On Christmas Day, my new boss sent me an email asking about a 6 month old charge from a vendor. Three days earlier, he sent me an email while I was driving to a client meeting 90 minutes away. When I checked my emails before starting the meeting, I found the original email - and several strident follow ups, demanding an immediate response to the original email and an explanation for why I hadn't responded immediately. Immediately. And, just before New Years' Day, while I was on a family vacation, he had me work for hours on a project he'd already cancelled.
I could go through Roget's and pick out any number of words for the situation and how I feel about the last 10 days of the year. But, as Robert I. Sutton, PhD points out in "Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best…. and Survive the Worst" (2010), it could have been much, much worse. At least I wasn't water-boarded as a team building exercise like one literally tortured employee in his book.
Sutton is a Professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School. He's got some great concepts - simplified as the 'No asshole rule' that, from my bottom-of-the-pile, no-one-under-me, I-never-want-to-manage-anyone perspective, work. And work well.
I don't know if my previous boss read this book or Sutton's "The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t" (2007) or just knew some parts intuitively, but he (mostly) followed them. When things worked, he left us alone. When he needed to criticize, he did so swiftly and without apology. Mostly, he deflected outside interference and let us do our jobs. These are concepts Sutton champions, along with rigorous honesty, especially in the face of problems; managing what you know and not rising to the Peter principal level; keeping your mouth shut about confidential information; and showing empathy for employees. Sutton's got specific management techniques for handling difficult situations. I've seen them in action, and they work.
As far as employee survival techniques go, I'd expected more from a book that's title includes, ". . . and Survive the Worst." For example, becoming, in the words of Roger Waters and David Gilmour of Pink Floyd "Comfortably Numb" (1979) is a great idea, but Sutton doesn't explain how to do it psychologically. It seems like it happens to a lot of employees in Sutton's book as a natural result of unremitting demoralization, so maybe I'll get there.
This is worth the read/listen if you're a manager or want to be one. In fact, take the Asshole Rating Self-Exam (ARSE) test that's available on line and read the book before becoming a manager. If you're already a manager, have someone you trust fill out the test for you. Please. Follow the recommendations so you are called 'El Jefe Mas Excelente' instead of something else. Unfortunately, though, this book isn't as helpful for us worker bees trying to survive in a restless hive.
Bob Walter was good narrator, and the pacing and editing was good.
[If this review helped, please press YES. Thanks!]