|You need to deal head-on with a department head who uses these meetings as a launching pad for insults at you. His indirect style is nothing more than passive-aggressive behavior, and his intent is to build himself at your expense.|
His behavior should be handled both reactively and proactively. When he makes these types of comments in meetings, you need to react, but without becoming defensive or upset. A better approach is Socratic. When he launches his verbal insults, ask him specific questions about his assertions, especially questions that start with “when,” “where,” “how” and “why.” Be sure to focus on the facts, and not on him.
On a proactive basis, you should consider communicating with him prior to these meetings to see if he has any issues or concerns to address in advance. If he says there are no issues, but then goes on the attack during a meeting, simply ask him why he did not bring up such points when the two of you previously met on this very matter. You indicated that he is “friendly enough” between the meetings, but he needs to understand that when it comes to his insults in these meetings, enough is enough.