John McDonnell berates Sajid Javid. How should he respond?

The new chancellor of the exchequer has been criticised by Labour’s big hitter. How should he respond?

By Tim Gibson

The shadow chancellor of the exchequer John McDonnell has launched a stinging attack on his opposite number in the government, Sajid Javid.

Writing to PM Boris Johnson, Mr McDonnell questioned the chancellor’s suitability for office, claiming his former role as a banker at Deutsche Bank undermines his trustworthiness.

In his letter, the Labour stalwart said that Mr Javid’s involvement in selling controversial collateralised debt obligation (CDOs) while in a senior role with the German investment bank is a reason not to trust him with the nation’s economy.

Mr McDonnell also drew attention to the chancellor’s alleged involvement in a tax-avoidance scheme for which Deutsche Bank was criticised in 2016.

The chancellor is yet to respond to Mr McDonnell’s criticisms. But Peter Foy, a director at Just Recruitment Group Ltd, says that he must be tempted to rebut the claims in order to prove his suitability for high office.

    "If someone criticises you in a professional context, the first instinct is to defend yourself"  

“If someone criticises you in a professional context, the first instinct is to defend yourself,” Mr Foy says. “But it may be that this course of action isn’t the most sensible.

“Think about it like this: by addressing the criticisms, he’ll give them further airtime. More than that, he accords them credibility, because he shows that he takes them seriously. But by keeping quiet and getting on with his job, Mr Javid can put the whole thing to one side and denude Mr McDonnell’s broadside of its force.”

Mr Foy is careful not to offer an opinion about the legitimacy of the shadow chancellor’s claims. But he does think there’s a valuable lesson for all professionals to learn from the experience.

“It can be stinging to receive criticism in a work context, especially from a competitor,” he says. “The professional response is to rise above it. There will always be people who don’t think you’re up to your job, especially if you have a high-profile role in politics, education or commerce. That’s one of the costs of leadership. And the way to deal with it is to focus on your job, working to the best of your ability.”

That said, Mr Foy thinks it’s a bad idea to be driven by a desire to prove your detractors wrong.

“Trying to demonstrate your worth is a slippery slope. You can seem plaintive or desperate, which isn’t a good look and won’t inspire confidence. In fact, it’ll have the opposite effect: if people think you’ve gone on the defensive, it undermines your credibility.”

    "The professional response is to rise above it"  

But what if the criticisms are levelled at you directly, as they may be to a politician like Mr Javid in a news conference, say, or to a company manager at a staff meeting? How are you to deal with them then?

Mr Foy is very clear in his response to this question: “Never ignore a challenge, but be careful not to be defensive when responding to it. Let your questioner know that everyone’s entitled to their view but that you have confidence in your fitness for the role you hold.

“Resist the urge to invite judgment by your results. Anyone in business or politics will tell you that there’s not always a correlation between the quality of a leader and the results they produce. Sadly, life is rarely that simple.”

How to deal with criticism: three steps

1) Honesty. It can hurt when someone questions your professional bona fides. There’s no harm in acknowledging this fact, even if you don’t accept the criticism. Some of the best managers show their human side without undermining their authority.

2) Be positive. Rather than telling people why the criticisms of you are misplaced, highlight the positives. Remind them why your experience and skills make you the right person for the job. If Mr Javid believes his banking experience will make him a more effective chancellor, it would be worth him saying so.

3) Focus on the job at hand. Don’t let criticism put you off your stroke. Everyone in a senior position receives it from time to time. Focus on doing your job as well as you can. If the criticism is unmerited, you’ll soon demonstrate that fact.

Published: 8 August 2019

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

If you enjoyed this article, you may like this: Five ways to make your people more creative

You may also enjoy: Five habits of great employees

Jobs currently available

New job
Property Maintenec Administrator
Sector: Property and Construction
Salary: £19,000 - £25,000 per annum
Location: Earls Colne
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909600
About the role

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Property Maintenance Administrator on behalf of a company based on the outskirts of Colchester.

The primary role of the Property Maintenance Administrator is to provide property maintenance and associated services to the company’s clients and third parties.

Main responsibilities:

  • Receiving and actioning maintenance issues
  • Instruct approved contractors
  • Act as liaison between clients and contractors
  • Respond to telephone and mail enquiries
  • Submit ad hoc reports to clients
  • Build and maintain the database of contractors and suppliers
  • Ensure all suppliers are appropriately vetted
  • Recording and submitting timesheets for each job

Person specification/relevant skills and experience:

  • Ability to apply initiative
  • Team player
  • Adaptable
  • Diligent
  • Resilient
  • Well organised
  • Strong administration – file notes must be kept up to date
  • Good telephone manner
  • Persuasive
  • Tenacious

You MUST have their own transport due to the location of the company.

Read more
New job
Office Administrator
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £8.72 per hour
Location: Langdon
Role: Part Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909594
About the role

Are you looking for part-time work?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for an Office Administrator on a part-time basis on behalf of a company based in Langdon.

You will be supporting the Office Manager with administrative duties such as pulling off reports, data entry and meeting & greeting visitors. You will also be sorting and franking post, shredding documents and dealing with enquiries.

This is a part-time, permanent position working 22.5 hours per week.

If you are interested then apply today!

Read more
New job
Sales Administrator
Sector: Public Service and Administration
Salary: £17,000 - £18,000 per annum
Location: Tiptree
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909592
About the role

Do you have previous face to face and telephone customer service experience?

Do you have a sales-focused approach?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Sales Administrator on behalf of a company based in Tiptree.

Your duties will include:

  • To ensure the sales function operates effectively and that the function's activities are aligned to the departmental and company objectives.
  • To manage workload enabling all enquiries to be dealt with to industry-leading timescales and satisfaction levels.
  • Maintain good relationships with prospective clients and professionals to promote further business and provide clearly identified specifications to the Sales and Commercial team.
  • To give expert advice to customers promoting the products and services.
  • Sustain a positive team environment, displaying high levels of motivation and an excellent team spirit.
  • Participate and contribute to internal team meetings.
  • Promote effective communication throughout all levels of the Sales and Commercial function.
  • To promote the process of continuous improvement in the Sales and Commercial team.

You will be highly proficient in the use of IT software, have a positive attitude and have the ability to manage different tasks.

This is a full-time, permanent position with an early finish on a Friday!!!

If you are interested then apply today!

Read more
New job
Construction Planner
Sector: Property and Construction
Salary: £35,000 - £44,000 per annum
Location: Saxmudham
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909595
About the role

Just Recruitment is working with a leading main contractor who has secured a £20m design and build contract in the heart of Suffolk.

As part of their new team, we are looking for an experienced Construction Planner. In this role, you will be responsible for centralising all of our client's project and labour plans.

Duties of the programmer include:

  • Develop construction/tender programs.
  • Conduct site visits and look through the works and drawings when required.
  • Review contractor schedules and schedule risk analysis.
  • Produce progress/program reports in conjunction with Project and Construction Managers.

Requirement of the role:

  • Operational experience together with previous significant experience of planning within the construction industry.
  • Master programming – design, procurement, pre-commencement, construction, commissioning and production of design schedules.
  • Knowledge of project planning processes and the project life-cycle.
  • Knowledge of the procurement processes necessary for designing and building commercial projects.
  • Must be able to use Asta Gant Chart Software.

Good IT skills with all Microsoft packages including Microsoft Projects or similar version and the ability to pick up new software quickly.

Read more
New job
Health & Safety Manager
Sector: Property and Construction
Salary: £50,000 - £60,000 per annum
Location: Saxmundham
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 909593
About the role

Just Recruitment is working with a leading main contractor who has secured a £20m design and build contract in the heart of Suffolk.

We are looking for a reliable Health & Safety Manager to ensure everyone in the company complies with health and safety laws. You will also be responsible for establishing policies that will create and maintain a safe workplace.

As a Health & Safety Manager, you must have excellent attention to detail to identify hazards. You will also be able to discover opportunities for improving conditions and execute various safety programs. The ability to communicate guidelines to a multidisciplinary workforce is essential.


  • Develop and execute health and safety plans in the workplace according to legal guidelines
  • Prepare and enforce policies to establish a culture of health and safety
  • Evaluate practices, procedures and facilities to assess risk and adherence to the law
  • Monitor compliance with policies and laws by inspecting employees and operations
  • Inspect equipment and machinery to observe possible unsafe conditions
  • Investigate accidents or incidents to discover causes and handle worker’s compensation claims
  • Recommend solutions to issues, improvement opportunities or new prevention measures
  • Report on health and safety awareness, issues and statistics


  • Proven experience as Health & Safety Manager
  • Deep understanding of legal health and safety guidelines
  • Ability in producing reports and developing relevant policies
  • Good knowledge of data analysis and risk assessment
  • Excellent organisational and motivational skills
  • Outstanding attention to detail and observation ability
  • Exceptional communication and interpersonal abilities
  • BSc/BA in safety management or relevant field is preferred
  • Valid qualification in occupational health and safety
Read more