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Game of the Month Game of the Month September - Keep Them Guessing

Game of the Month September - Keep Them Guessing

keep_them_guessingIn Keep Them Guessing, the player changes her mind on key issues, without acknowledging that she previously had a completely different view or allowing anyone to point this out. People never know which way a manager’s mind will go, and so become very cautious in their presentations and  recommendations. Some top managers play this game  because they want to be viewed as flexible, yet they fail to recognize the cost of hyperflexibility. When no one is sure what a leader believes or wants, confusion or even chaos is the result. People devote themselves to trying to anticipate what a leader requires rather than acting with a sense of purpose and shared mission. Flexibility must be balanced with clear goals and processes, and managers who opt for Keep Them Guessing rather than clarity will lower their group’s morale and diminish their output in the long run. 

Example:  Marianne, an ambitious thirty-three-year-old manager in a relatively young, rapidly expanding organization, wanted to be seen as someone who was highly adaptable—this was the CEO’s credo. Consequently, Marianne was quick to ote which way the wind was blowing and to move in that direction. She kept an eagle eye on trends and industry events, and every new change in the field influenced how Marianne viewed various policies and practices. Her people, though, were bewildered by her sudden shifts. One day Marianne favored an aggressive policy toward customers; the next she advocated a more cautious approach. Even worse, one day a direct report would go into Marianne’s offi  ce and ask her how she wanted him to approach a particular customer with a problem, and she would respond in a particular way. A week later, another customer would have a similar problem, and she would offer advice to a direct report that was quite different than what she had provided the first person who asked for help. Direct reports would compare her advice, scratch their heads, and spend a lot of time trying to “read” which approach Marianne favored.

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Games of the Month

Token Involvement

To play Token Involvement, a manager conducts opinion surveys, focus group, or involvement meetings to communicate that "your opinion matters", but these activities are done only to make people feel involved rather than actually to involve them. The real intention is just to get rid of the complaints and for managers to show their management that they´re doing the "right" thing-involving their people in the decision-making process. The same game is played when leaders involve their direct reports supercially, soliciting their views on department strategy but relying exclusively on their views on department strategy but relying exclusively on thei own view. Cynicism becomes employees´ultimate response to this game, and they lose respect for management. Perhaps evens worse, when management really needs employees to be committed and contribuing to a major project, they have great difficulty securing this involvement.


Praise for Games at Work

jacopoA terrific read not only for senior leaders and executives but also for employees seeking growth in complex organizations. Goldstein and Read dissect the interpersonal dynamics that affect a company’s performance, provide a framework to understand the games that are commonly played in businesses around the world, and offer practical tools to correct these behaviors and improve the organization’s effectiveness.

Jacopo Bracco Executive Vice President DIRECTV Latin America

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