Menu Close

The Frustration Factor

TOC Next  


Do you ever have to work with people who absolutely, totally, and unequivocally drive you up the wall? Do you sometimes feel like climbing the wall all by yourself as the quickest way to escape from those people? Are there those days when you struggle with the nearly irresistible impulse to turn into a ranting, raving maniac? Is there that one person who gets you so uptight that you don’t know whether to throw your office key in his face and walk out or just sit down and cry? If you are saying Yes! Yes! Yes! you have had first-hand experience with “The Frustration Factor”, up close and personal.

If instead, these questions are hard for you or if you have never experienced “The Frustration Factor”, it is likely that you have lived your life on a very lonely island or are a saint, complete with robe and halo. The Frustration Factor is an ever-present ingredient of organizations from banks to hospitals, from schools to used car dealerships, from large corporations to service clubs.

The dysfunctional behavior of people who drive you up the wall is self reinforcing and self perpetuating. It feeds on itself. Unless you are aware of the behavior patterns of the people I call “players” and are prepared to counter them, it is easy to become the foil for their antics. Once this happens, it is too late for most people. The game is on. The world quickly divides into players and foils.

Here is the real problem, though. Anyone new coming into your company enters in the middle of the game. He is immediately part of the process, either as a player or as the foil for other players. The game quickly consumes senseless amounts of time, energy, and company resources. The Frustration Factor becomes a major resource drain. Playing the game takes on as much importance and sometimes more importance for the players than taking care of business.

The Frustration Factor is much the same as the virus causing the common cold. The symptoms are always about the same although the virus has a hundred varieties. Players range from warriors to mainliners, from troublemakers to those who play B t B–By the Book. There are players who are aggressive and those who are passive, players who are extroverts and those who are introverts. This book describes and discusses all types of players and their techniques in detail.


Players are motivated more by personal needs, status goals, insecurities, and craving for power than by the goals and interests of your company. Dyed-in-the-wool players do not see your company’s goals and interests as linked to theirs. The source of their motivation is found in self-promotion, protection, and the acquisition and maintenance of personal power. If their private goals are coincidentally compatible with your company’s, so be it. If not, their selfish interests prevail.

Some experienced players are very clever at hiding their motivations, and most all profess to be interested only in the welfare and well-being of your company. They are masters at diverting attention from them and from their roles in the negative outcomes they cause. They are able to displace responsibility onto other people, uncontrollable conditions, and unusual situations. If there is no avoiding responsibility, there are always extenuating circumstances outside the group or organization that made the outcome unavoidable. The result is that the player goes undetected or ends up having people feel sorry for him. It is a pure form of win if you win and win if you lose. No wonder some people become zealous players, all the time, on purpose.

Here is the point you must not miss. Players come in many varieties, and their styles of play range from the subtle to the blatant. In the chapters that follow, players are divided into neat categories and well-defined types. This enables you to clearly see how their techniques and maneuvers work. Be forewarned, though. Experienced players do not restrict themselves to such tidy pigeonholes. They use strategies and approaches from any category that serves their purposes at the time. Skilled play is very creative and original. Whatever their approach to driving you up the wall, please understand that players are very skilled at the game and deserve your respect if not your admiration. If you ever lose sight of this fact, you will be pulled into their games and find yourself driven up the wall over and over again. Your way out of their traps is through learning more about their play and getting equally skilled at counter play.

Are you ready to learn about The Frustration Factor? If so, let’s get started with the B-T-B players.

1 B-t-B – By the Book

The operating problems and employee conflicts are festering and have been growing for several weeks. Steve Brown is the assistant manager of the Southland Discount City Store and has avoided any repercussions from downtown so far. But things are getting out of hand.

Besides various other duties, Steve works closely with the cash activities where most of the problems and conflicts are. The difficulties relate generally to scheduling and assignment of employees and to a somewhat higher than usual error rate at the check-out registers. These problems are affecting employee attitudes and the number of customer complaints is increasing.

“This thing is getting contagious,” Steve says in response to the store manager’s question. “I have followed the book to the letter on this one and it is not improving. It worries me but I don’t know what else to do. If it were up to me, I’d sit them down and tell them the facts of life. It would either straighten up or we would have some new faces around here. It is not my call, though. I think we should give it a little more time. Maybe it will settle down without our doing anything drastic.”

The manager leans back in his chair and says, “Steve, the issue is what you are going to do about the problem.”

In a sincere voice, Steve says, “Given everything involved, I am bumping this one up to you.” Handing a paper to the manager, Steve continues, “Here is the thing in a nutshell. The policy book says to send a problem like this up the line. Here is the I-R-627 on the thing. I have been as complete as I can. I think we better play it safe with this one.”

The manager glances at the form but does not read it. Instead, he says, “I still want to know what you are going to do about the problem.”

Steve has a frustrated expression as he collects his thoughts and says, “I want to help you out with this one, but it is out of my area. It needs to be handled either by Personnel or the training types. I think it is important for the store for me to stay within my authority. People getting outside their areas is a problem you have, as you know better than any of us.”

With only a little more intensity, the manager says, “It will help me if we handle this in-house. Why don’t you take this one by the horns and shake it a little? If you get any flack from downtown, I will take care of it for you.”

Steve thinks a long time before he says, “I wish I could. I have played this one by the numbers and can’t afford to run the chance of its blowing up on me. I don’t want to end up the goat.”

The manager’s frustration now shows. “Steve, I asked you nicely to take care of this problem. Are you going to force me to write this up? If that happens, it will go downtown and there is no predicting what will come of that.”

Steve is slow to respond. “I don’t want that any more than you do. It won’t help taking the thing out on each other. Give me a couple days to work on it. There has to be some way I can help you get this little thing worked out. It is just not that big of a deal. Let me get back to you on this one.”

TOC Next