“You can’t drop a ball that isn’t in your court.”This mixed metaphor implies an agenda that extends from tennis to business - put the ball into the other guy's court.
The Nerdherding weblog describes some of the uses of this practice - both good and evil.
- avoid misunderstanding
- defensive move by contractors faced with client demands that are ill-considered, half-hearted or impractical
- as a delaying tactic
- as a way to create a bureaucratic block that can be easily removed in an act of “artificial good faith"
If someone uses this technique (for evil) on you - simply ask for some examples of the format they want information in. The chances are they don’t have such a format and will be shamed into being genuinely helpful. If they do have examples then you will be able to formulate your request in a more convenient manner. Win either way!
This sounds suspiciously like tit-for-tat. If you suspect someone is trying to pass the buck, simply pass it back.
There may be some contexts in which a tit-for-tat strategy is a reasonable way of building or rebuilding trust. But it doesn't seem right for collaborative business relationships.
The trouble with tit-for-tat is that it may look strong and consistent from one perspective, but it can look weak, reactive and inconsistent from another perspective. And the metacommunication of tit-for-tat is that you are playing games - this can sometimes be interpreted unfavourably.