Along with his
expertise with the B-t-B method, Steve adds a couple of advanced twists. Note
first that he is not one to jump into the middle of things. “The operating
problems and employee conflicts are festering and have been growing for several
weeks.” Ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away is always the
first gambit of the B-t-B player. If it goes away, the player takes full credit
for the resolution of a difficult problem. If not, he has a chance to come up
with a plan to distance himself from it. If luck is truly with him, the player
also distances himself from everyone who has even a remote connection to the
problem.


“This thing
is getting contagious.” Steve defines the thing as something going around
like the common cold. It is like an act of God or something. Using the phrase
this thing is good too. It makes a serious operating problem sound like a minor
and inanimate object. It is a small step to make it a ball or hot potato to
pass around. Then all he has to do is toss it to the manager.


Before tossing the
hot potato, Steve makes sure the manager knows Steve has himself covered – By
the Book of course. His words are worth repeating to emphasize the complex
gambit hidden in what seems straightforward. B-t-B players are masters at
bundling their play.


“I have
followed the book to the letter on this one . . . It worries me . . . I think
we should give it a little more time. Maybe it will settle down without our
doing anything drastic.”


Cover one is going
on the record as having followed the book. This puts the responsibility back
onto whomever wrote the book.


Cover two is
making it clear that Steve worries and feels concerned. This makes him a good
company man who is loosing sleep over his responsibilities.


Cover three is the
best one of all. He makes a concrete recommendation. “I think we should
give it a little more time.”


Steve suggests
doing nothing. This was his plan when he let the problem fester for a few
weeks. At least no one will accuse this B-t-B player of being impulsive.


Steve passes off
the hot potato in a way that is hardly noticeable. “It is not my call,
though.” – Another By the Book maneuver. 
He passes it off just as coolly and matter-of-factly as you will ever
see. Having made the pass, he confirms the transfer. “Given everything
involved, I am bumping this one up to you.” The thing is so complex -
everything involved – that Steve has to bump it up. The trick is that he only
confirms what he did earlier. The B-t-B player first puts the rabbit into the
hat and then magically pulls it out.


Steve is close to
overkill with, “Here is the I-R-627 on the thing.” It is possible for
even experienced players like Steve to go too far. If he gets carried away,
people can get the impression that he is not a team player.


Steve certainly
gets up a head of steam. Listen to him. “People getting outside their
areas is a problem you have, as you know better than any of us.” Steve is
now pointing out problems the manager has in managing people. He likely is even
ready to cite chapter and verse. The trap is closed. If the manager insists
that Steve deals with the problems in the cash area, he is proving Steve’s
point. He either deals with the cash problem himself or agrees he is a bad
manager or at least not following company procedure. Either way, Steve wins.


The manager sees
the trap and shows Steve that he knows a thing or two about effective counter
play. His first pass at the B-t-B player is to convince Steve that a cover is
unnecessary. More exactly, he offers to cover for Steve if that becomes
necessary. “If you get any flack from downtown, I will take care of it for
you.” Good try! No cigar this time, though.


Steve already has
himself covered. He does not need to get on the hook by letting the manager
take care of him. “I have played this one by the numbers and can’t afford
to run the chance of its blowing up on me.” In essence, Steve says,
“I won’t take a chance on you.”


Now it is clear
why the manager is a manager. “Are you going to force me to write this up?
If that happens, it will go downtown. There is no predicting what will come of
that.”


What does the
manager do? He shows Steve he knows a trick or two himself. If he writes it up,
it will not bode well for Steve. The manager says that if Steve forces him to
play B-t-B, he will. If so, Steve will loose his cover.


Seeing that the
manager has him outplayed, Steve goes back to the drawing board. “Give me
a couple of days to work on it. . . . It is not that big of a
deal. Let me get back to you on this one.” Good move, Steve! Do not deal
with problems in an impulsive or quick way. Always put it off whenever
possible. This gives you time to come up with a new cover.