Book reviews – three latest books for HR

by 20 May 2010

Keeping your head at work in spite of challenging colleagues is a key part of career success. Tom Washington reviews four books that aim to guide you through the chaos

01 Am I the Only Sane One Working Here? 101 Solutions for Surviving Office Insanity

Albert J. Bernstein

McGraw Hill $29.95

Cranky clients, unreasonable managers and backstabbing co-workers can drive even the most level-headed employee to tear their hair out. If it’s not a teammate letting you down it’s corporate bullies giving you a hard time.

The office can be a treacherous place for someone’s health, so even if controlling other people’s madness proves an impossible task, stopping the madness getting you is paramount.

In this book, Albert J. Bernstein delves into the world of workplace psychology by presenting the reader with ‘Survival Scenarios’. First up is the story of Chris, the golden boy in sales who makes promises to customers he can’t deliver, meaning more work for others. The ‘Survival Solutions’ detail how to deal with his dishonesty, from predicting his future behaviour to ensuring you’re removed from any awkward fall-out.

The scenarios Bernstein presents are all familiar and the solutions are practical. He is also amusingly blunt, picking apart pathological liars and ‘people that aren’t as smart as you’ with intelligent wit.

There are so many scenarios (101, surprisingly) that any reader will be able to find something relevant to their workplace; this book should be kept on every desk just in case one comes up.

02 Surviving the Toxic Workplace

Linnda Durre

McGraw Hill $29.95

Another book aimed at helping readers survive hellish workplaces here. We don’t think it’s all that bad, especially if HR is doing its job properly, but it’s a sad truth that some people find themselves spending their days in a ‘toxic workplace’.

Surviving the Toxic Workplace promises to teach you how to deal with difficult bosses, defang poisonous co-workers, defuse explosive situations and handle confrontations.

Renowned psychologist Linnda Durre presents a step-by-step guide on how to diagnose and treat the problems encountered in the workplace to help ensure the health of your career and your sanity.

The ‘Staff Infections’ section describes how deal with Ben the Brownnoser, Lenny the Ladder Climber and Bobby the Boss’s Relative – all caricature but ultimately people you come across in real life.

Guidance is given in the form of thought streams: ‘Bobby, I realise that you’re the boss’s nephew, and I understand you think he probably won’t ever reprimand you… (but) I won’t cover your work for you when you’re late.’

Readers of this book might well find advice to get them through the day, or if they’re lucky enough to work somewhere harmonious, there will always be a friend to impart the knowledge onto.

03 Bully Blocking at Work – A Self-Help Guide for Employees and Managers

Evelyn M. Field

Australian Academic Press

Dealing with annoying colleagues at work is one thing, but unfortunately many people suffer a far worse fate: bullying.

Author Evelyn M. Field has worked as a psychologist for more than 30 years, working on issues from schoolyard bullying cases to dealing with victims of critical trauma. She clearly has a real empathy with such cases and a deep understanding of what causes them.

This insightful, heartfelt book aims to remove the shroud from workplace bullying, uncovering the reasons for its occurrence and attempting to provide practical avenues to resolution. It covers work- related bullying, personal attacks, social isolation, verbal threats and rumour spreading.

Employers reading this book will find useful hints to spot workplace bullying, who might be potential targets, and of course the aggressors themselves. There is also some sensible guidance on keeping both mind and body healthy and ensuring the workplace is comfortable.

As sad as it is that some businesses foster this kind of bullying behaviour, there needs to be this kind of literature to hand for employers and their staff.

04 One Page Talent Management – Elimination Complexity, Adding Value

Marc Effron & Miriam Ort

Havard Business Press - $55

All HR professionals know that surviving and winning in today’s marketplace requires top talent. Not only has this talent got to be recruited and retained, but managed successfully. This is often easier said than done, as employers wonder why all the time and resources invested in talent isn’t positively impacting the bottom line.

In this book, talent management experts Marc Effron and Miriam Ort argue that companies unwittingly add layers of complexity to their talent- building models – without evaluating whether those components add any value to the overall process. This leads to frustratingly long-winded and headache-inducing processes for things that should be kept simple.

This is a powerfully simple (and not too long) approach designed to help an employer’s ability to develop leaders faster. The style is straightforward, with easy-to-use processes that streamline processes down to what really adds value to an organisation.

For those readers for whom talent management is like pulling teeth, this book could be the antidote and provide inspiration for keeping things simple – just how we all like it.