Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee were on their quest to return the ring to Mordor.

Gollum snuck up on the pair as they slept fitfully.

Seeing an opportunity, Gollum lunged for the ring around Frodo’s neck.

Unfortunately for Gollum, Frodo woke up at that exact moment and grabbed Gollum’s wrist.

The ensuing conversation went like this:

Frodo: We caught you!

Samwise: Yeah, we caught you, pickle breathe!

Gollum: We just want Precious!!! Wait, what’s a pickle?

Frodo: Forget the pickle. Why do you want the ring so badly?

Samwise: Answer him, you piece of soggy navel lint!!

Gollum: What is lint?

Frodo: Forget the lint. Answer my question!

Samwise: Yeah, answer his question, you moist dog wedgie!

Frodo: Samwise, you know how much I hate that word.

Samwise: I’m sorry, but I haven’t eaten in days and my feet hurt.

Frodo: That is still no excuse for using the word wedgie!

While Frodo and Samwise argued, Gollum quietly took the ring and ran away.

A few days later, Sauron’s forces captured Gollum and the ring.

Reunited with the ring of power, Sauron defeated all other forces of Middle Earth and became supreme ruler.


The Lesson

Why did Frodo and Samwise lose?

Because Samwise was a lousy “backup” to Frodo.

You don’t want your coworkers to be like Samwise.

When you’re de-escalating a tough situation and need a coworker to back you up, they can make things worse if they join into the confrontation.

There are several reasons for this, but we’ll highlight just one today:

You and your coworker might have different goals for the situation (e.g., you want the person to have a seat while your coworker wants them to leave for the day).

When no one is the “lead,” your conflicting goals create confusion.

Plus, people can tell when staff members aren’t on the same page. Like Gollum, some will use that against you.

What You Should Do

Step 1: Talk to your coworkers about how you “backup” one another.

When someone is providing backup they should:

  • NOT join into the conversation.
  • NOT stand beside the lead staff person.
  • NOT try to set the strategy for how to handle the situation.

Step 2: Read next week’s email to find out how to do backup correctly.

Have a great week!



Stay in touch

Receive weekly tips from Ryan about how to work with homeless, addicted and mentally ill patrons.