Committee Players

The Frustration Factor Society International (FFSI) advances the art and science of driving people up the wall throughout the world. The committee on methods is meeting in Chicago a week late. They were to meet in San Francisco, but the location subcommittee neglected to reserve a hotel. Only a few of the sixty-three members are present because of a little snag with the meeting notices. Even with this glitch, the committee is now meeting.

 

Mark Brown, a charter member, is trying to make a motion to raise “Not Me” to a recognized method for driving people up the wall. “It may be that we might want possibly to consider Not Me as a method.”

 

Another member asks, “Are you making that as a motion?”

 

Mark says, “Well, not exactly. Maybe we can talk about it and see what everyone thinks.”

 

Steve clears his throat and starts the discussion. “It’s the kind of thing where it is easy to see both sides.” Steve squirms a little in his chair. Seeing that no one else wants to talk, he says, “I could come down on either side of this one. If Mark is solid with this one, I am not saying I could not be persuaded.”

 

Sharon Lewis, from Texas, hesitatingly joins into the discussion. She says, “I thought, well, I have been at a few meetings where the person who brings up an idea makes the motion. I would like to suggest Mark puts his idea in the form of a motion.”

 

Mark nervously jumps in. “Oh, no. I don’t think I should be the one to head this up. It should be someone with more experience or specific interest.”

 

Brad, from Philadelphia, thoughtfully enters the debate. “I want to hear some ideas from the rest of you before coming to closure on this one. Whenever we decide to break, it might be well to chew on this one a little over lunch.”

 

Sharon is quick to agree. “I’m going to hang with Brad on this one, unless someone has a better idea.”

 

Tim, from Maine, feels like it is a moment tailor-made for an apple polisher like him to say a few words. “I believe in consensus and think we can all agree on one thing. The members who are here today have struggled with this important decision. We have to tread lightly in sensitive areas like this. It’s people we are talking about here. The extent to which any decision might offend someone has to be considered each time.”

 

Jami from Oklahoma sees his chance to contribute. He says, “I have been thinking about the issues we have before us. I wonder if it might be a good idea to call a few of the members who are not here to get their thoughts on things.”

 

Jami’s idea stimulates instant, positive expressions and the project is under way. Because no one has a committee membership list, Jami makes a list of the members those present can remember. The committee manages to divide the list; and as Jami gives Ted, from Ohio, his names to call, Ted says, “Not me. I would like to help but I have some stuff here I had to bring along to work on. I can’t step away from it. Either I’m going to whip it, or it’s going to kill me first. The pressure is too much sometimes. You know how it goes.”

 

Let it suffice to say that looking in on more of the meeting would be redundant.

 

●He who hesitates is lost

 

●Strike while the iron is hot

 

●Victory belongs to the swift

 

These statements represent the thoughts of a moron from the committee player’s point of view. Any second rate player knows that the truth lies in a different set of wise sayings.

 

●Follow the leader

 

●Fools go where angels fear to tread

 

●Look before you leap

 

●The early worm gets caught by the bird

 

Yes, this sounds more like philosophy for the committed committee player.

 

Managing Committee Players:

 

As is true when managing most people who drive you up the wall, the key to effective counter play is in your seeing through the game. Committee players’ motivations are in their desire to get special concessions, preferential treatment, or exemption from most responsibilities.

 

Once your best judgement says that a game is on, the counter play is straightforward. If the player waits for someone else to take the lead or make a decision, say, “I will wait for you to take a position on this.”

 

Now, wait and be sure what the committee player says is actually a position or decision. If he is just jumping on the train, say, “You are just jumping on the train. This was not your idea and as far as I can tell, you have added no ideas of your own. Get on the train if you must, but do not think that I am playing your game.”

 

Rough treatment? Sure, but the player’s game is no less objectionable. The point is not to buy into the player’s behavior and to refuse to accept his excuses. Set the same standard for action and participation for him as is held for others. When the player does not come up to your standard for participation, call him on it, making it clear the game will not work.

 

Does this mean you must be rude or abrasive? It may. But usually, it only means that you need to be assertive and honest. Typically it is enough to state what you think about the player and his behavior. This is exactly what he is counting on never happening. His game is dependant on it.

 

Counter play also needs to be pursued for the “apple polisher.” It can be harder to call these committee players on their behavior. It may be tough for you to say, “I am tired of your apple polishing.” Nonetheless, that is the idea that needs to be expressed. Here is an example of how the point can be made with style.

 

Suppose Bill is the player and you are in a committee meeting with him. You say, “I sometimes wish I had Bill’s ability to emphasize the positive in others.” Polish the apple just a little yourself. “I wonder if we would not all do well to focus on the real and critical issues at hand though. I would like for us to consider. . .. This seems to me to be where our efforts will be most productive.”

 

As a skilled manager, you are careful but should counter the committee player on a continuing basis. The idea is to directly or indirectly point out the behavior and encourage discussion and action more related to the task at hand.

 

Now you know and there you go.