Saturday, November 28, 2009

Booknote: Working for You Isn't Working For Me

I finally finished reading Working For You Isn't Working for Me: The Ultimate Guide to Managing Your Boss. The book is not perfect, but if you are dealing in a workplace with a toxic boss, then this is a good book to read in order to help you deal with the situation. And the bottom line is dealing because, unless you have the option of just finding another job right away, you are going to have to deal with your toxic boss. So, the basic idea is to eventually learn to deal and adapt so you can maintain your sanity and health. In the long run, you may want to find a different job, but in the meantime, you have to deal with the reality you may be facing.

I chose to read it after I read a review of it. Unfortunately, I can't locate the review now, so I can't link to it. At any rate, let me go ahead and state what I liked and did not like.

I did not like the fact that times it seems like authors want to give toxic bosses the benefit of the doubt once too often. While I understand that you have to adapt and learn to deal with realities, there are moments when you have to call a spade a spade. A toxic boss who undermines you or has significant ethical issues should probably not be tolerated. Maybe for me the problem is that I see a lot of toxic bosses as assholes in the sense defined by Robert Sutton, author of a book I like a lot more, The No Asshole Rule. Sadly, the reality is that the asshole boss is not leaving any time soon. This is especially applicable if you happen to work for a Sacred Cow or Junior (two of the types defined by Crowley and Elster). Those two are protected from on high, so they are there to stay. When it comes to that, I like to use this bit of consolation: the Roman Empire was not built in a day. The worse Roman emperors were not murdered in a day either. Thus, this too will pass. The authors would probably see that as some form of bad mouthing the boss or probably wishing for their demise, behaviors they say one needs to learn to leave behind, but I like to see it as a bit of dark humor. Anyhow, the book's authors seem a bit too tolerant at times, but aside from this, there is a lot of valuable advice. One other thing was that I had a little difficulty in one of the exercises, where I am asked to determine my top expectations, fears, so on. This is because I tied for two top profiles (which you then put on one line as one) plus my other two. Sorting things out was not so easy, and I had to do a bit more self-reflection to really determine what I needed. I guess a bit more guidance for that would have been helpful. That was not bad per se, just took a bit more time, so I am mentioning it for my readers.

What I liked about the book is the valuable advice. This book does a few things for the reader:
  • It helps you reflect and discover where you stand in relation to the toxic boss. Knowledge is power, and you need it in order to act and adapt. You cannot cope with your toxic boss until you start by identifying the situation. This is what the authors call detecting. From there, you can begin to work towards coping, some degree of healing, and regaining some power and dignity for yourself.
  • You get to learn about 20 bad boss behaviors. This is very neatly organized, and though the authors acknowledge that some bosses can have traits from more than one type, I don't think the issue of bosses crossing lines, so to speak, was as well addressed. I think readers may have to do a bit more reflection and interpreting on your own if you wish to identify a boss that may have more than one type.
  • Then you get to look at your relation to the boss. The best part then is that the authors give you advice and ways specific to your situation and profile (yes, they help you see what kind of worker you are too) in order to detach then deal with your boss. For the profile, some of it may be familiar if you have done a Myers-Briggs test for instance. I have personally done a Myers-Briggs, so I when I managed to identify myself according to Crowley and Elster, some of it was already familiar. If nothing else, this provided some validation, which was good.
The book is very well organized, and if you need help now, it is pretty easy to read. This means you can get to work on your situation right away. Having said that, do set some time aside to do the exercises that the authors suggest. You will learn a lot about yourself if you are willing to do the exercises and truly reflect on your situation. The authors do point out that you may get some quick relief when you start, but keep in mind that it can take at least three months for you to get long term results. This is because you are going to work on building new, more healthy habits. Their simple technique of the 4Ds--detect, detach, depersonalize, and deal-- provides an organized and systematic way of healing yourself and gaining some personal power back. Your toxic boss will not meet your needs or quell your fears. For the most part, that toxic person is not going to change. You need to accept that, and then you need to act accordingly. And yes, the moment may come when the best option is to begin circulating your resume. However, while you do that, there are things you can do to make the workplace at least bearable. I will reassure readers that at times you may not need to start looking for a new job, even with a toxic boss. If you learn to follow the 4Ds, you may well be able to survive, and for many, that is a good outcome. Finally, the book also lends itself to rereading as times may come that, for instance, you get a new boss with a different level of toxicity.

I would recommend this book to any worker. I especially recommend it to anyone who may have a less than perfect boss who drives them insane. I got something out of it, and I am recommending it to a couple of my coworkers. A few bosses may want to read it as well, if for no other reason than to use it to put a mirror to themselves.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Thanksgiving Post 2009, now with extra stuffing for Black Friday

Well, we are almost done with another year, and we are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. Last year's holiday celebration was a bit rough for my family and I since my mother passed away shortly after Thanksgiving. My mother, optimist that she was, was big on family and all of us coming together for fun and good times. So, in the spirit of having a good time, of some amusement, and to entertain my three readers, here are some links and things for Thanksgiving.

You can find my 2008 post here, and the bonus features for last year over here. Those links will lead you to the 2007 posts as well. It seems this is becoming a tradition here at The Itinerant Librarian, and that is fine by me because I have fun finding these things for my three readers. I take the time to scour the web to find fun links every year to educate, help out, and amuse my three readers. All you have to do is just click.

Some of the basics:

Doing things a little different:
  • Are you interested in a "sustainable Thanksgiving"? This means are you interested in doing something different such as a meatless meal or trying to get a turkey that has been humanely killed? From AlterNet, here are "10 Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving." Some things may take a little work (like starting a garden), but others are simple (drink tap water).
  • Maybe you want to look at some old cookbooks? Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project may be your thing. From the site, "The Michigan State University Library and the MSU Museum have partnered to create an online collection of some of the most influential and important American cookbooks from the late 18th to early 20th century. The goal of this project is to make these materials available to a wider audience."
  • Want more history? How about some historical recipes? Find them here, from the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
  • Maybe you are not traveling this year? Or maybe you live in a new town, and you have not established your holiday traditions yet? Mashable has put together a very nice "HOW TO: Prepare a Thanksgiving Feast With Help from the Web." From how to send invitations to how to cook the meal and even iPhone apps.

  • Do you remember the ever popular jargon bingo games you might play in your office during meetings? Well, here is a Thanksgiving Bingo Card, from the folks at Holy Taco. So, if you are stuck with less than nice relatives, you can at least entertain yourself.
  • Want some cake? Here are photos of "25 Horrifying Thanksgiving Cakes." A couple of those are kind of cute actually, but some should have been Halloween horror spectacles. Via BuzzFeed.
  • If you thought you were just having turkey and the fixings with family and friends, you were wrong. Here is a graph on "What You're Really Having for Thanksgiving." Via the SF Weekly.
  • Are you traveling to your Thanksgiving gathering? Or are you returning, and you think you want to bring some leftovers for the trip? Sorry, but take those leftovers and ". . .shove them down your piehole." This is a tongue-in-cheek reminder about some of the restrictions the TSA has in terms of flights and foods, especially liquids. Via YesButNoButYes.
  • And if you are like me, then you are not regular people. Like grad students, I have to work a significant part of the holiday (don't even get me started on that). Jorge Cham of PhD Comics knows my pain.
  • Of course, you can always have Thanksgiving PETA style. I know this is a serious commercial, and they are trying to make a serious point. But, the commercial is quite depressing, and in the end, the effect may be somewhat more humorous (in a dark sort of way):

And after you are done eating that turkey, there is Black Friday:

  • Last year was notable because people actually got killed during those stupid early morning doorbuster promotions. The last thing retailers want is to get a bad reputation if someone dies in their stores this year. So, retailers are making plans to keep things "safe" on Black Friday (via Bizmology). If you follow the link, you get the article, and you can also get links to materials from OSHA and the National Retail Federation. These are kind of interesting in terms of seeing how retailers think.
  • Target apparently is ready to cater to the psychotic shoppers anyways, as their recent advertisements indicate. Via AdFreak.
  • On the other hand, you may want to consider staying home. According to Consumer Reports, a lot of shoppers are saying that retailers are out of line. "The survey was conducted as part of Consumer Reports' annual "Dear Shopper" campaign that highlights holiday gotchas and shopping traps." Found via Docuticker. The top annoyance is: "Stores that don't open all the checkout lanes." This is in my top peeves for retail as well. Nothing that pisses me off more than a store filled to the gills, and they don't open more checkout lanes. Pony up a bit more to pay some more cashiers, you cheap bastards. Having only 3 lines out of 40 open is not good customer service.
  • Once again, GovGab to the rescue. Here are some tips and links to help you "get ready Black Friday."
If you are driving, please be safe and careful. Also, please do not drink and drive. If you are staying home, have a safe and peaceful holiday.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

My small response to the librarian making the case against homosexuality

By now, Bert Chapman's post on "An Economic Case Against Homosexuality" has made the rounds of the librarian blog circuit. The first time I heard of Mr. Chapman's post was via an e-mail from a colleague who suggested that I might have a thing or two to say about it. I read it, and my initial reaction was to say, "what a load of bunk." That it was written by an academic librarian made me just a bit ashamed of my profession where we (supposedly) strive for values like openness, tolerance, understanding, diversity, and kindness. That was my initial reaction. I disagree strongly with his alleged economic assertions and with his premises that somehow homosexual people are less moral or aberrant somehow.

A couple of librarians who are better skilled when it comes to writing thoughtfully have provided a couple of replies that I think summarize how to respond to people like Mr. Chapman.

  • The Free Government Information (FGI) blog has "In Response to the Economic Case Against Homosexuality." Their guest blogger, Amy West, goes over the specific inaccuracies in Chapman's post. This is the kind of work I expect a good librarian to do. To look at the claims and then do some common fact checking, something that Mr. Chapman clearly did not do, or more likely chose not to do because it would not advance his religiously influenced agenda.
  • Wayne Bivens-Tatum, the Academic Librarian, looks at the rhetoric of Mr. Chapman's claims. This is well worth reading as well, and Mr. Bivens Tatum concludes that this is not about economics but about justice. Don't take my word for it. Go read it.
The story was picked up by Inside Higher Education here. Apparently, petitions calling for Mr. Chapman to be dismissed from Purdue University are surfacing. You can read a sampling of letters from students, alumni and members of the academic community to The (Purdue) Exponent here (if you run a search using "Chapman" as the term, you will get links to more coverage in The Exponent) This only pains me more, not for him, but for the fact that Purdue is where I got my undergraduate degree. Yes, I am an alumnus, and now I do wonder about the kind of people they hire up there. In fact, I have a friend who works there (another librarian. No, I am not saying who), that I know would not agree with Mr. Chapman's views. I cannot help but wonder how she feels having to be associated with him.

At the end of the day, these are the thoughts roaming my mind:

  • Mr. Chapman's beliefs and writing are reprehensible. They are just a screed for bigotry and discrimination disguised as "an economic case" that is anything but economic.
  • However, the beauty of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is that he has the right to express his reprehensible bigotry. That beauty also means that the rest of us have the right to ignore or condemn him. Therefore, he should not be acting indignant if he finds that reasonable, decent people object to what he's peddling.
  • Sure, academic librarians (and librarians in general) do have the right of expression like anybody else in this nation. We do not abdicate that just because we work in a library. Again, we should be ready to face the consequences of what we express. Though Mr. Chapman makes the usual disclaimer most of librarian bloggers make on their personal blogs, including me, that "views presented on this blog are the authors personal opinions and do not represent the opinions of my employer," he does mention his employer (Purdue University) in his biography at the blog. Directly or not, that reference will give him some weight, so to speak. There is a difference between some random guy making the "case," and an academic librarian affiliated to a very respectable midwestern university. He may not "represent" the university, but he does mention his association to it. Whether he likes it or not, people will look at his writing and say, "that librarian from Purdue" has it out for gay people (or something similar). This will probably not look good on the university, and I wonder if he even considered that.
  • Having said all that, I don't think the guy should be fired. Not for this, as bad as it may seem to those of us who disagree with his less than accurate views. Now, if he starts proselytizing at work, that would be reason to fire him. But it was written on his personal blog. This does not mean the students cannot protest and ask for his resignation or firing. Again, he wrote it, so he should have to deal with any consequences when it becomes clear that his bigotry is not going to be tolerated by society at large. He should not be shocked, surprised, or seeking sympathy when others denounce his wrong, inaccurate, and prejudiced views. As I pointed above, this will probably not look good on the university, and if he were fired or asked to resign, I would not be surprised. It is common knowledge that large institutions, like a reputable research university, would want to avoid any bad publicity or anything that could tarnish its image. Mr. Chapman is a tarnish on the image of Purdue University.
For me, guys like that just make our profession look bad. It's not because he is conservative. It's because he uses bad information, in a dishonest way, poor reasoning, and a clearly biased, close-minded point of view to promote intolerance, discrimination, and hatred, things that are against what our profession of librarianship should stand for. But for me it means I have to work harder to get good information out there to my patrons, to work on better educating my students and academic community, and to do my part, small as it may be, to make the world a better place, a world where we can embrace, understand, and learn from each other, a world where we can get justice and equality.

And that's my two cents.

Friday, November 13, 2009

E-Bay is not good enough for some people, and other signs the economy is still bad

Welcome once more to another edition of "Signs that the economy is bad" here at The Itinerant Librarian, where I take the time to look at those oh so subtle hints that the economy is bad. You know, the signs all those fancy shmancy analysts miss. And here are the news for this week:

  • The E-Bay for the high rollers: Apparently, even the big billionaires are having a tought time with the current economy, something I have highlighted before. Aww, the poor babies are having to sell some of their assets. So, like most of us, do you think they turn to E-Bay to auction off a few things? Oh no, E-Bay is just not good enough for these folks. They have their auction site. Welcome to BillionaireXchange. This is not just for any schmuck. They actually verify your income level, and they make sure "to screen for unqualified and/or undesirable elements." Are you just sick and tired of that nice mansion in Beverly Hills? Trade it in for Chateau in France. After all, you can just hop on your plane over to France. Oh wait, you had to give up your private jet? Oh, so sorry you turned out to be such a wuss. But don't worry, Quintin Thompson, co-founder and executive partner of BillionaireXchange, says that ""because of the current economic conditions in the U.S. we're seeing a lot of people who need to actually trade out or trade down from some of their luxury items and facilitate that transaction somewhere discreetly and privately so that they don't have to deal with the shame and or embarrassment of downgrade."Imagine that. The rest of us just sell our extra stuff on E-Bay, we stop eating out, and we deal with the shame of not being able to reciprocate the occasional dinner invitation from a friend if money is tight. Such is life. Except for those people, heaven forbid they face a little shame.
  • Maddoff's homes go on sale cheap: And speaking of stuff going cheap these days, maybe you are interested in getting a big fancy mansion at a distressed price. According to the article, "It's still not cheap, but Livin' La Vida Madoff may now cost a bit less." Oh yes, you can now live La Vida Madoff. Want to live in Manhattan? His old digs there are going for "$8.9 million, 10 percent below its initial $9.9 million asking price." Palm Beach? No problemo since it now ONLY "was cut 7 percent to $7.9 million from $8.49 million." On the positive side, if there is a positive to the mess that old coot caused, is that the money from the sales will go to restitution. I suppose it beats skinning him alive nice and slow for all the damage he caused.
  • And finally, schools need to raise funds once again. This school is selling points and grades for a donation. I guess the annoying chocolate sales and chili suppers were just not cutting. Actually, this sounds somewhat like my kid's school at times. They usually allow my daughter to do things like go out of uniform on Fridays or any other number of little "perks" for a monetary donation. At least, they are not selling grades here yet. On an update note, it seems the school has abandoned the scheme.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Fast food quiz

Well, we made it to another Friday here at The Itinerant Librarian. My two readers know that Fridays are often quiz day, where I amuse myself with one of those Internet quizzes some people love to hate. This week, we get to play with food. Dang it, no tostones or other Puerto Rican options? Just because I have a Spanish last name, it does not follow I have to like burritos. Actually, I do happen to like burritos and both Mexican and Tex-Mex food, but we are trying to make a point here, which was, oh well, this is just a silly quiz. The part about being pretty low maintenance is pretty accurate. I am overall a pretty mellow person as long as you don't rile me up.

Anyhow, here are the results:

You Are a Burrito

You're not a picky person. You're able to go with the flow and really enjoy life.

You have a taste for the exotic, and you're quite adventurous. You're willing to try almost anything.

You're very low maintenance. You don't mind getting a bit messy if it means having fun.

You aren't superficial or easily impressed. Someone has to be the real deal if they're going to impress you.