Astute and keenly observed business advice, yet down-to-earth in its use of real-world workplace examples and everyday...

Decoding the Workplace

50 KEYS TO UNDERSTANDING PEOPLE IN ORGANIZATIONS

Sound advice for interacting with others at work.

This debut has all the elements of a useful business book: lots of examples, authoritative advice, highlighted “keys” explaining main concepts, and short, easy-to-read chapters. Ballard covers a lot of territory, addressing such issues as the differences between people, working in groups, organizational structure and culture, how leaders gain power and influence, job satisfaction, and the meaning of work. Although some of his observations might be unsurprising to those experienced with workplace interactions, others are sure to be eye-opening, particularly for younger workers. For example, the author’s discussion of how one can be more successful at making decisions by adopting a “systems perspective” contains a valuable lesson: “Thinking of organizations as being systems…can be a strength,” Ballard writes. “Too often people see their parts of the organization as fiefdoms or silos separated from the rest of the organization.” Just as important are the numerous messages about how perception becomes reality; Ballard suggests that one’s perceptions of one’s performance are more important than the actual performance itself, as are the impressions one creates. The author shares deep insight into the culture of organizations and dramatizes the impact of the culture on the worker: “Differences between what an organization preaches and what it does could reveal the real core of an organization’s culture,” he asserts. He’s also acutely aware of how personal interactions relate to the quality of one’s work: “Even if you are not a manager, your effectiveness can be affected very strongly by your relationships with others.” This is the kind of high-level perspective that only a former management consultant and current professor of management could share, and it’s sure to be helpful to managers and lower-level workers alike.

Astute and keenly observed business advice, yet down-to-earth in its use of real-world workplace examples and everyday language.

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4408-3826-2

Page Count: 184

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2015

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

ECONOMIC DIGNITY

Noted number cruncher Sperling delivers an economist’s rejoinder to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Former director of the National Economic Council in the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the author has long taken a view of the dismal science that takes economic justice fully into account. Alongside all the metrics and estimates and reckonings of GDP, inflation, and the supply curve, he holds the great goal of economic policy to be the advancement of human dignity, a concept intangible enough to chase the econometricians away. Growth, the sacred mantra of most economic policy, “should never be considered an appropriate ultimate end goal” for it, he counsels. Though 4% is the magic number for annual growth to be considered healthy, it is healthy only if everyone is getting the benefits and not just the ultrawealthy who are making away with the spoils today. Defining dignity, admits Sperling, can be a kind of “I know it when I see it” problem, but it does not exist where people are a paycheck away from homelessness; the fact, however, that people widely share a view of indignity suggests the “intuitive universality” of its opposite. That said, the author identifies three qualifications, one of them the “ability to meaningfully participate in the economy with respect, not domination and humiliation.” Though these latter terms are also essentially unquantifiable, Sperling holds that this respect—lack of abuse, in another phrasing—can be obtained through a tight labor market and monetary and fiscal policy that pushes for full employment. In other words, where management needs to come looking for workers, workers are likely to be better treated than when the opposite holds. In still other words, writes the author, dignity is in part a function of “ ‘take this job and shove it’ power,” which is a power worth fighting for.

A declaration worth hearing out in a time of growing inequality—and indignity.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7987-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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