"How to Manage Despite Your Boss" is a guide to leadership without a guide. Through the use of a fictional executive named Jo, the authors provide a strategic and thoughtful method (with humor) to approaching change when leadership is ineffective in making the changes necessary to move the business forward.
“How to Manage Despite Your Boss” is an action guide and inspirational manifesto to get things done when leadership is unwilling or unable to effectively make a change that could make your company better.
The book guides readers to becoming unofficial change agents by successfully navigating the obstacles that stifle change within a company. This book may be helpful if you are deeply passionate about making a change in your business, but feel like you’re getting nowhere.
“How to Manage Despite Your Boss” challenges the myth that only top-level executives can make powerful changes within their business or industry.
Through the fictional story of Jo, an advertising executive, the book demonstrates how leadership can become stifled in bad personality traits and destructive habits.
Jo, the fictitious character in the book who represents the reader, is sick and tired of being bossed around and unappreciated. Her dream job with a promising mentor has turned into a nightmare. She is considering leaving the company, but encounters friends who offer on possible ways she can address her toxic work environment.
Jo learns through the process of “How to Manage Despite Your Boss” that creating change is not as easy. It involves understanding yourself, the person in charge, and the culture you want to change. If you want to change bad habits or routines, you have to change people.
To change people, you have to understand them. Jo learns these lessons and uses them to successfully navigate through the challenges she faces.
One key concept that beautifully illustrates the book’s concepts is a parable told by one of the minor characters in the book, Charlotte (Jo’s friend). In that parable, a group of monkeys is offered a banana. To get to that banana, they have to use a stepladder. In using the stepladder, they are sprayed uncomfortably with a water hose.
Fearful of the water hose, the monkeys stop trying for the banana and get to the point where they prevent any other monkeys (even those new to the situation) from even attempting to reach the banana.
The parable demonstrates how change can become snuffed out within a work culture. The key to the parable is to sidestep what’s already been done to create an environment where change can be done.
Erwin Hohn (@ErwinHohn) is a Senior Partner of Medivet Veterinary Partnership, director of The Firm Foundation and Institut IPA. He is an expert in organizational change and facilitation.
Adi Nell is a Senior Partner and Head of Public Relations for Medivet who rose to his current position in charge of 100+ staff members after becoming a veterinarian.
The best part of “How to Manage Despite Your Boss” is its strategic and careful approach to change leadership. The book doesn’t encourage ruffling feathers just for the sake of it. It focuses on understanding the core problems, building solutions, and navigating obstacles in a way that demonstrates the authors’ own experiences with change management in their own work lives.
The book’s language in some areas can be a stumbling block. “How to Manage Despite Your Boss” tries to make the issue of change management lighthearted and fun, but it can come off as facetious. For example, the first chapter’s subtitle is “The Crunchy Bit”. The tone also strongly suggests male-oriented leadership.
“How to Manage Despite Your Boss” would also have benefited from a clearer road map of the change management process. The book does an excellent job of identifying the issues, but doesn’t give enough step-by-step information.
This book is best suited for any subordinate (manager or front-line staff) who is seeking to make a change and cannot find the proper channels to do it. It provides a careful and guided approach to resolving that situation in a way that builds relationships and enhances leadership skills.
People who have the most authority in a business (owners, executive officer, board members) might be interested in “How to Manage Despite Your Boss” as well. It offers an overview of various leadership styles along with the pros and cons of each style. This could be helpful in refining executive leadership skills.