Constructive ConflictOnce you can spot a corporate invalidator – those people within the organization responsible for toxicity that serve their own career to the detriment of colleagues and the business as a whole – then we need to know what to do about them.

Remember that these people have been doing this for years – they are sneaky and sly, they are good at it. The biggest problem for them is that there are extremely simple ways to nail them!”

Nailing Corporate Invalidators

The corporate invalidator does whatever is necessary to control you. Intrapreneurship dismantles control. Corporate invalidators do not like intrapreneurship as it erodes fiefdoms, raises accountability, makes people (and their actions) visible to all.

In public, they will wholeheartedly support the initiative: they will be actively involved in meetings, contributing greatly – they will even sit on the innovation panel or transformation team! This is all show. You may not spot this in the meeting itself but, as you engage with them 1:1 you will see that they do not support intrapreneurship and they will work at undermining it.

The smarter corporate invalidator doesn’t apply their methods until absolutely necessary – they can appear to be quite friendly and supportive for a very long time. Then when it comes time for a promotion and it’s you or them…

Predator-prey dynamics

it is difficult to engage with a corporate invalidator as they are, at various levels, disingenuous liars and the best way to deal with them is by going public. The immediate objection in your head will be “yes, but they’re my boss” or “I can’t do that, I depend on them” or “it’s not right to tell tales!”

The predator-prey dynamic is based around pack animal behavior. The reactions and instincts seen and played out in the wild can also be seen, albeit in a more sophisticated interplay, in human interactions where we tend to relate to and react to situations that move us towards or away from our psychological comfort zones.

Whether we are in a situation where we are well inside our comfort zone or well outside will dictate the mindset that we adopt to deal with it. And that mindset will be influenced by the most basic of all animal instincts – survival. So the issue is, are we the predator or the prey?

We adopt one of four possible mindsets about our position in any given situation

    CONTROL: well inside our comfort zone. We believe that we are the power or need to hold the power in a situation and others holder a weaker position in relation to us – Predator
    RELIANT: slightly outside our comfort zone. We believe that we are dependent on the other party and an outcome for us depends upon our support from them – Predator / Prey
    WARY: well outside our comfort zone. We believe that we hold the weakest position in the interaction and must tread carefully to avoid the threat of destruction – Prey
    UNINHIBITED: we do not hold the predator / prey mindset – we have no fears about the engagement. We are able to contribute without fear or favor and this makes it easy for us to remain rational and objective.

Corporate invalidators dominate their environment as they believe that they are the predator – and people around them allow this to happen by adopting a prey stance. Ever been in a meeting and been afraid to offend the boss and the boss uses this knowledge to their advantage? Predator-prey.

When communication between two parties is UNINHIBITED, then this is when rational and objective adult communication takes place, which has a far greater chance of success.

OK, first thing to address is this, take responsibility; man up; quit whining. If you are so happy with being blocked and manipulated then stop reading this and save yourself some time and go do something else. If you are serious about addressing this type of culture, then, like I say, go public – call these people out.

Handling it

Number one rule: don’t be a martyr. The intrapreneur is working for the good of the organization, not individual agenda. If the corporate invalidator is in the way of the intrapreneurial adventure, get them out of the way. Be accused of being unreasonable (‘unreasonable’ is insisting on an uninhibited environment where corporate invalidators cannot flourish).

Reason with them
First approach is simple: not every invalidator is doing it consistently – they are doing this for one specific situation and it tends to be a logical reason and so they can be handled with logic. Their invalidation stems from not knowing all the facts (e.g. what will intrapreneurship really mean to their job / livelihood? If they don’t understand it, they don’t want it). Unfortunately, the majority of corporate invalidators are not doing it out of logic but out of self-interest (or they are just, naturally, nasty people).

Don’t reason with them
There is no set of rules to handle invalidation that work every time and, if we assume that this is a battle-hardened corporate invalidator, we need to have our own armory to deal with them.

  • Maintain your humor – remember that this is a personality type, not a person
  • Be respectful – maintain your professional integrity
  • Maintain a professional line – base your discussions solely on the job
  • Be diplomatic – we know that they are corporate invalidators, we should feel sorry for them
  • Be patient – it will take time to unravel bad habits
  • Be discrete but note everything down
  • Be firm – you have to stand your ground
  • Work with facts, not emotions

Your chief weapon

The biggest weapon that the intrapreneur has is visibility – covert conflict is difficult to work with (no proof and, therefore, no course of correction) whereas overt conflict is where we bring the corporate invalidator out into the open – we shine a light on them.

  • Get them 1:1 – people who embarrass you in front of a group use the group for their power. Get them alone and make them squirm and be sure to email confirmation to them afterwards (paper trail)
  • If you feel blocked by the corporate invalidator with a ‘reason’ for something, double-check it with someone external to the organization – and be sure to email confirmation to all parties
  • Secure the patronage of the CEO for the intrapreneurial adventure – and let people know that when they block you, they block the CEO – and that the CEO will be informed (accountability)
  • In meetings, if a corporate invalidator has stymied your initiative, point it out – point out the circumstance of the blockage but not the person – people in the room will work that one out for themselves
  • Let them know that you know their game and that you are maintaining an adult, uninhibited stance
  • If an invalidating statement is made in public, invite them to repeat it ‘for clarity’ – almost every time, they will rephrase what they said and encouraged to explain what they meant
  • See the mirror – remember that corporate invalidators project their failings on to others – if they accuse you of being late in providing information be sure to ask how responsive they are. If feels tit-for-tat so be sure to ask this in a professional, rational (and logical) manner.

Corporate invalidators can be difficult to deal with – but they must be dealt with all the same. They usually look big but feel small and this is down to low self-esteem but large egos. They only really invalidate when they feel inferior or out of control. The majority of corporate invalidators do not realize that they are doing it – and so you need to have your armory in place to help them see what they are doing. Don’t be the prey!

If you are interested in building collaborative intelligence in your organization, contact me and let’s talk.

Nailing Corporate Invalidators