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Book Review: I Hate People by Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon

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The long subtitle to I Hate People is a more apt description than its big brother: “Kick loose from the overbearing and underhanded jerks at work and get what you want out of your job.” So, as you can see, I Hate People isn’t so much about hating people as it is maybe… getting them out of your way, or breaking loose of the structure that breeds hostility among co-workers.

You may have a few annoying co-workers, but to aid you, authors Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon identify “The Ten Least Wanted,” and if you work in an office, you know who they are.

We’re often inclined to blame technology for our always-on, fast pace with the accompanying jitters and jangled nerves. It gets to us, and usually, it’s because people get in our way or interrupt our flow.

The premise of I Hate People is that you can work you way up and out of the crowd by taking the path of a “Soloist.” Are you ready to rise up out of your cubicle? While you can’t change the people you hate, you can stop them from dragging you down.

Perhaps those least-wanted are just burned out from trying so hard – trying to look good, upstage, and suck up. If you learn to recognize the difference between genuine individuals and those people who are burned out or bored, you can avoid what the authors call “Sheeples,” those who are comfortable with the herd mentality.

Looking out for No.1, the authors advise: “The only person you can trust to have your back in this crazy business world is yourself. But today, who has the time or, more important, guts to be themselves? If you’re constantly e-mailing, texting and calling, chances are you’ve developed a pile of masks and personae to deal with others.” And, we know these electronic facades are not showing our best selves.

Here’s where a Soloist comes in – Someone who can fit well in a group but excels when he or she gets to perform alone. That, for most of us, is when we are most productive and focused. Flying solo, or solocrafting, lets you get beyond the pull of robotic performance at work.

Solocrafting means:

Stop talking, Start doing, Stop asking, and Make them believe.

Once people believe you know what you’re doing, you’ll find they will want to help you, even if they don’t report to you.

Even Soloists need support. Littman and Hershon teach you how to create an ensemble, a team to work with, possibly unbudgeted and unauthorized. But, it’s your go-to team without the official approvals and channels.

Once you learn how to escape the mundane, avoid timewasters, and get more productive, you’ll learn how to watch out for the Disruptors, which the authors describe as the “death by thousand cuts” people who offer nothing but constant interruption.

I Hate People helps you learn to handle interruptions instead of sneaking out or avoiding them. Working solo or cubicle-bound, no one can fully escape the need to respond to the world’s demands, but you can strive for balance. Management guru Edward Deming is quoted as saying “The average American worker has fifty interruptions a day, of which seventy percent have nothing to do with work.” And that was before email, before Twitter!

The authors cite experts who estimate the average corporate (email) user fritters away 40 percent of his day dealing with e-mail. Even if some of that email time results in fewer meetings, conference calls and travel time, it is the constancy of the interruption, and the endless flow that causes such a drain on our focus and productivity.

We all need energy and passion to succeed sat the highest level and a healthy time-out now and then. Authors Littman and Hershon state the important thing is to give your brain time to recharge way from the work grid.

My favorite example of a Soloist knowing his boundaries is Wallace Stevens, the 20th-century American poet. He worked as a lawyer and insurance executive, but quite ignored the office chatter. ”Instead, nearly every lunch hour, he solocrafted by fleeing the people he hated and shutting the door to his office to pen fantastic, wildly imaginative poetry." A year before he died at age 67, he won the Pulitzer Prize.

I Hate People is a help to those in business who know the difference between being nice and playing nice. You can find liberation and success in the work world, that world that too often fills our days, yet leaves us feeling empty.

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About Helen Gallagher