Office Hours: Speak of the Devil


Has this ever happened to you? A meeting is going along swimmingly. Decisions are being made. Paths forward seem clearly defined. Action items are doled out to key players around the ­table. And then, a voice pipes up: “I’ll play devil’s advocate and….”

Cue the sound of wheels screeching to a halt, or perhaps the collective, weary exhale of the group.

The term devil’s advocate is defined as a role meant to encourage discussion of an issue from all sides by taking an unpopular approach. However, I fear it’s become something different. Many have come to understand that when we say “play devil’s advocate,” it’s a passive-aggressive way of bringing a point up without it looking like it’s our own. Same goes for those who blanket their opinions with, “Others are saying this about that….”

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