Menu Close

By The Book

Is there someone where you work who absolutely, totally, and unequivocally drives you up the wall? Do you sometimes feel like climbing the wall all by yourself as the quickest way to escape? If you are saying Yes! Yes! Yes! you have had first-hand experience with “The Frustration Factor,” up close and personal.


The players of the world are alive and well and ready to drive you up the wall. Some are aggressive, some passive; some are extroverts and others introverts. Whatever their personalities, they are mostly motivated by personal needs, status goals, and insecurities. If their private goals are coincidentally compatible with your company’s, so be it. If not, their selfish interests prevail.


Rich is an experienced player.


Rich’s approach to driving people up the wall is B-t-B: By the Book. In a less linguistically correct time, we called this CYA.


His main play is to do things the same way he always does them. What has worked before is likely to work again. He knows people seldom find fault with his handling things in the usual way, whether it works or not.


Next, Rich always looks at how things can go sour and little at how they can succeed. He asks, “What are the three strongest reasons for not doing this?” His motto is nothing ventured, nothing lost.


Finally, any time he has to do something that has some risk, he spends most of his time figuring out what to say if it goes sour. Of course, the best thing to be able to say is, “I was uneasy about this but went along reluctantly. I handled it the same way we always handle things. I did it By The Book.”


Rich’s play calls for doing things the same way he always does them. He avoids all risk whenever possible and has an explanation for failure made up ahead of time. Sure, there is a more simple version of Rich’s play. Do not do anything new or innovative and try hard to keep others from making that mistake. What can you do?


Playing with B-t-B players like Rich is not a game for the impatient or impulsive. It helps to understand that these players have little faith in their abilities and less faith in their basic grasp or understanding of situations or circumstances. Since they do not believe they can trust their judgments or instincts, they do not take any chances on themselves.


Next, they do not have much ability to anticipate or predict the behavior of others. The idea is that they cannot predict if a specific action will lead to praise or punishment. Usually, they think the likely outcome of following their judgments is punishment.


You can use disciplinary and other negative approaches to show that negative outcomes can come from playing B-t-B. But if you do, take pause. If the only response or reaction folks get from you is negative or critical, reasonable people do the reasonable thing. They put most energy into avoiding negative reactions. Consider the possibility that the B-t-B player is a product of your negative behavior.


suppose you are Rich’s manager. His rigidly sticking to the way he has always done things is driving you up the wall. He never uses his personal judgement even when he knows that the old way will not work. You can say, “What do you think? Is there a better way to do this? He may say Yes in some situations or No in others, depending on what he thinks is safest. Whatever he says, the question is then, “Why would you go that way?” The idea is to walk this B-t-B player through the decision making process. In most situations, you can close with, “You seem to have some ideas about this. Use your best judgement.”


When the player starts taking more chances and making decisions, it is important not to be too negative when things do not work out well. Avoid the temptation to second guess the player. Remember that avoiding negative reactions is why he is playing B-t-B. Your goal is to teach and encourage in positive and supportive ways. The reward for the player has to come primarily through success and increasing judgement and initiative.


Now you know and there you go.