Diane: "Look, you silly girl. What looks like a sensible and compassionate compromise to you looks a lot like condescension to the rest of us. It's your main issue of life."
Alicia: "That is true. But..."
"They'll find other opportunities to make up the hours. You're management now, Alicia. You're not an associate. Stop pretending that you are. Will the other associates grumble about you? Yes. But if you pretend you're still their peer, they will grumble all the more, and they will come to hate you. This is not the Queen's Hamlet. You cannot dress up as a peasant here. So stop it. It is galling to them, and it is galling to me."
Gorgeous. And not only fair in that Diane Lockhart way that brooks no nonsense, but also a perfect description of where Alicia's at: Dividing the pie into so many pieces that everybody goes hungry, Alicia most of all. To be middle-management is to be caught in the middle, and it involves a learning curve full of overcorrection one way or the other, and it involves invisible walls and windows above and below you, that you must acknowledge but never admit aloud. It is galling to do otherwise.
How do you solve a problem like Alicia? Take the thing she's doing -- a kind, a compassionate, an equitable thing that solves nothing -- and put it in the context of her greatest fear: Causing offense, being the bad guy. Confusing nice with kind, and soft with weak. The powerlessness of power, when you confuse authority with stewardship and vice versa. She has a tremendous capacity for learning this one, because she's hyperaware, always, of other people's internal states, but she has to stop reacting to that instinctively, like she usually does, and start acting on it intellectually, like Will usually does.
Even her big scary guys -- Bishop, Sweeney -- she deals with completely by trusting her inner voice, and the thing about her inner voice is, it doesn't use words. Just actions. So she's got to set up a dual-processor in her head now, to use the information instead of just acting on it. This is the secret of the puzzle Diane gave her this week, because Diane knows exactly what the difference is: It's the trick we play on women, by telling them how good it feels to give, and how scary it is when men are disappointed. It starts in the cradle, and the smarter you are the more power it can have over you. Especially when you keep using it to win.
The sheer percentage of management issues that fall into this category, Being The Bad Guy By Not Being The Bad Guy, is legendary and it's something Diane would know to watch out for with anybody. Even Cary would fall in this pothole a few times. But with Alicia, it's her whole deal. And whenever we question Diane's behavior it's because she's done this with less than total finesse: To be management is to shed your fear of being the bad guy, and trusting that you're doing the best possible job with what you have, regardless of what people might say or think.