Philip Whiteley's Blog

February 26, 2010

Much of the suffering at work is perfectly avoidable

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 3:03 pm

I’m deeply appreciative of the thoughtful review of Meet the New Boss by Kathleen Paris, of the University of Wisconsin. For the record, no she’s not family, and I don’t owe her a favour. Kathleen and I met via the web; and in person just the once, at a Human Capital Forum event I was chairing last year. She’s an adviser on leadership and organisations, and author of the excellent ‘Staying Healthy in Sick Organisations’, a copy of which I would love to have had in the days that I worked at a large corporation (can be purchased at her website; link is above).

I’m pleased that she enjoyed the multi-media experience of an e-book, with the ability to listen to a song about work while reading about its impact, and the thinking that lies behind it:

Songs dealing with work by Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Bob Marley, The Animals, The Who, the Jam, even Richard Rogers II and Dolly Parton and other musical celebrities are hyperlinked to the Ebook, making reading and listening a multi-sensory  experience.

She notes that it’s not very practical for the busy manager: that’s true. I deliberately wanted the reader to think, not act; and hopefully think about work, life and art in a different way.

Gems for such readers are interspersed throughout the book, for example, recognizing the difference between obedience and respect or how any theory of employee motivation will fall short because motivation “…will depend enormously on the individual─something that novelists are much better at understanding than management academics.”

My difficulty getting a print publisher for Meet the New Boss stemmed from publishers not being able to see whether it was a management book or a general non-fiction book about the popular arts. Given that the purpose of the project was to explore the very links between the two worlds, this objection misses the point. It’s like saying to Nick Hornby: but is Fever Pitch about football, or is it autobiography?

The attitude is revealing. You also see it in the phrase ‘work-life balance’ (See post, 18th February 2010); as though work were somehow separate from life; and as though we didn’t enter the workplace each day with a song on our mind, a thought in our hearts that stems from home or from the books we’ve read; as though we weren’t really supposed to be a human being in the workplace at all. Maybe that’s why the bean-counters try to call us ‘resources’. Hopefully, Meet the New Boss is a tiny searchlight trained on the huge interlinks between the two worlds – and at least one person has enjoyed it!

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