Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Award! *gloats*

Wowsers, I was given another award!

I am so honored and thrilled that Tina at Tutu's Two Cents liked my blog enough to give my the Bookworm's Award for Bookfriends. Between what she said about my blog ~ that "[my] variety of reading, contests, and musings is truly awesome" ~ and the first two awards I was given last month, I am so overwhelmed I scarcely know what to say.

Hahah, that was a joke. Of course I know what to say. Or, at least, even if I don't know what to say, that won't stop me from saying it anyway. :)

Back to the subject of my first three awards ~ they were particularly timely, because I was beginning to feel a bit discouraged that no one was reading my blog, and I'd begun seriously considering dropping out of the blogosphere for awhile ~ at least until I could figure out how to do it better. Now, though I will continue to try and do it better, I guess I'll stick around while I'm learning.

Thanks so much TuTu! I'll try to live up to your award.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tangling with Tyrants - A Review

Okay, before I get to the review, I just want to say that I am currently working for a "difficult" boss, and not for the first time. In the past 40 years, I have at various times felt powerless, isolated, unappreciated, fearful, withdrawn, and enraged as a result of the bullying that I had accepted I was obliged to put up with. Presently, the individuals I support (as a secretary) aren't the worst problems (although a couple of them occasionally exhibit some of the behaviors of a Tyrant); it is the supervisor of the office staff I find most difficult to deal with. So when I was offered Tangling with Tyrants by Tony Deblauwe to review, I jumped at the chance. Anything that might help me get off the emotionally painful rollercoaster ride of my daily work life is worth taking a chance on!

At first, I was a bit put off that more wasn't said in condemnation of the bully boss and that the onus was placed on the employee instead. Indeed, Tangling with Tyrants would have the employee turn inward and consider personal accountability in respect to what has contributed to the problems in the relationship. At that I grumbled, "if my boss is a bully and incompetent, why is it up to me to acknowledge what I could and should have done better earlier in addressing those concerns?"

As I read on, though, I began to see what Tony is getting at: Ultimately, it's up to me to handle my boss more effectively in order to bring about a real, practical change, because my boss surely isn't going to! I doubt she's even aware of her shortcomings.

As is reiterated in Tangling with Tyrants, in today's workplace, everyone is under the gun. Managers are being pressured by their higher-ups, and employees have to work faster to do more with less. In addition, many companies are in survival mode, with mass layoffs, outsourcing, and fewer jobs being the result. Accordingly, it's important for employees to at least try to understand the situation from the manager's point of view, which is impossible if the employee continues to make assumptions about their managers based on past interactions. Having an effective communication process with the boss is crucial, and Tangling With Tyrants provides concise, concrete, and well-thought out techniques for dealing with a difficult boss in a solid framework. This includes defining the characteristics of a Tyrant, Recipient (employee victim) and Participant (employee who collaborates with the boss), case studies (you are not alone!), and helpful examples, as well as step-by-step guidelines and exercises to get you going on the right track.

In deconstructing the relationship between employee and boss, Tangling With Tyrants shines a light on how the employee's behaviors and the boss's behaviors combine to bring about the tyrant/victim condition. Through a series of steps and techniques, the employee's thinking and perspective becomes more clear and focused, allowing her to lead from a position of power that she may never have experienced before in a working relationship. This approach ~ looking at two-way communication and profiles ~ contributes to understanding how power works in the relationship and shows the employee what she needs to do, and practice, in order to build a long-term plan for sustained success.

Tangling with Tyrants is deceptively short, simple, and easy to read, but it's packed with the tools you need to make a change. A companion workbook is also available:
Tangling with Tyrants®: Taming the Tyrant uses personal development exercises and ratings of management behaviors to provide you with the tools you need to build a results-oriented communication plan with your boss. You will explore various aspects of your communication style, as well as analyze your boss across eight critical management behaviors. The workbook is hands-on and engaging, and allows you to outline a solid strategy and long-term solution for dealing with any difficult boss.

I'm going to order the workbook and use it in conjunction with the book in the hope that I can finally and at least once before I retire get to enjoy my job at which I am so good but which I loathe.

Needless to say, I recommend this book to everyone whose job sucks due to a bad boss and who wants to better their life.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Name Is Will - A Review

Alternating between 1980s California and Elizabethan England, My Name is Will introduces us to a young man named William Shakespeare from each era.

Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is a graduate student in UC Santa Cruz whose thesis is on his famous namesake. Instead of concentrating on doing research and writing his paper, however, he occupies his time doing drugs and making it with women. Cut off by his father for his lack of scholastic impetus and, consequently, finding himself broke, he risks being busted by the DEA by agreeing to deliver a large psychedelic mushroom to a buyer at the local Renaissance Fair at the height of Reagan's War on Drugs.

Back in 1582, Will Shakespeare is an eighteen-year-old schoolmaster who is also busy with women and drink. He has just begun to flirt with the idea of writing for a living, and in Winfield's novel are tantalizing glimpses of the genesis of some of his famous speeches, plays, and sonnets. At the same time, the persecution of Catholics is on the rise. Family, friends, fellow students and Shakespeare himself are at risk as the local sheriffs hunt for practicing Catholics. In spite of the danger (or perhaps because of it), Shakespeare agrees to deliver a sacred Catholic relic to the family of an executed priest.

It took me awhile to get used to jumping back and forth in time as each chapter alternated between the two Williams, but the transitions worked well and I forgot about the time jumps as the stories of the two Williams began to mesh. I think this may be one of the key narrative challenges of the piece ~ making these parallel stories complement each other ~ but I found that it is handled adroitly. In the end, which I absolutely loved, both the historical and contemporary Shakespeares eventually find themselves and their purpose in life and begin to move toward it.

Oh, and the Epilogue? When you read it, if you can figure out which of the two Will's it is about, please get back to me with the answer. I can't for the life of me decide.

My Name Is Will is subtitled "A Novel of Sex, Drugs and Shakepeare" for a good reason, and those who are easily offended should probably steer clear. It is not very scholarly ~ indeed, it is light and highly irreverent ~ but, unless you are a pedant, I think you'll find it an enjoyable read.

Jess Winfield, the author, was a founding member of The Reduced Shakespeare Company, "an American acting troupe that wrote and performed unsubtle, fast-paced, seemingly improvisational condensations of huge topics." (Wikipedia.) The first performance was a 25-minute, 4-actor version of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Winfield was with the troupe from 1981 through 1992, writing and performing various of the Bard's plays, and it's clear that he knows whereof he writes. Winfield is also the author of What Would Shakespeare Do (Ulysses Press, 2000), a self-help book that employs Shakespearean drama as a basis for advice.