Impersonal players think
differences are unimportant
This technique is
the essence of impersonal play. It applies to all people, situations,
conditions, and circumstances. Each person in the organization is a replaceable
production unit, and all events, conditions, and other aspects of operations
are performance variables. The organization reduces to production and
standards for production that the Impersonal player refers to often, and
parallel standards for performance that are also liberally invoked. The trick
is that these standards are subject to change without notice. They depend on
the player’s mood, the inclination toward or away from any specific person,
department, or any other element the player happens on today. To the observer
or participant, there may seem to be no rhyme nor reason, but the Impersonal
player sees himself as totally evenhanded and objective. The key is nothing
matters unless it happens to meet the fancy of the Impersonal player. The
player says, “There are always two ways to do anything: my way and my
Impersonal players are impatient
and in a hurry
This technique is
self-explanatory but includes an interesting twist. Dr. Vincent Arnold might
well include the following in one of his classic memos.
your report in my office by the close of business on Wednesday. I will review
it and get back to you as soon as possible.” As can be seen, the time rush
applies to someone other than Dr. Arnold. The staff member has a deadline while
Vincent will take his good old time. He is impatient and in a hurry with others
but expects them to be patient and not to rush him. He is busier than anyone.
Impersonal players do not
clearly understand their roles with people
Players do well
with charts, ongoing planning, lists of things to do, and time in their offices
by themselves. Any time they are alone or have a program to let them know what
to do, Impersonal players are in their elements. The problem comes when they
need to “wing it” or “play it by ear.” Then, people and
conditions become idiosyncratic and unpredictable. The Impersonal player must
avoid such uncertainty.
There are several
ploys assuring the elimination of the unexpected and that prevent any direct
need to deal with people. Requiring a detailed agenda is always good. This
limits all interaction to topics and issues the player has rehearsed ahead of
Even better is
having everyone talk while the Impersonal player listens and takes copious
notes. “I will listen to the ideas of each of you and then take time to
consider them. I will get back with you as soon after the meeting as
The ultimate for
the Impersonal player, though, is to bring an interpersonal type along to the
meeting. The player sits quietly while the interpersonal type interacts. The
best of the Impersonal players never go to a meeting alone. They always take
their designated talkers.
As an added
technique, if the Impersonal player is confronted in the hallway over anything,
he suddenly has a meeting which he is already late to. The player has to have
contingency plans for those times when people try to trap him into a discussion
– or even worse – into a decision.
Impersonal players do not care
about or understand the needs of others
Tim is a waiter at
the Marietta Inn where he has worked for three weeks. It is Saturday evening
and customers are standing in line to be seated. It has been that kind of night
since about 6 p.m. Nothing is going
right. Two of the suppliers are late with their deliveries, the head cook is
out sick, and three servers did not show for their shifts.
Impersonal player. Bob Miller is only a little too loud and pushy about the
wait in line. He is only somewhat more difficult when he and his party have to
sit toward the back of the dining room. His real ability as a player does not
come to the surface until Tim is trying to wait on Bob’s party.
having to wait twenty minutes to get in our orders is ridiculous. Is the
service always this bad here?”
Tim is trying to
be patient with Bob as he replies, “No sir. We’ve had a lot of problems
Not being one to
back off from pressing his advantage, Bob says, “I don’t think your
problems are something I should have to suffer for. You should plan for times
when things don’t go exactly right.”
Tim hangs in there
as best he can. He says, “Thank you for your suggestion, sir. May I take
Not to be put off,
Bob says, “Is dinner going to be as delayed as the service has been?”
control, Tim says, “We will do our best, sir.”
Once Tim serves
their meals and leaves the table, one of Bob’s dinner companions asks,
“Weren’t you a little rough on him, Bob? It does look like they have their
hands full. If you come on like that in a restaurant, I’d hate to see you at
With a wide
gesture and a smile, Bob says, “I have my own problems. I sure don’t need
to have other people dumping theirs on me, especially when I have a right to
expect things to run smoothly.”
Bob hates bad
management, be it at a personal, department, or company level. Any variation
from his standard is bad management and inexcusable. The needs or problems of
people are but annoyances that must be eliminated. Bob is an Impersonal player
of the highest order and may serve as a role model for the novice.
Impersonal players are always
the best judges of the environment
illustration, Vincent uses this technique effectively when he equates morale
problems with staff complaints. The work environment is fine. Employees are
merely complaining about problems that do not exist. This is true because the
Doctor says it is true. The technique, however, may be applied in more
operates a jewelry store. He believes his customers want personal, private
service. Following up on this belief, he divided the store into a show room and
a viewing room. A customer browses in the show room and then completes a
viewing request list. He notes items of interest and then goes to the viewing
room. Items are then brought to him in a relaxed and private environment.
Ralph hired a
public relations consultant to help improve his business. Enter the Impersonal
Player, disguised as a consultant, knows a better way to do business. The
viewing room becomes a storage room, and Ralph’s store soon looks like a dozen
others, glass cases, bright lights, crowds of people. But, customers who can
afford what Ralph has to sell prefer the pampering, personal service, and
special treatment they have come to expect. They are buying this as much as
The story does not
have a totally disastrous ending. Ralph’s business only drops by twenty percent
before he catches on. It drops another ten percent before he manages to send
the consultant on her way and to put his store back the way it was.
Have no concern
about the Impersonal player, though. She collects her $30,000, advises Ralph
that the drop in sales is because of his lack of real sales expertise, and goes
to her next engagement. It seems skilled players are never short of work.
Impersonal players treat others
differently than they expect to be treated
This is so
axiomatic it hardly needs elaboration. If nothing else, Impersonal players
always want and expect to be treated in special and deferential ways. Although
the Impersonal player is skilled at excluding the human factor, he goes to
extremes to be sure others do not relate in kind.
Dr. Arnold, in the
illustration, schedules a fifteen minute appointment a few days away to be sure
he is on someone’s mind. At the restaurant, Bob makes sure Tim remembers him.
In little and big ways, Impersonal players have a way of staying on your mind.
They are there on your way home, at the dinner table, and even in your sleep,
if you are one of their patsies.
Here is a little
trick to spot experienced players. Over the next few days, make a mental record
every time someone comes up in your thoughts or in your conversations with
friends or co-workers. Now think about whether the thought or discussion is
positive or negative. Counting only the negative, who comes up the most often?
He may be an Impersonal player. Here is how to tell:
Is he rigid
Is he one of
the last living people you would expect to be supportive of your activities,
feelings, and goals?
Does he have
problems with give-and-take within relationships?
If you answer Yes!
Yes! Yes! you have identified an Impersonal player.
Impersonal players do not think
people need reasons or explanations
comes in several forms. There is, “I am too far above you to warrant your
receiving an explanation from me.” This is the basic “snob
At other times you
see, “I am the boss and am not to be questioned,” approach. This is
the “high-and-mighty trick.”
The next approach
is, “I am too busy or important to take time to give you a reason or
explanation.” This is the “Buzz off! trick.”
there is, “You would not understand.” This is the “You dumb . .
Finally comes the
most common trick. “Don’t ask for reasons or explanations when you already
know quite well what the reason or explanation is.” This is the “mind
reader’s trick.” If you do not read minds, you are out of luck.
he uses, the Impersonal player will carry it off with arrogance and style.
Impersonal players relate to
everyone the same
This is the main
technique required to be an Impersonal player. There are those
“jerks” who are nice to some people and obnoxious with others,
pleasant to your face, and then talk about you behind your back. Impersonal
players are consistent and take pride in being evenhanded. They treat everyone
equally badly, if it serves their purposes.