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 In the past 40 years, I have at various times felt powerless, isolated, unappreciated, fearful, withdrawn, and enraged as a result of the bullying that I had accepted I was obliged to put up with.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.


Allison said...

Your site allows the Name/URL option so it works just fine for me. Yay! Some people have it so you can ONLY select a google account or an Open/ID. Then I can't comment when I really want to!

Tony, Workplace Coach said...

Thanks Mary K for the review. I am glad you pointed out the difference with my book in that its not just about bully bosses. In my personal experience and coaching others I have found that stress and frustration comes not just from the overbearing micro-manager, but the disconnected, overextended, and not-ready-for-management boss style. It's important to arm yourself with the thinking and techniques that put control (power) back in your hands. The workbook offers a deeper dive into specific behaviors your boss exhibits that get in the way of doing your job. I hope your audience enjoys the book, it's definitely a timely subject given today's economy and job market!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I know a few people in the same position and this book sounds so helpful! Thanks for the thorough review!

Linda Ellen said...

Interesting book. Umm, I don't work yet, but I might need one of these kinds of books in the future. =)

Mary K. from L.A. said...

Thanks, Tony. I appreciate your sharing your experience. And you hit it on the head ~ my bosses aren't usually bullies in the sense they scream and make vicious comments, but they are often, as you pointed out, disconnected, overextended, and not-quite-ready for the job of manager. I hope with the tools you've supplied and a lot of practice on my part I can get some good results.

Mary K. from L.A. said...

Hi, Linda Ellen ~ It's never too soon to learn how to handle difficult people, because they are EVERYWHERE! If you're still in school, you probably have come across some teachers and school admin who fit the profile of tyrant ~ I bet some of the techniques in "Tangling With Tyrants" can be helpful in those situations too!

Thanks so much for your comment!

Mary K. from L.A. said...

Hi, rhapsody ~ thanks for your very nice comment.

I think in today's tough economic climate, a lot of managers are exhibiting bad behaviors, partly because they just don't know how to handle the various situations they find themselves in, although even in good times there are the tyrant types.

If you share about "Tangling with Tyrants" with those you know who are in the same situation, I hope they can use it to change things.

gaby317 said...

This sounds both helpful and interesting. Thanks for the review!

thanks for stopping by my blog. Am glad to meet you out here!