In my continuing quest to locate and promote books that solve specific career-related dilemmas, versus offering broad-brush, shopworn advice on job hunting, I was intrigued by the title of this particular work and decided to pick a copy up for this month’s review — especially given the fact that many Career Horizons clients have experienced the frustration of interpersonal conflict in the workplace. And while I wouldn’t call this publication an instant classic, the authors do an excellent job of cataloging the most common political land mines that people encounter in the workplace and in providing some very practical checklists, tactics, and techniques for dealing with them.
Starting with a chapter outlining how many of us get “hooked” by the emotional traps set by our colleagues, we are taught to “unhook ourselves” in four distinct ways: physically, mentally, verbally, and through the use of business tools (formal documentation and such). This theme is then repeated throughout the book, backed by dozens upon dozens of real-life examples of how unhappy workers extricated themselves from difficult situations using this four-step process. Sound tedious? It’s not, really, since the examples are quite vivid and are brought to life through the authors’ creative labeling of certain workplace personalities we all instantly recognize such as The Hero, The Rebel, The Martyr, The Controlling Egomaniac, the Saboteur, and the Charming Cheating Liar.
Beyond these basic instructions on how to recognize destructive workplace relationships, and fix them, we are treated to a number of other value-added chapters that are quite good, such as how to set healthy workplace boundaries, how to “manage up” and strengthen the relationship with one’s boss, and how to “manage down” and deal with the pseudo-parental responsibilities that accompany being a supervisor of other people. There’s even an excellent chapter at the end of the book that might be useful to quite a few professionals in transition, since it provides a detailed “corporate culture checklist” that people can use to determine the exact type of work environment they would likely find most suitable.
So all in all, while not a show-stopper, authors Crowley and Elster have put in a solid effort and compiled a lot of interesting, actionable advice together in this book that could be of a blessing to anybody facing chronic unhappiness on the job — or who find themselves repeatedly trapped in unhealthy, manipulative office relationships. If you can relate to this concept in any way, this book’s for you!