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
QA Manager
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: Discussed on application
Location: Saffron Walden
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910873
About the role

Our client is seeking an experienced Quality Assurance Manager to join them on a permanent, full-time basis. This opportunity offers stability, longevity and professional development.

Reporting directly to the MD, the Quality Assurance Manager will be responsible for:

  • Maintaining and improving the Company's Quality Management System and ensure internal compliance
  • Working with all departments to ensure their procedures are being followed and to improve their internal and cross-functional processes and procedures
  • Ensure that the quality of current and newly introduced products is compliant and traceable
  • Coordinate Quality activities with all over departments
  • Develop and improve quality relationships with all customers of the Company
  • Responsible for all Quality activities and personnel in the Quality Department for the Company
  • Provide strong leadership in the day-to-day operations of the Quality department and mentor the members of the team
  • Establish performance goals for all departmental employees and monitor performance on a continual basis
  • Oversee all hiring, appraisal, training and discipline of Quality personnel
  • Member of the Company's Management team
  • Produce the Quality element of the company's annual Budget
  • Formulate the departmental strategy aligned to the overall Company strategy
  • Embed a Continuous Improvement culture within the Quality Dept and contribute to the Continuous Improvement programme across the site


  • HND or equivalent qualification in Engineering or a related technical field required
  • Minimum 5 years experience in a Manufacturing environment
  • Ability to articulate (verbally and in writing), defend and negotiate Quality expectations with internal and external customers at all levels of management
  • Good interpersonal skills with the ability to guide and educate/train at all levels
Read more
New job
Customer Service Administrator
Sector: Customer Service
Salary: £22,000 per annum
Location: Halstead
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910871
About the role

Just Recruitment is delighted to be supporting a well-regarded organisation at the forefront of its sector that is looking to add a Customer Service Administrator to its team, due to growth – based on the outskirts of Halstead.

The main purpose of the role is to service current and prospective customers by receiving and processing orders, enquiries and general information in a timely and courteous manner.

Key tasks include:

  • Answering incoming calls, giving product information, lead times, dealing with general enquiries and queries, redirecting calls to relevant departments
  • Raising and inputting orders and proforma invoices
  • Raising quotations
  • Amending orders, as required
  • Scanning documentation
  • Liaising with Areas Sales Managers and responding to their requests
  • Arranging couriers and/or carriers as required
  • Any general office associated duties

Key requirements for the role:

  • Excellent computer skills
  • Good eye for detail
  • The ability to work well under pressure
  • Courteous

Previous experience requirements:

  • Previous Customer Service Administrative experience gained within an office environment
  • Excellent telephone manner with the ability to communicate at all levels
  • High level of attention to detail and accuracy
  • Good working knowledge of Microsoft Office and experience of in-house systems
  • Ability to multi-task and prioritise own workload
  • Exceptional communication skills, both written and verbal
  • Understanding of the importance of data protection and adherence to the process

Offering free parking and an excellent working environment, this is a great opportunity to join a growing team.

Working Monday to Friday 37.5 hours per week - offering a competitive salary and company benefits.

Read more
New job
Production Operative
Sector: Engineering and Manufacturing
Salary: £8.91 per hour
Location: Needham Market
Role: Full Time
Contract: Temporary
Job ref: 910811
About the role

Want to work in a safe, clean environment?
And have the possibility of ongoing work?

Just Recruitment is recruiting for a Temporary Production Operative to be based in Needham Market.

Duties include:

  • Ensure all final and completed products are packed to the customer specifications                               
  • Informing Line Leaders of defects found in the products
  • Keep machines supplied with packing materials and labels
  • Assist the Line Leaders with handovers and changeovers
  • Responsible for general cleanliness of the production area and removal of production and general waste
  • Check products on the line for quality and defects
  • Basic production duties carried out in a fast-paced environment

Working hours:

8.30am - 5.00pm Monday to Friday

Read more
New job
Logistics Coordinator
Sector: Transport, Logistics and Shipping
Salary: £24,000 per annum
Location: Ipswich
Role: Full Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910869
About the role

Just Recruitment is delighted to be supporting, a well-regarded, family-run business on the outskirts of Ipswich.

You will be responsible for assisting with the loads out operation of the business by ensuring that the process from collection to arrival at the final destination is fully supported by the relevant goods in haulage documentation.

You will also be supporting the sales function of the business by dealing with customer queries in terms of both sales and operations as well as assisting with various ad-hoc marketing campaigns. This is a very varied role and requires flexibility, commitment and a substantial desire to learn and grow with the flourishing business.

Duties will include:

  • Process orders and oversees the order to completion of paperwork
  • Facilitate the shipping of products from one destination to another
  • Arrange transportation with outside hauliers
  • Receive paperwork from the Weighbridge department and check and complete the paperwork within the allocated time allowed
  • Answer calls and emails relating to customer queries and log them on the CRM system and resolve any outstanding issues raised
  • Keep CRM records up-to-date
  • Work with the sales and operations team to ensure that high customer service levels are achieved and delivered to all customers you are responsible for at all times

Skills required:

  • Good Microsoft skills including Word, Outlook & Excel
  • Ability to work proactively on an independent basis as well as be a good team player
  • You will have the interpersonal skills necessary to develop and sustain effective relationships with team members of other departments and with all customers
  • Good attention to detail and analytical skills
Read more
New job
Legal Secretary (Part-Time)
Sector: Law and Security
Salary: Up to £11.00 per hour
Location: Witham
Role: Part Time
Contract: Permanent
Job ref: 910868
About the role

Just Recruitment is delighted to be supporting an established business, based in Witham looking to add a highly-skilled secretary to their long-standing team.

The role will involve, audio typing, preparing documents, answering the phone, dealing with enquiries and assisting colleagues as well as directing queries as needed.

Key responsibilities to include:

  • Audio typing – dictation
  • Preparing letters and drafting documents
  • Handling diaries and booking appointments
  • Answering the phone and dealing with queries
  • General secretarial and office-based duties

As well as having experience in a secretarial position, you will have audio typing experience and excellent typing skills. The role requires you to have a good level of IT literacy, experience of Word (essential) and Excel would be useful. You will take pride in your work and have a caring and sympathetic nature.

Please note this role is part-time.

This is a great opportunity, offering a good pay rate and company benefits.

Read more