Friday, February 15, 2013

Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks by Oliver James – review

Sam Leith on how not very bright people often get good jobs

James's claims about office personalities fall short of hard science. Photograph: BBC

The most eyebrow-raising thing you discover from Oliver James's new book is that somewhere out there, there's a guy who tried to get laid – and, the author seems to think, succeeded – by pretending to be Oliver James.
"When a woman I was chatting up at a party in 1988 asked what I did," he reports, "I proudly told her that I interviewed celebrities for a particular television programme" (he worked on Network 7 on Channel 4). "With great glee, she said, 'I happen to know that is not true. I met the man who really does those interviews only last week'." Because James's face was never seen on the programmes, the imposter prospered. "Whilst it might just have been a one-off case of a man using a lie to get a woman into bed," James continues, dismayed, "I have since learned that this is his modus operandi …
James's own modus operandi for seducing the reader is well established (his books include the bestselling Affluenza). He impersonates an avuncular soft-scientist with a simply explained theory about the world and a set of suggestions for how understanding his theory can make us healthier, wealthier and wiser.
The basic notion in this book is that as ever more of us work in complex white-collar environments, success at work depends ever more on office politics. This seems unarguable. When gauging performance is straightforward – how many toothpaste-caps Charlie Bucket's father can screw on in a day, for instance – office politics is relatively unimportant. But where blame can be spread and credit stolen, and the bonus pool depends on staying in the boss's good graces, you need to know how to hustle.

1 comment:

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