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.

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