Becker takes the reader back to high school in order to learn how to be a more effective worker in this debut guide to getting ahead.
In his 35 years working in HR departments for companies large and small, Becker learned something interesting: Adults in the workplace don’t behave demonstratively differently than teenagers in a high school. “Organizational behavior, at all levels, is best defined as adolescent,” writes Becker in his introduction, “and the behavior patterns within the business environment are deeply rooted in the volatile period of our teenage/high school years.” While the fact that human behavior doesn’t really mature after senior year is a bit disheartening, there is good news: If a 16-year-old can thrive in such an environment, so can you! Becker shows how the dynamics of high school society still apply in the workplace, from earning varsity letters and superlatives to making friends and dealing with bullies. The first chapter, for example, asserts that the in-group dynamic of “the cool kids” from high school holds true in adult human organizations, and, just as in high school, there are plenty of sycophants attempting to schmooze their way into the higher ranks. The guide helps the reader identify these familiar structures and work around them, thereby succeeding without actually descending to the emotional level of a teenager. Becker’s prose is conversational and humorous, and he delights in examining the minutiae of social situations like a table meeting: “It is clear that there are two distinct power seats at each end and senior people occupy these seats 98% of the time. Interestingly I have observed that when the two power seats are occupied the seat holders are often times of dissenting points of view which makes for excellent corporate theater.” Becker doesn’t claim to be an expert in human psychology, and he frequently admits that he has no idea why people behave the way they do. He relies mostly on his own personal experience and has no compunction about quoting song lyrics or the website Urban Dictionary. Even so, his advice mostly rings true, and his common-sense perspective makes for a memorable read.
A short, amusing, and practical guide to workplace dynamics.