Richard Conniff, the acclaimed author of The Natural History of the Rich, has survived savage beasts in the workplace jungle, where he hooted and preened in the corner office as a publishing executive. He's also spent time studying how animals operate in the real jungles of the Amazon and the African bush.
What he shows in The Ape in the Corner Office is that nature built you to be nice. Doing favors, grooming coworkers with kind words, building coalitions, these tools for getting ahead come straight from the jungle. The stereotypical Darwinian hard-charger supposedly thinks only about accumulating resources. But highly effective apes know it's often smarter to give them away. That doesn't mean it's a peaceable kingdom out there, however. Conniff shows that you can become more effective by understanding how other species negotiate the tricky balance between conflict and cooperation.
Conniff quotes one biologist on a chimpanzee's obsession with rank: "His attempts to maintain and achieve alpha status are cunning, persistent, energetic, and time-consuming. They affect whom he travels with, whom he grooms, where he glances, how often he scratches, where he goes, what times he gets up in the morning." Sound familiar? It's the same behavior you can find written up in any issue of BusinessWeek or The Wall Street Journal.The Ape in the Corner Office connects with the day-to-day of the workplace because it helps explain what people are really concerned about: How come he got the wing chair with the gold trim? How can I survive as that big ape's subordinate without becoming a spineless yes-man? Why does being a lone wolf mean being a loser? And, yes, why is it that jerks seem to prosper, at least in the short run?
"A splendid writer: fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step." (The New York Times Book Review)
I've been on a run of great sociological reads from Audible. Blink, Wisdom of the Crowds, Freakanomics, and Tipping Point. I recommend all of these titles highly, and this one after those.
There is a slightly smug, and slightly overreaching play at humor throughout this book which I find unnecessary and diminishing. The narrator unfortunately echos this tone with a slight smug smile in his voice. But otherwise it is solid. There are some good takes on our animal nature, and the topic is great.
There is also an unnecessary reach to make this a "useful" text, with business applications. This feels hollow and possibly due to editorial influence. With Malcolm Gladwell, it feels natural, and probably part of his background, but doesn't work here as well. Still, it is a worthwhile read. and the "conclusions" included favor humanity, and so tolerable.
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
This audiobook is long, but consistently interesting. I've found that the Ape in the Corner Office, like Gladwell's Blink, and the Tipping Point, comes up in conversation a lot. It offers a curious perspective on the everyday activity that is our working lives and is both fascinating and useful in that regard.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This book was a dissapointment to me because it took too long to get to the point.It is more of a narrative of something else than understanding the workplace