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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.

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