Review: Toxic Workplace!–Managing Toxic Personalities and Their Systems of Power

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Communications, Consciousness & Social IQ, Leadership

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Amazon Page

Timely, Pointed, A Good Starting Point,

July 21, 2009
Mitchell Kusy
I read this book in the process of obtaining two other books that are being used in a mid-career leadership course, Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High and The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (J-B Lencioni Series).

Although a bit over-hyped and not the complete picture, I consider this a valuable book that is the equivalent of a Social IQ primer for an organization instead of an individual.

I was raised in the command & control environment and would be classed an over-achiever, with documented performance equal to the next four of my peers combined. Never-the-less, I see in myself toxic elements that have been allowed to run rampant in counter-productive ways. The book focuses on insulting and bullying behavior rather than “voices not heard.” On the latter see The Deepening Darkness: Patriarchy, Resistance, and Democracy's Future as well as Pedagogy of the Oppressed and All Rise: Somebodies, Nobodies, and the Politics of Dignity (BK Currents (Hardcover)) for sharp critiques of patriarchal “rankism” and lost knowledge.

What concerns me especially that is NOT covered by this book is the inability of organizations to “hear” the frustration of their high-performers. Looking back over twenty years what I see is a two-way failure: I have been screaming and shouting about organizational pathologies and the failure of leadership, and those affected have refused to engage–they “shut out” both critics and those offering alternative views. The US National Security Council, to take one specific example, is filled with brilliant people who, in the words of Daniel Elsberg lecturing Kissinger (see my review of his book, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers “are like morons” who limit themselves to their Top Secret tid-bits and close out all those who actually have “ground truth” to offer.

The bottom line for me on this book is two-fold: first, we all need to recognize personality traits that may be good in isolation but are toxic when “unheard” or unchecked, and second, We the People, the “stockholders” in our dysfunctional government, must demand that it modernize away from the rigid hierarchical bureaucracy and toward the open space democracy that is now possible (see the books below).

Similarly “social IQ” of a corporation, beginning with a rational “not to exceed” multiplier for CEO salaries versus lowest-paid employee salaries, must become a feature of stock evaluations. Not only must corporations now embrace “Green to Gold” and “Cradle to Cradle” “Natural Capitalism”, but they must achieve “Integral Consciousness,” grow “The Knowledge Executive,” and LISTEN to their “Exemplary Performer(s).” All quotes are book titles.

Toxicity begins in the White House and Congress as well as the Boardroom. When they shut themselves off from the public interest and instead pander to special interests, they are poisoning democracy and strangling the Republic. ENOUGH!

This book is well-titled, well-organized, and just right for our times.

See also:
The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All
The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World
Counterculture Through the Ages: From Abraham to Acid House
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace

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