A field guide to the office jungle.
Starting a new job can feel like stepping straight into the lions’ den. Barnes doesn’t do much to dispel those fears in his brief, witty debut, which starts from the assumption that “corporate jungles are inherently dangerous places to work” and then offers tongue-in-cheek suggestions for explorers and adventurers who are navigating an unfamiliar and often hostile terrain. “This isn’t a serious book,” the author acknowledges, but the observations and advice are clearly drawn from his experience working for various companies. While the tone is light, there’s a serious aim: to help people “actively enjoy life in the corporate jungle.” Yet the picture he paints of working for a corporation is so bleak (treacherous colleagues will stab you in the back, doing any real work will be virtually impossible, downsizing is a constant risk) that the sensible response seems to be to flee in fear rather than venture into the thicket. Still, the observations, accompanied by Clifton’s charming illustrations, are amusing and often on point. The book’s organization could be improved, however. Throughout, Barnes references a virtual corporate zoo, from ants to snakes, but the chapter on the taxonomy of office wildlife doesn’t appear until the last third of the book. He also assumes that most corporations operate in fundamentally the same way, with arcane rules, numerous roadblocks and hidden minefields, though it’s not clear that’s actually the case. The final chapter, however, does highlight some of the differences between companies in different industries, from media companies, which tend to be populated by big cats and birds of prey, to the financial sector, where elephants who worry about compliance and regulation dominate. Barnes’ guide will continually amuse readers—whether office newbies or corporate lifers.
Read it on your commute to work; engineer an office takeover by lunch.