Book Review: Working with You is Killing Me; Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster

Just about everyone in the workplace has experienced the frustration of dealing with an incompetent coworker, a manipulative boss or any combination of emotional nightmares that comes with a job. Fortunately there are ways of coping with these situations that don’t involve pulling your hair out, getting roaring drunk or screaming obscenities into the night sky. Harvard trained psychotherapist Katherine Crowley has teamed up with business consultant Kathi Elster to provide effective countermeasures to an emotionally toxic workplace.

Their approach is simple: the first thing you must do is take control of your own responses by detaching or “unhooking” from the situation. The book begins with a short introduction questionnaire which quickly points out problem areas. Utilizing workplace scenarios for illustration, the authors go on to provide the tools necessary to unhook both mentally and physically from situations or behaviors that create emotional stress. This book outlines everything from setting up personal boundaries to identifying and changing your own role in the workplace in a simple, straightforward manner before going on to techniques for coping with the most extreme bosses or malicious coworkers.

Of particular interest is the long chapter of Business Parenting where managers will find plenty of useful information to assist them in developing better people skills. Beginning front and center with “The Four Key Principles of Business Parenting” followed immediately by “Ten Supervisory Shoulds That Prevent Managers From Interacting With Their Staff” bosses are provided the means to identify problem areas and the tools necessary to improve them. Effective management tools given to assist in identifying and coping with difficult employees that are straightforward and effective, relying heavily on the company’s polices and procedures manual and documentation. The book wraps up with an in-depth test to evaluate whether your current or perspective workplace is really the place for you.

The basic premise is so simplistic it would be easy to write it off as more psychobabble and that would be a mistake. While it isn’t possible to dictate the actions of others in the workplace we can control our responses to it. Getting out and burning off excess tension with physical activity is a great start. Using the different methods of unhooking presented here encourages behavior modifications in yourself and those around you to the benefit of all. The authors are realistic enough to acknowledge that their management tools may not work for every situation and if that is the case then it might be best to consider a transfer or new employment. This easily read guide may not change your boss’s attitude but it could change your response and quite possibly make for a more harmonious work environment.

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