This just in: The organization stinks. Now, what are you going to do about it?

I Hate People BookI’m in the midst of reading an interesting book with a provocative title: “I Hate People!: Kick Loose from the Overbearing and Underhanded Jerks at Work and Get What You Want Out of Your Job.” (Little, Brown Publishing, ISBN-10: 0316032298 … also available in a Kindle edition.)

I think this book takes some risks. It certainly bursts a few bubbles in the conventional thinking about organizations and how they work. If you read it, be prepared to discard some of those platitudinous notions about shared mission and vision, organizational behavior, teamwork, matrix management and all the rest.

Coauthored by Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon, this book fearlessly tackles the thing many workers know but are afraid to say out loud: Every day they come in the office, people have to deal with colleagues who exhibit a host of traits they frankly can’t stand.

We’re well familiar with the types … and Littman and Hershon give us catchy names to describe them, such as:

“Stop Sign” — the person who always finds something wrong or unworkable with the latest idea/product/strategy/solution being proposed. (And isn’t it interesting how many of those issues would entail that person having to contribute a bit more time and effort of his or her own?)

“Switchblade” — be very careful of these people … they’re highly dangerous when you’re not looking!

“Happy Face” — you know, the folks who approach their work at the office the same way they circulate at a cocktail party or spend an evening at the country club.

Or “Time Waster” — there’s no explanation at all needed for this common specimen!

The idea of “teamwork” comes in for pointed criticism by the authors as well. In theory, teams are all about working together to achieve consensus and implement better programs or initiatives that everyone can support. Littman and Hershon remind us that too often, teams produce nothing more than mushy “group think.”

And the bigger the team, the more tepid the results. The authors contend that only a few team members carry their own weight; the others can get away easily with little more than just showing up at meetings. For this reason, we’re advised to join teams of no more than four or five people, where “hiding in plain sight” is far more difficult to pull off.

A good thing about this book is that instead of presenting a litany of problems and then just leaving the entrails on the floor, Littman and Hershon provide ideas for how to work around all of the mediocrity and the frustration. They sugggest practicing “solo-crafting.” What’s that? Basically, it’s taking it upon yourself to “just do it” rather than passing the buck or relying on others. Or, as the authors put it: Stop talking, stop acting, start doing.

The book is quick to point out that solo-crafting doesn’t mean becoming a loner or maverick. It also doesn’t mean becoming a peacock, screaming “Look at me, I’m so great!” — just the kind of person everyone loves to hate.

Instead, by accomplishing more while working within the orgnizational structure, Littman and Hershon contend that you’ll find yourself being recognized for your ability to actually accomplish what others simply give lip service to. And that will result in being asked to perform more key tasks, with more opportunity to be recognized and rewarded for a job well done. Solo, of course.

One thought on “This just in: The organization stinks. Now, what are you going to do about it?

  1. Phil-

    Great post. Much of what the authors say rings true. BTW: It was French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who once famously said, “Hell is other people [l’enfer, c’est les autres].”

    As anyone who ever has been for a ride on the business-“team” bus knows, teams have almost as many centrifugal forces as centripetal ones pulling at them from the get-go: egos, personal ambition, envy, peculiar personality types, you name it. Remember, too, that businesses are not like, say, football teams. Employees compete not only with competitors, but with each other. This is not always conducive to productive cooperation. Of course, some teamwork is essential in any business or enterprise, but be prepared to hold on tight to your sanity and patience.

    Still, my biggest beef with modern business practice is Powerpoint. Nothing, but nothing, exemplifies the triumph of form over substance as well as that application. What productivity we gained with the advent of desktop computing we lost when people decided they needed to spend hours preparing office presentations that could have been scribbled out just as effectively in ten minutes on a piece of paper.

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