Category Archives: Book Reviews

Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying (Book Review)

Overcoming Mobbing

It is my contention that the workplace should be a place of collegiality, integrity, and respect. Unfortunately, as long as there are differences in agendas, opinions, personalities, and power there will always be conflicts at work. Some of these conflicts can become downright nasty and end up costing individuals their jobs, and more insidious, their health, well-being, and subsequently, the welfare of their families.

I came across a great resource when doing some research on workplace bullying that I thought would be helpful for Student Affairs professionals. Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying (2014: Oxford University Press) by Maureen Duffy and Len Sperry is a must read for those professionals dealing with or attempting to prevent organizational bullying. Duffy and Sperry define “mobbing” as “a destructive social process in which individuals, groups, or organizations target a person for ridicule, humiliation, and removal from the workplace.” Mobbing is different than bullying in that it occurs en mass involving multiple workers, administrators, and managers willing to participate in unethical communication that is both written and verbal. Bullying, on the other hand, occurs when one individual, such as a supervisor alone, targets an employee.

The process of ganging up includes such behaviors as the following: workplace conflict, people taking sides, unethical communication, other aggressive and abusive acts, involvement of management or administration, elimination of the target from the workplace, and post-elimination unethical communication. Mobbing is caused by a mix of individual, group, and organizational dynamics. An example of mobbing in Student Affairs can include colleagues ganging up on someone who is in line for promotion to a senior position in their department because those individuals do not want that person to assume that role. Tactics they use include spreading false information about their performance, befriending executive decision-makers and giving inaccurate and negative reports of that person, and purposely not inviting them to informal department meetings outside of normal work hours. As a result, they do not receive the promotion, begin to come under undue scrutiny from supervisors, and ultimately leave the institution because of the abuse.

Given the highly bureaucratic and politically-charged nature of higher education institutions, it only stands to reason that mobbing can and does occur within colleges and universities. Overcoming Mobbing: A Recovery Guide for Workplace Aggression and Bullying is a great primer that administrators in Student Affairs departments can use to facilitate discussion on how to create and nurture a “mobbing-free” environment. While it is unreasonable to think that colleges and universities are the bastions of collegiality and civility, we as Student Affairs administrators should ultimately work toward that goal, particularly as we serve as role models to our students.

What are some strategies that you feel should be used in order to create a “mobbing-free” workplace in Student Affairs?

Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson (*book review*)

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With the advent and ubiquity of social media over the past 10 years, everyone seems to be a social media cheerleader, including myself. That’s when I came across a book with a completely different perspective titled Social Media is Bullshit by B.J. Mendelson. The basic premise of the book is that social media, particularly from a business standpoint, has been artificially hyped beyond actual results.

The book is separated into four parts: Social Media is Bullshit; Meet the People Behind the Bullshit; How to Sell Bullshit Without Really Trying; and How to Really Make It on the Web. Mendelson illustrates that alleged social media successes always come on heels of large corporations with big wallets, celebrity-backed promotions, and traditional media.

Mendelson states the following in his book: “Offline matters more than online. This will never change. Your location, your circumstances, your audience, that determines everything. Trying to make a niche platform on the Web is a bad idea. Not many people can do it, and most of those who do are either trying to sell you something, were in the right place at the right time, had the right connections, or get backing from the media in some form.” Mendelson’s biggest criticism is against those high-fee-charging marketing consultants and speakers who push the virtues of using social media, but cannot actually demonstrate success or ROI (return on investment) for small companies or the bootstrapping entrepreneur.

The book is 179 pages of actual content, and I was able to read it in one evening. I thought it would be a useful resource for higher education administrators and students alike, particularly those who are involved in social media marketing efforts on campus. Mendelson’s argument offers a different perspective that is rarely discussed on our campuses. To his credit, his argument holds true within the realm of higher education because hundreds of likes and retweets does not necessarily translate into higher admissions numbers, increased student engagement, and more fundraised dollars. While Social Media is Bullshit needs to be read with a grain of salt, particularly since our target market (i.e., college students) are the largest users of social media, the contents of this book would provide great content for staff development discussions and even department and institution strategic plan sessions.

Not only is the book informative, but it is entertaining as well as Mendelson writes in a very tongue-in-cheek manner. However, he is not afraid to hold punches against those he criticizes and offers many examples and case studies throughout the book. Social Media is Bullshit offers a cautionary tale for those who think that social media is a magic bullet upon which you can obtain immediate fame, money, and success.

The Leader’s Pocket Guide (book review)

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The road to leadership begins with self-understanding and so does John Baldoni’s leadership book, The Leader’s Pocket Guide.  “Leadership has often been defined as a journey. The journey begins with a starting point, and that starting point is the self.” He immediately catches the reader’s attention as he describes leadership as a journey of understanding, learning, growth, and humility. The first of three sections (“SELF”) provides the reader with 20 suggestions for improving their self-leadership skills and helps the reader understand how they interact with others as a leader. At the end of the section, there is an assessment that evaluates how well a reader leads and understands who they are as a leader. Baldoni outlines tips for growth and learning as a self-leader.

In the second of three sections (“COLLEAGUES”), Baldoni declares that one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader is leading your peers. He captures the essence behind interacting with peers and improving the relationship with them in the 33 different suggestions. He encourages the reader to understand how they are influencing their peers and gives them knowledge on how to do it in a positive manner.  The book also gives the reader an opportunity to evaluate how they interact with their colleagues and tips for improving those relationships.

In the final section, (“ORGANIZATION”), Baldoni coaches the reader on what it takes to lead an organization. He addresses everything from authentically interacting with your people and instilling a purpose in them to making time for yourself outside of the organization. Like the other sections, he provides the reader an opportunity to evaluate how they lead their team. To lead a team successfully you must execute positive change so that your team is learning and growing together. Baldoni understands what it takes to be a leader and passes on his knowledge so they are developing into positive and productive leaders.

The Leader’s Pocket Guide is an excellent tool and resources for all leaders because it provides well-rounded and diverse suggestions for improving leadership skills that can be applied to any field and any leader. It would be an excellent resource for new supervisors because it would help them evaluate how they lead themselves, interact with their peers, and supervise their workers.  It is a book that can be used over and over again to improve how a leader learns and grows.