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Speed Review: Working With You Is Killing Me

Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work

by Katherine Crowley & Kathi Elster

Speed Review: Working With You Is Killing Me
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Avoiding Professional Pitfalls
There are shelves upon shelves of books about personal relationships. If you want to know how to woo a spouse, talk to your kids or make peace with your parents, someone has written about it. But what about the people you spend most of your waking hours with - your boss, coworkers and employees? Where do you turn when your professional relationships need help? That’s the void Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster are hoping to fill with their book, Working with You is Killing Me: Freeing Yourself from Emotional Traps at Work.

Crowley, a psychotherapist, and Elster, a small-business expert, describe themselves as "undercover business therapists." Their main message is a common one in therapy: You can’t change other people’s behavior, but you can change your reactions to that behavior. "If you can change your reaction," they write, "then you can change your life."

Off The Hook
The way to do this, they explain, is by "unhooking." Signs that one is "hooked" in a situation, according to the authors, manifest in different ways. Physical indications may include headaches, fatigue or simply clenched teeth. Emotional reactions range from anger and fear to depression and despair. Finally, mental responses run the gamut from forgetfulness to revenge fantasies.

To combat this, they offer a "Four-Pronged Unhooking Technique." The first step is to disengage yourself physically. This can be as simple as going to the restroom and splashing water on your face or getting up and taking a walk. Removing yourself mentally is the next phase. The goal, say the authors, "is to view your circumstances objectively and see what practical options are available."

Once the proper perspective has been achieved, you can determine the best way to "unhook verbally." This involves finding the right thing to say and the right way to say it. In some situations, it may mean not saying anything at all.

Finally, readers are advised to "unhook with a business tool." Examples of this include sending a confirmation e-mail or making a change to company policy.

Putting It Into Practice
The bulk of the book then goes on to explain how to implement Crowley and Elster’s technique in various office situations. Readers are encouraged to be proactive and set boundaries to prevent conflict. The authors provide specific guidelines on what areas require limits, such as time and personal space, and instructions on how to stop breaches before they happen.

But it’s not just coworkers who can cause strife. Problem bosses are also addressed. The chapter on "Managing Up," for instance, asserts that even those who outrank you can be trained to communicate with you more effectively. For those superiors on whom such methods don’t work, there’s a section devoted to keeping your sanity under "difficult and extreme bosses."

Management gets some help dealing with employees as well. The converse of "managing up" is "managing down"- or what the authors refer to as "business parenting." They assert that "when you’re a manager, your employees look to you for many of the same things that children seek from their parents." Crowley and Elster have identified different types of "problem children," and provide bosses valuable advice in handling them.

But sometimes your job may just be a bad fit. The authors realize this and include a multi-section quiz designed to help readers determine if a workplace is right for them. It’s a practical, easy-to-use tool - just like the book itself.

Why We Like This Book
Every workplace has its share of personality conflicts. While difficult co-workers often can’t be avoided, the conflicts they present can.

By giving readers the tools they need to take control of difficult situations, Crowley and Elster help make the workplace a more peaceful and pleasant place.