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IN BRIEF

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 performance.

There are 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 way."

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.

"I expect 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 time.

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 practical."

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.

Enter the 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.

"I think 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 tonight."

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 your order?"

Not to be put off, Bob says, "Is dinner going to be as delayed as the service has been?"

Still under 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 work."

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

In the 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 innovative situations.

Ralph Zinn 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.

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 jewelry.

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 and inflexible?

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

This technique 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 trick."

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."

Additionally, there is, "You would not understand." This is the "You dumb . . . trick."

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.

Whichever gambit 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.

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Please send comments or questions to Gary A. Crow, Ph.D. GAC@GaryCrow.net