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Maryanne Mitchell is the office manager for the Koch, James and Hightower law firm. She is meeting with Martin Koch. It is not unusual for Martin to ask her to stop by, but still she gets up tight and nervous whenever he does.


“I am just a born pessimist,” she frets to herself, waiting for Martin to start.


He gets immediately down to business. “We seem to have some problems, Maryanne. Generally, things are going smoothly. The snag seems to be with some of the typing and some of the filing along with the billing. What do you think you can do to clean things up a little?”


Maryanne sighs but does not respond.


“What do you think? Is there any hope for it, Maryanne?” Martin asks, trying to relax the discussion.


Finally, the office manager says, “I’m worn out from trying. It is exhausting, trying everything there is to try and people are still not satisfied. I will try to straighten it out, but don’t have much hope.”


Martin leans toward Maryanne and says, “Maryanne, to tell you the truth, I’m beginning to get some heat about you, about your performance. There is some question about whether you can handle things anymore with the computers and all. I don’t know. I think you can do it, but you need to tell me what has to happen to get things straightened up.”


Maryanne sits motionless, not saying anything until Martin settles back to outwait her. In a small voice, she reluctantly says, “You’ll have to decide for yourself about me. I am working as hard as I can. I’ve given this firm all I have. Things are a mess around here. I’m a nervous wreck from trying to straighten out everything that goes wrong. Everyone thinks it’s all my fault. I’m just one person and can’t do it all. Even you think it is all me, now.”


Maryanne plays bummed out to perfection. Her main strategy is to get Martin to feel sorry for her.


●”I am worn out from trying”


●”It is exhausting, trying everything there is to try and people are still not satisfied”


●”I have given this firm all I have”


●”I am just one person”


●”Even you think it is all me, now”


Let Martin get tough with Maryanne and then give him a guilt check. On a scale from one to ten, he will register at least eight or nine. Maryanne is counting on it.


As an aside, you occasionally see an interesting variation on the theme. The bummed out player makes an alliance with several other players. As a bummed out diad or triad or whatever, the crew supports each other’s bummed out patterns. People who play together survive together. They usually describe their shared condition as being burned-out or perhaps demoralized.


Managing Bummed Out Players:


When bummed out is the game, the player neither values nor expects job success. Should it come, it is only serendipity. His personal priority is being protected and being forgiven – in advance – if things go badly. It is this guarantee of immunity that the player works for.


Going at it with a skilled bummed out player is exhausting but is not particularly difficult. Consider first what the dynamics of the play are. The bummed out player is using the technique to avoid responsibility, to get others to back off, and to avoid work or pressure. In a child, the pattern would be called pouting.


It will do little good to talk with the bummed out player about his behavior, but it cannot hurt. At least talking about the problem puts the player on notice that he will not be successful playing the game with you. Whether you talk to the player or not, there are several steps that will be effective over time.


First, simply out wait him. Bring up a problem or issue of concern and then wait for a response other than “bummed out.” If necessary, say, “I hear all that. My concern is. . .. I’m waiting for your response to the problem.” Patiently go back again and again until an appropriate response comes.


If this does not work, say, “I can see you are not going to deal with this, and I do not have time to play your game. Have your response to me in writing in two hours.”


The idea is first to respond only to positive and productive behavior. Next, set things up so such behavior is expected and required. At first, the player will likely not follow through or do what you expect. When this happens, it is time to say, “I expected you would handle this. It seems to me you are either unwilling or unable to deal with these kinds of things. Since it is important, I’m going to take some other action to be sure it gets done. It’s too bad you are unable to handle your job. We will need to talk about that soon.” Do what needs to be done to get the job done. Even the most dyed-in-the-wool bummed out player is likely to do the job himself the next time.


Now you know and there you go.