Overcoming the meeting ambush

am·bush
/ˈambo͝oSH/
noun
1. a surprise attack by people lying in wait in a concealed position.”seven members of a patrol were killed in an ambush”

synonyms:
surprise attack, trap, snare, pitfall, lure;  

You’re preparing for your day with your first cup of coffee, and just as you’re settling down at your desk, your boss pops by your cubicle and asks if you have time for a “quick five-minute meeting.”  

Of course, it’s only five minutes, right? Wrong!  

You step into the meeting to find your boss and a few of your colleagues are in the boardroom.  

Twenty minutes into the meeting, you discover that you’ve been assigned a new project and you’re immediately being questioned about deadlines, budget and project deliverables.  

You’ve been ambushed!  

Sound familiar?  


We’ve all been there, but the question is how do you overcome a meeting ambush? Well that takes finesse and keeping a cool head.  

Here are 4 tips to prevail over a meeting ambush, resulting in a stress-free you:  

Seek the reason for the meeting.

“What’s the reason for the meeting so I can ensure I can answer all of your questions.”  

If your boss or colleagues have a history of coordinating meeting ambushes, by now, you’ll be in offense mode to ask for a “teaser” as to the purpose of the meeting. Ask the meeting requester outright, what the purpose or intention of the meeting is so that you can be more adequately prepared. Ask if there is an agenda prepared and if you can be given time to review it. The more you know going into this meeting, the more protected you are.  

Ask for more time.

“You’re asking a lot key questions that truly require more time on my end to do the research. Can you give me 2 business days to do the research? I’ll set up the meeting for us to regroup.”  

Once your boss has given you the scope of the meeting, determine whether if it pertains to a subject matter that you can answer on the spot, or if you’ll need more time and/or documentation to make a valuable contribution. If you will need more time, make the request of your boss that you’d like to adequately prepare for this meeting to address all of their questions and concerns and respectfully request the meeting be postponed to a later time, enabling you to gather the necessary documentation.  

Keep your emotions under control.

“This is all a bit overwhelming, but this can be done. I may need to negotiate a few things off my plate.”  

Being ambushed can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress. During times like these, your emotions can get the better of you. My approach is to demonstrate the desired behavior that I would like to see in others and give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes, your boss may not realize the pressure they’re putting on you in a situation like this. Perhaps they were just ambushed and you were their most trusted and dependable staff member they sought out to get the job done.  

Take your time responding to their questions and don’t be afraid to tell them, “at this time, I do not have an answer to your question.” If you work with someone who does not accept “I don’t know,” and they expect you to come up with answers as if you are Carnac the Magnificent (Johnny Carson fans get this reference), this is a sign of much bigger issues awaiting your new project and probably daily challenges you are dealing with at work in general (i.e. unrealistic expectations, bullying on the job, workplace burnout, etc.).  

Have a conversation about their “ambush” approach.

“Is there any way we can schedule future meetings a couple of days in advance so that we can ensure we have a productive meeting for all?”  

There is nothing wrong with approaching the meeting requester (i.e. your boss or your colleague) to discuss their ambush meeting style. You can tactfully and diplomatically let them know that you can serve them better and answer their questions with adequate notice and preparation time. Good managers will respect your candor and may adjust their approach moving forward.  

We cannot always avoid ambush meetings, but we can always control how we respond to them. Overcoming the meeting ambush definitely requires high emotional intelligence, open communications, and being prepared—even when you least expect it.  

“In every day, there are 1,440 minutes. That means we have 1,440 daily opportunities to make an impact.” – Les Brown  

If you’d like to learn more about this series, please visit my blog at www.mosaicrg.com    

Additional Resources: http://www.fixyourfolks.com/survive-ambush-meeting/https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/its-trap-working-ambush-manager-mary-dixson/  

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