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CORPORATE CRAP

A short report on the pitfalls of American business culture.

In this brief, fast-paced work, Harrison (The Great Divide, 2017, etc.) draws on lessons and insights that he’s gleaned from decades spent in the corporate world; he’s worked as a writer, editor, and communications executive for several organizations in the Chicago area, including the Fortune 500 health care company Baxter International. He first takes readers through the hiring process, including “onboarding”—the often slipshod initial orientation process for new hires. He then runs through various types of bosses—including “the ‘credit grabber,’ who takes credit for all successes but blames others for failures” and “the ‘cool boss,’ who tries too hard to be one of the team”—and the varying degrees of humiliation involved in reporting to them all. He also dissects touchy subjects, such as exit interviews, performance reviews, and pay rates, from the viewpoint of someone who’s seen it all and is happy to write about it—and he does so with a frankness that’s often missing from books of this type: “The day I learned how worthless performance reviews are,” he writes at one point, “was the day I got fired…immediately after receiving a stellar performance review.” Several faddish concepts in the corporate world come in for gentle (and not-so-gentle) ribbing; for instance, he dismisses the idea of “facilitators”—outsiders that some businesses bring in to run meetings—although he acknowledges that somebody has to ride herd on the inevitable “loudmouth/blowhard/know-it-all” at such gatherings. According to the author, many corporate problems are ultimately rooted in “companies’ inability to hire the best people to run their various departments and functions.” But his diagnoses of corporate pitfalls and idiocies range far beyond human resources, touching on such things as the semantics of job titles and how faking interest is “a necessary evil in the business world.” In all cases, his stern common sense and irreverence—as in the chapter title “Shaking Hands (and other stupid protocols by which you’re judged)”—will strike readers as a breath of fresh air.

An iconoclastic, consistently wise breakdown of the inanities of corporate life.

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