Resources for Humans

The Truth About Managing People

Employment law attorney Michael P. Maslanka reviews the book The Truth About Managing People by Stephen E. Robbins. Review highlights book’s truths about managing employees in the workplace.

The Truth About Managing People book review

Talk about debunking workplace myths. In a series of 53 short chapters (the longest clocks in at three pages), Robbins challenges quite a few in Truth About Managing People, The (2nd Edition) (Truth About), including:

  • Turnover isn’t bad — he says this dreaded HR problem can be good because it gets new and fresh perspectives into the workforce;
  • Manage to the culture of the employees, not to whatever is the management vogue — for example, you should use an autocratic style with employees born in Mexico because that’s what they are used to and respect; and
  • Don’t dither over increasing employee job satisfaction with perks — if you spend your time and resources to make employees more productive (giving them the tools and knowledge to do their jobs), their job satisfaction will go up because a productive employee is almost always a satisfied employee.

Robbins hits especially hard on some of the most cherished myths (or truths depending on your viewpoint). For instance, he believes that during the application process, you should:

  • Hire for brains. Find, recruit, and hire the smartest people you can. They are generally the most productive employees.
  • Be honest, maybe even brutally so, on what employees should expect from the position and the company. Better they are hired and pleasantly surprised than hired and stunned. A friend of mine is an executive recruiter, and she says that about a third of the way through the recruitment process, she tries to talk someone out of moving jobs. Why? To see if they are really interested or just going through the motions.
  • Don’t focus on an applicant’s traits or what you think the traits of a “good” employee may be. Focus on past behaviors by asking, “What was it you most wanted to accomplish in your last job, but weren’t able to, and why not?”

There’s lots more. This is in paperback and is all of 230 pages. Regardless of if you embrace or reject it, The Truth About Managing People gets you thinking. And what more can you ask of a book?

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Michael Maslanka is the managing partner of Ford & Harrison LLP’s Dallas, Texas, office. He has 20 years of experience in litigation and trial of employment law cases and has served as Adjunct Counsel to a Fortune 10 company where he provided multi-state counseling on employment matters. He has also served as a Field Attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

Mike is listed in The Best Lawyers in America and was selected as a “Texas Super Lawyer” by Texas Monthly and Law & Politics Magazine in 2003. He was also selected as one of the best lawyers in Dallas by “D” Magazine in 2003. Mike has served as the Chief Author and Editor of the Texas Employment Law Letter since 1990. He also authors the “Work Matters” column for Texas Lawyer.

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