. Ah yes, your request for clarification isn't surprising. Even when I wrote it, I realized it might look self-contradictory.

    I guess what I meant (based on my own experience) was:

    (1) Don't just sit there and act as if The List is accurate during its first reading. There are often other leaders present who are also hearing The List for the first time, and silence implies agreement.

    (2) After the blood-letting meeting -- recognizing that The List isn't really the issue -- it's important to resist the temptation to stay in that situation in hopes of setting the record straight, or clearing your name. Better to get outta Dodge quickly.

    The "taking notes" idea came from a guy I know who experienced The List method about eleven years ago. He found it very helpful, and perhaps I should add a third suggestion...

    (3) Whenever being summoned to a surprise meeting, bring a pen and paper. :)

  3. Brilliant Robbie. Hope this helps someone in the future. The writing things down would have been a hoot to actually do. Would have rattled their cages!

  4. Yep ... lots of memories here. And caused some odd dreams last night ...

    Things I wish I'd known and it would have made the trauma less time consuming.

    Sometimes the meetings are not a surprise, but they get highjacked and you get emotionally raped right there in your own livingroom. That's always fun. I know that just secretive doodling would have sent this particular leader into fits, so I wish I'd thought of the pen & paper angle.