We’ve seen a steady increase in guides for running ethical, people-first companies—a welcome contrast to economist Milton Friedman’s “greed is good” ethos that defined the 1980s. Many economists, including Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize–winning professor of economics at Columbia University, believe Friedman’s shareholder-primacy approach has given us everything from increased economic, racial, and health inequalities to the climate catastrophe. These starred Indie titles skip the Gordon Gekko approach and instead talk about government intervention, policies of inclusion, and whistleblowing.
Effective management needs much more than catchphrases, and Edward R. Shapiro’s Finding a Place To Stand (2020) provides a breakdown of human dynamics, starting with the family, and shows how these dynamics shape office interactions. The author says, “The more we become aware that our experience of ourselves is affected by others…the less sure we seem to be about where our individual experience begins and ends.” Shapiro, a psychiatrist and organizational consultant, examines the impact of the workplace on employees and vice versa. He explains that the government can improve a lot of lives by instituting appropriate, people-centric policy and regulations (exactly what Friedman opposed): “In assuming its own mature responsibilities for contributing to the marginalization of subgroups both within and without, this country might offer a realistic hope for transcending differences in the service of a larger integrative mission.” Our reviewer calls Shapiro’s guide “an observant, discerning work on understanding and improving organizations.”
In Together We Decide (2022), Craig Freshley notes the folly of crowds and points to climate change as an example. But we’re capable of learning how to make better group decisions.This guide encourages readers to build inclusive cultures where a range of ideas are shared, understood, and evaluated. “Freshley makes a strong case for the value of inclusivity and provides specific actions aimed at fostering a culture in which every group member feels welcome and heard,” says our reviewer. “To that end, he advocates collaboration, consensus-building, and establishing clear and transparent procedures, among other strategies. On the other hand, he contends that competition-based decision-making is a bad way to handle disputes and causes ‘a lot of collateral damage.’ ” Overall, our reviewer touts the manual for positioning inclusivity as a pragmatic, beneficial management style. “This book provides know-how that organizations, businesses, and communities may find empowering and offers hope that people can successfully address major challenges of the era by working together: ‘It’s not us versus them, it’s just us.’”
While it’s great to see a collective emphasis on running ethical companies, sidestepping regulations is a perennial occurrence. In The Rules for Whistleblowers (2023), Stephen M. Kohn, a lawyer and defender of workers’ rights, outlines new U.S. laws designed to protect whistleblowers, including the Dodd–Frank Act. Kohn keeps these guidelines appealingly simple: “Be Confidential,” “Document, Document, Document,” “Don’t Tip Off the Crooks,” and so on. “While the rules are unfailingly interesting, Kohn is even more fascinating when he addresses the doubts or insecurities potential whistleblowers might experience,” our reviewer notes. “Definitive and compulsively readable.”
Chaya Schechner is the president of Kirkus Indie.