Money & Business

Books: Raising the Alarm

By / Oct 15, 2019

Acknowledging and addressing rampant workplace harassment in The Shield of Silence.

The Shield of Silence: How Power Perpetuates a Culture of Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace

By Lauren Stiller Rikleen; American Bar Association; 263 pages; $24.95

The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts did not know its 2018 project to analyze sexual harassment and bullying in local law firms would lead to the most compelling—and alarming—book on workplace misconduct across America in 2019.

But former law firm equity partner-turned-author Lauren Stiller Rikleen came away from her WBA effort so “struck by the silence” of harassed workers that she began to look wider. Her national findings are grim: Studies reveal that 25 to 85 percent of women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment at work, according to a U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission task force. But most have not reported the behavior because they fear (often rightly) retribution or ostracism or have experienced no satisfaction or change from prior reporting.

Senior leaders are most to blame, writes Rikleen in The Shield of Silence: How Power Perpetuates a Culture of Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace. Too often, a board or CEO knows the identity and actions of harassment perpetrators, but loyalties, culture, sexism, or business goals trump adequate responses.

HR isn’t exempt either: Examples abound of harassers who are HR employees, “untouchable” organizational favorites, or unaccountable because no policy exists to stop them.

Despite barriers, positive change is possible. Rikleen advocate tactics including calling out offensive “jokes” immediately, adopting training techniques that encourage bystander intervention, assessing internal culture, and supporting reporters. Also effective is hard-stopping retaliatory behaviors and even curbing alcohol at events.

Add this book to your required reading list.

Helping People Change: Coaching With Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth

By Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith, and Ellen Van Oosten; Harvard Business Review Press; 244 pages; $30

The ability to coach well has emerged as a vital aspect of any manager’s job, but rarely do these leaders receive a thorough grounding in what “good coaching” entails. Helping People Change remedies this gap.

Written by three executive educators who cofounded the Coaching Research Lab at Case Western Reserve University, this book blends reflective exercises, stories, and research to move managers from “coaching for compliance” to “coaching with compassion.”

The shift triggers an authentic desire in employees to change and sustain behaviors based on positive emotional attractors like passion and creativity. The authors share tools, including personal vision statements and conversation questions, to move managers from a fix-it mentality to one focused on aligning employees’ ideal selves with their real selves.

A good guide for organizations creating a coaching culture.

You’re It: Crisis, Change, and How to Lead When It Matters Most

By Leonard Marcus, Eric McNulty, Joseph Henderson, and Barry Dorn; PublicAffairs/Hachette Book Group; 304 pages; $28

After 9/11, the federal government asked Harvard University to study and teach disaster management to leaders of all sectors. The resulting National Preparedness Leadership Initiative examined crisis preparedness and response—and led to creation of a “meta-leadership” model as the basis of instruction.

Drawing on research and interviews with participating nonprofits and other leaders who faced everything from the Boston Marathon bombings to Hurricane Harvey, four NPLI faculty now share the key takeaways of this training.

The book is detailed and methodical with an emphasis on unifying people around a common goal, problem-solving from myriad angles, recruiting and managing influential figures to help, and calming personal panic to allow clear focus despite catastrophe.

Buy a notebook; the daily journal-writing assignments maximize learning.

Kristin Clarke

Kristin Clarke is books editor for Associations Now and a business journalist and sustainability director for ASAE. More »

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