Leadership: Play Silly Games, Win Silly Prizes

Once you are given management responsibility, you have to focus on the core principles of the unit. You have to learn the people and the mission. Your effectiveness as a manager hinges on being able to lead the team.


If your style of leadership is, in any way about playing games with those you lead, you will lose before you start.

Play silly games, win silly prizes. –  Anonymous

I once worked for a boss who refused to rate any employee better than what he had been rated. He wasn’t a very good manager, so his annual performance ratings were pretty weak. There were three of us, direct reports to this clown. After two review cycles of being handed poor results too, we banded together and vowed to take him down. How?

It wasn’t that hard. In meetings with more senior managers, we quietly but effectively deferred questions by saying things like “here’s my answer, blah, blah, blah, but Jim, what do you think?” He never had good answers. He would stumble and fumble, but our expertise was heard by those above us. There was no doubt he was being shown for the ineffective manager he truly was.

His gamy way of treating us at review time got blown up. What do I mean by being gamy? There are several ways this very unproductive leadership style comes across:

Type 1

You constantly ask for answers but never use the information. Making your team respond to countless questions then never showing any sign of using the answers for any good is just plain gaming. Why would you do that? Just to pester the crew? That’s silly. It’s a huge waste of intellectual and emotional capital.

Type 2

Asking questions when you already know the answer. I had an employee once who tried to game me. After walking away from a meeting this employee stopped me and asked me a question. It was somewhat technical in nature. I was glad to explain the answer and show him how to calculate a solution. He said “I already knew that. I just wanted to see if the ‘big dog’ knew how too.” My response? “How do you think I got to be the big dog?”

By the way, he got fired a few weeks later for pulling a similar stunt with a client who knew our CEO.

Type 3

Being a gamesman at work is manipulation. Being the one who pours on the guilt or the ridicule is a bad position to be in. We’ve all known someone who is manipulative. They tweak the story just enough to infer that doing anything contrary to their point of view would be disloyal on your part.

These gamesmen find ways to shift the spotlight away from their faults and place the blazing light on you. Dealing with them is a roller coaster ride.

You get what you deserve

When a team is impacted by a manager with a gaming mindset, it soon will retaliate. Frustration and hostility will bubble up. The manager will be set up to fail. Refer back to my story.

Need a coach

If there is any chance your attempt at being gamy is due to your own insecurity, come clean and get serious. The team doesn’t deserve it.

Gamesmanship loses the war. As a leader who perpetuates games at work, you lose all credibility. Please STOP!

[reminder]In what ways have you seen bosses who play games at work?[/reminder]




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