BOOK REVIEWS 215
Robert E. Kaplan and Robert B. Kaiser. Fear Your Strengths: What
You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest Problem. San Francisco, CA:
Berrett-Koehler, 2013, 113 pages, $19.95 hardcover.
Reviewed by Seymour Adler, Partner, Aon Hewitt, New York, NY.
On their climb up the corporate ladder, aspiring leaders learn to rely
on their strengths. Those with strong analytical skills and deep technical
knowledge use those skills and that expertise to generate insights and arrive
at sound decisions that impress stakeholders and win them rewards and
recognition. Those with strong social adeptness apply that skill to forge
and nurture relationships, grow extensive personal networks, and exert
influence up and down the hierarchy internally and with external partners.
If these leaders are effective in applying those strengths to perform well,
they are likely to be promoted to positions of increasing responsibility
and scope. Our reinforcement history shapes our tendency to rely on our
Along come Kaplan and Kaiser to warn us, in the title of their new
book: Fear Your Strengths: What You Are Best at Could Be Your Biggest
Problem. The authors alert us to the â€œdark sideâ€ of this history of positive
reinforcement, which habituates us into relying on our strengths even
when not appropriate. As the authors put it, â€œComing to grips with the
need to modulate your strengths is some of the hardest developmental
work you will ever do.â€ It is hard for us to do less of what we have
been acclaimed forâ€”and reveled inâ€”being so good at. It is hard to break
habits that have so often paid off. This little volume is intended to guide
leaders to become more aware of, and to mitigate, their often unconscious
tendencies to overrely on strengths.
In the bookâ€™s opening chapter the authors describe two ways that
â€œstrengths beget weakness.â€ When overused, strengths get corrupted, as
in the case of the articulate, forceful, inspiring communicator who simply
wonâ€™t shut up. In addition, reliance on our strengths blinds us to employing
other, often more effective, ways of behaving, for example, by that leader
listening instead of talking.
This tendency to overuse strengths is pervasive. Kaplan and Kaiser
find that leaders are five times more likely to overuse an attribute that is a
personal strength than they are to overuse their other attributes. Mindset
traps help us rationalize this lopsided use of strengths. For instance, most
of us assume more is better and apply that mentality as we approach job
challenges. We also harbor a self-serving bias that what we do well has
exaggerated importance in getting our job done.
The authors describe an alternative to the trap of overrelying on
strengths. Kaplan and Kaiser apply a classic approach to leadership and
216 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
distinguish two contrasting styles they label forceful and enabling and
two contrasting foci: strategic and operational. Leadership behavior reflecting either end of these two dimensions has its positive and negative
impact on leader effectiveness. For example strategy-focused leadership
can stimulate innovation but also result in the unnecessary disruption of
fixing what is not broken. On the other hand, operationally focused leadership can facilitate execution but also foster tunnel vision. The authors
not surprisingly argue that the most effective leadership style is versatility,
the capacity to balance both ends of the spectrum as needed.
Change toward a more versatile leadership approach requires both
behavioral change and a mindset shift. The authors present the basic steps
for behavior change starting with an assessment-based self-awareness of
what you do too much, too little, or just right relative to your role. They
present their tool, the Leadership Versatility Index, a 360 survey that
helps assess over- and underreliance on leadership behaviors. Equipped
with an assessment-based diagnosis, leaders are urged to implement the
basic tools of â€œunfreezing, changing, and refreezingâ€ to sustain behavior
change. The mindset shift begins with a genuine commitment to change
and careful and sustained reflection to produce the insight that leads to
action that kickstarts a positive cycle of change. Beyond the inner and
outer work to dial back on overused strengths, the authors also recommend
using external structures (think, e.g., of an annoying alarm that reminds
the workaholic to go home at 7:00 two nights a week) or people (think,
e.g., of designating a peer who signals the leader when he is dominating
conversations) to support the change.
Throughout the book, the authors enliven their discussion by sharing
real-life examples drawn from the leadership careers of the famous (e.g.,
Steve Jobs of Apple), the infamous (e.g., Ken Skilling of Enron), and the
unknown (typically leaders they have personally coached).
This book is a boon to executive coaches who often see the careers
of talented leaders derailed by overused strengths. Coaches see managers
who take glory in the deep technical know-how that got them promoted
and dive into the minutia of execution, micromanaging, and in the process missing the big picture. Or they see leaders who were fabulous at
promoting their personal brand and managing up to advance their careers
but now need to demonstrate humility and energize team performance in
order to succeed at the next level. In that sense, experienced practitioners
will find no surprises in this book; this is a phenomenon they have seen
many times. However, coaches will find that assigning their executives
this lively and short book will be a useful first step in a change process.
I emphasize first step because it is unrealistic to expect the very brief
self-help section of this book to sustain material behavior change. Rather,
this bookâ€™s greatest value for executives will be in the important initial
BOOK REVIEWS 217
task of raising awareness of the potential derailing impact of overreliance
Finally, it should be noted that the notion that overused strengths can
indeed have a negative impact on performance is beginning to receive empirical support. Recently, Grant and Schwartz (2011), Carter et al. (2014),
and others have found solid evidence that very high levels of, respectively,
extraversion and conscientiousness do indeed negatively impact on performance. That is, the relationship between these personality factors and
performance is curvilinear. Hopefully we will see an increased number
of rigorous tests of the hypothesis that â€œwhat youâ€™re best at could be
your biggest problemâ€ across populations and attributes. More important,
hopefully this book will stimulate the research that helps identify the
moderators that determine when, and where in the scale, the relationship
between critical leader attributes and performance turn from positive to
Carter NT, Dalal DK, Boyce AS, Oâ€™Connell MS, Kung MC, Delgado K. (2014). Uncovering curvilinear relationships between conscientiousness and job performance: How
theoretically appropriate measurement makes an empirical difference. Journal of
Applied Psychology, 99, 564â€“586.
Grant AM, Schwartz B. (2011). Too much of a good thing: The challenge and opportunity
of the inverted U. Perspective on Psychological Science, 6, 61â€“76.
Herman Aguinis. Performance Management. 3rd Edition, Boston, MA:
Pearson, 2013, 322 pages, $146.60 hardcover.
Reviewed by John W. Fleenor, Senior Faculty, Center for Creative Leadership, Greensboro, NC.
This book represents the third edition of Performance Management
authored by Aguinisâ€”the first edition was published in 2005 and the
second edition in 2008. A professor of organizational behavior and human resources at Indiana University, the author is well known for his
research and publications on performance management and related topics. Performance Management is appropriate for use as a textbook for
upper-level undergraduate students in performance appraisal, compensation, and training and development courses. As an introductory text, the
book presents a survey of the state-of-the-art in performance management,
which it positions as key competitive advantage in todayâ€™s business world.
That is, by focusing more on their employees and concentrating less on
areas like technology and production, organizations are likely to become
218 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
According to the author, performance management can be a key tool
for improving the effectiveness of organizations and their employees,
when properly implemented. Unfortunately, many organizations are not
using their performance management systems productively. We have all
heard stories about (or maybe experienced) poorly designed and implemented systems that are considered to be an administrative burden on both
employees and supervisors. The purpose of Performance Management is
to present a detailed plan for developing and implementing a successful
performance management system. This plan is based on the latest research
findings and on state-of-the-art applications. This text treats performance
management as an ongoing and cyclical process that involves performance observation, evaluation, and development. It also focuses on best
practices, such as the required steps for creating a successful performance
management system. In the coverage of best practices, potential political
and organizational pitfalls are discussed that may result in an organization
skipping some of the required steps in the implementation of its system.
The text includes several examples from real-world organizations that
demonstrate how performance management systems can be successfully
implemented in spite of situational constraints such as the misalignment
of employee and organizational goals.
The text is divided into four partsâ€”each part contains two or three
chapters that cover a specific area in performance management. Part I
addresses strategic considerations in performance management such as
the advantages of implementing a successful performance management
system as well as the negative outcomes associated with a poorly implemented system. Part II covers the details of system implementation
such as measurement considerations, creating the appraisal forms, and
communicating the launch of the system to employees. Part III addresses
employee development issues, including creating development plans and
implementing 360-degree feedback systems. Part IV concerns the relationships between performance management and rewards, teams, and
Each of the chapters begins with a list of learning objectives and ends
with summary points and relevant case studies for that chapter. Students
should find these materials valuable when reviewing the chapters for exams. On the authorâ€™s website, a number of additional resources are available for instructors. These materials include PowerPoint presentations,
exam questions and answers, and role plays for use in class.
The third edition of Performance Management includes 43 new case
studies, and an additional 40 case studies are available in the instructorâ€™s
manual. These case studies are real-world examples of successful and not
so successful implementations of performance management systems. The
BOOK REVIEWS 219
case studies are one of the strengths of this text and will serve as valuable
learning tools for students.
The latest edition of the text has been extensively updated. In this
edition, the role of the context in which performance management occurs
receives special emphasis. For example, new initiatives such as 360-degree
feedback may work in some organizational contexts but not in others. Another area of emphasis is the multidisciplinary nature of performance
management research, which includes diverse fields such as I-O psychology, human resource management, organizational behavior, and strategic
management. Whereas the previous editions of the text included descriptions of the technical aspects of implementing performance management
systems, this edition emphasizes the importance of interpersonal dynamics in the process. In addition to the measurement concerns in performance
management, the role of issues such as trust, politics, leadership, negotiation, and communication are considered for the successful implementation
of performance management systems.
This third edition of Performance Management presents enhanced discussions of relevant topics such as the importance of performance management to all students regardless of their major and the interaction between
science and practice in performance management. The text focuses on
research-based findings and presents statistics relevant to increasing an
organizationâ€™s human capital. Rather than including a separate chapter
on international issues, Performance Management integrates global issues throughout the text, including topics such as the implementation of
a performance management system in Ghana, the integration of performance management and business strategy in organizations in Australia,
and a methodology for moving away from seniority-based performance
management systems in collective cultures such as Korea and China.
In the chapter on employee development, the author devotes considerable space to 360-degree feedback systems, where he provides an excellent
overview of this important technique for performance management. He
takes the position that 360-degree feedback is most helpful when it is
used for only developmental purposesâ€”and not for administrative purposes such as promotion and compensation. Given research indicating
that raters tend to change their ratings according to the purpose of the
assessment, the authorâ€™s position seems to be appropriate. This is particularly true for organizations that are implementing 360-degree feedback
for the first time. After an organization has successfully implemented a
360-degree system for 2 or more years and employees have developed
trust in the process, it may be possible to begin using it for administrative
As part of the coverage of 360-degree feedback, the author presents a
table summarizing eight vendors that offer 360-degree feedback systems,
220 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
including well-known providers such as PDI, DDI, and CCL. (Full disclosure: This reviewer is a CCL employee.) He then provides a detailed
description of a 360-degree system called Checkpoint, which appears to
be an example of a well-developed system. The emphasis is on using these
systems for employee development; that is, participants receive developmental feedback from the assessment and then create plans to address
areas in need of development (i.e., weaknesses).
There is also a section on legal issues in performance managementâ€”a
topic that is difficult to summarize in a few pages. The author, however,
does a good job in presenting the highlights of important concepts such as
adverse impact and in discussing important laws that affect performance
management. A table presenting the characteristics of legally sound performance management systems will be particularly useful for introducing
these concepts to students. In addition, four case studies are included on
topics such as illegal discrimination that will be helpful for students trying
to understand these complex legal issues.
As with most textbooks, there is a fair amount of repetition throughout
Performance Management. For example, there are a number of times when
information presented in the text is repeated verbatim in accompanying
tables and lists. Although this may be annoying to readers who are familiar
with the concepts of performance management, this repetition may be
helpful to students who are experiencing this information for the first
In summary, this text provides an excellent introduction to performance management for upper-level undergraduate students in a number
of areas such I-O psychology, human resource management, and organizational behavior. It is recommended without reservation as textbook for
undergraduate courses in these disciplines.
Gyan Nagpal. Talent Economics: The Fine Line Between Winning
and Losing the Global War for Talent. London: Kogan Page, 2013, 207
pages, $39.95 paperback.
Reviewed by Alexis Fink, Sr. Director Talent Intelligence Analytics, Intel
Corporation, Hillsboro, OR.
A Cup Full of Insight
Talent Economics, by Nagpal, is a broadly integrative work that packs
a lot of conceptual punch into its 207 pages. The central premise of the
book rests at the intersection of talent management, labor economics, and
corporate strategy, but in making his central points, Nagpal frequently
incorporates useful perspectives from adjacent disciplines such as history.
BOOK REVIEWS 221
Where many business books seem to take a handful of ideas and
create something book length by examining the same ideas in excruciating
detail, Nagpalâ€™s book is snappily paced, typically devoting no more than
five paragraphs to each of the scores of meaty topics addressed. Nagpal
takes his own advice in keeping a tight connection between the wide
volume of data presented and the implications they suggest: â€œA pond full
of information can sometimes be less useful than a cup full of insightâ€
(p. 4). Completing this book feels a bit like completing a semester-long
course in terms of the sheer volume of concepts presented.
A book as densely packed with concepts and insights as Talent
Economics runs the risk of feeling disjointed and dry. Surprisingly, it
is neither. The book is well organized, and for the most part, there is
a clear conceptual thread leading from one section to the next. Liberal
use of headers, graphs, figures, lists, case studies, and diagnostics help
keep things peppy and break up the pages visually. Occasionally, Nagpal
personalizes the concepts with a personal anecdote or observation, such
as illustrating globally falling birthrates with a look back at the changes
in family size over three generations of his own family (see p. 60). A
crisp, 13-page toolkit is included at the end and, in addition to highlighting items like the talent strategy assessment around which Chapter 6 on
talent strategy is built, also includes an extensive list of website URLs for
significant global organizations and projects that are relevant to the wide
range of topics included.
A key differentiator for this book is that it examines the global economy
and global trends from the standpoint of someone living and breathing
that milieu everydayâ€”not just for the occasional business trip or a couple
years as an expatriate. Nagpal is currently based in Singapore and is keenly
attuned to the complexities and opportunities of a truly global economy
and workforce. Particularly for those primarily rooted in an American
viewpoint on the world, this sophisticated global analysis will be eye
The text itself is broken in seven sections. The first three sections set
up the context and conceptual framework. These are relatively shorter.
The next three sections form the bulk of the book, delving deeply into
macro trends, micro insights, and a prescription for strategic assessment.
The seventh section includes the toolkit referenced above.
The book sets off at a sprint from the beginning, neatly summarizing
the challenges at hand: â€œIn the future, the data tells us, this war for talent
will get considerably works, because while global circumstances for business are converging, the 3-billion-strong global workforce is not. In some
places it is ageing rapidly, in others, social, cultural or language barriers
are holding talent back. And in countries full of young personal ambition,
a lack of infrastructure or education is severely limiting potentialâ€ (p. 2).
222 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
The first chapter is a social and political Cookâ€™s Tour of the
last quarter century, highlighting the impact of the fall of the Berlin
wall and the key factors contributing to the rise of India and China.
Nagpal uses that contextual foundation to shift deftly to the evolution of
global market strategies, the impact of technology, particularly in terms
of global commerce and virtual work, and finally to reach his key point
about reinvention of employment in light of these seismic shifts.
Having set the context, Nagpal shifts gears to discuss the implications
of these contextual factors on 21st century leadership. Here, I review the
history of leadership imperatives, each aligned to a respective context.
Nagpal argues that the shareholder return focus of the past 30 years
is insufficient for the coming decades and suggests that innovation and
collaboration are top contenders for a replacement. The balance of the
chapter is devoted to these themes.
The third chapter functions as an extended segue from the context
setting of the first two chapters into the data-dense fourth chapter. Here, he
essentially argues for a mass customization strategy, noting â€œcentralized
global strategy [is] a hazardous game to execute . . . . The only way to
control chaos and complexity is to give up some of that controlâ€ (p. 40).
In this chapter also Nagpal scolds both leaders and HR as a function,
arguing that talent strategy must â€œsit squarely on the business leaderâ€™s
tableâ€ (p. 42) and scolding that â€œBy pitching someone elseâ€™s best practice,
programmes, initiatives and â€˜tweakingâ€™ existing processes in the name
of strategy, [HR] is distracting leadership focus from a greater goal â€“
commercial talent strategy that is embedded at the very core of business
strategyâ€ (p. 43).
Chapter 4 is a deep and roving dive into labor economics, analyzed
along eight themes: (a) broad workforce changes in aggregate talent; (b) replacement and mobility; (c) age and scope of dependency, that is, the number of dependents each worker is supporting; (d) gender mix broadly and
within management specifically; (e) generational trends within specific
markets; (f) basic education and workforce proficiency; (g) management
proficiency, especially as indicated through quality college and graduate
manager preparation; and (h) corporate governance and sustainability of
social systems. As you might expect, this chapter includes a great number
of illustrative graphs and tables. I appreciated the generational section
especially as it provided an assessment of the major generational markers
in China, India, and Japan.
The student of Organizational Effectiveness will find the most familiar
territory in Chapter 5. Here Nagpal flits about like a bumblebee, delving
into a wide variety of talent management topics. He begins by considering
how to find the right, as opposed to the best, talent, including discussions
of employee value propositions, culture, and organization assimilation.
BOOK REVIEWS 223
From there, he moves to different models for bringing talent into your
organization, especially tending to unconventional talent pools and entry
points. In the same vein, he addresses the importance of understanding and
tending the internal labor markets within organizations. The book is aimed
at business leaders, but industrial and organizational psychologists will
be pleased to see him emphasize the importance of sound job analyses.
The chapter also includes a discussion on the importance of removing
obstacles and growing engagement in the workforce and brief treatments
of topics such as the impact of cash versus noncash rewards.
The work reviewed here all comes together in Chapter 6, where Nagpal
addresses in detail his approach to developing and embedding a sound talent strategy. Accordingly, this chapter is the most linear, walking thoughtfully through 11 distinct talent priorities that bring together the topics
addressed earlier in the book. Here, he reemphasizes his point about talent
strategy as a business imperative rather than an HR problem. My favorite
analogy in the book is used here: â€œa groundsmanâ€™s goal to prepare a good
soccer pitch cannot be mixed up with a coachâ€™s strategy to win the soccer
gameâ€ (p. 140).
Having walked through the diagnostic, he moves on an approach for
creating a customized talent strategy, balancing across two axes, individual
and group, and short-term and long-term. Here again Nagpal is crisp
and focused, sharing key examples without belaboring the point. The
toolkit with which he closes the book reiterates the key points, as noted
This book is explicitly targeted at senior management, and the succinct
style and speedy pacing is appropriate for that time-constrained audience.
Those seeking a silver bullet will likely find the journeys into topics such
as the global stack ranking of basic capabilities in reading, science, and
math (pp. 87â€“88) tiresome. However, for those seeking to create a talent
strategy based on more than the latest fad in performance management
and cafeteria-style benefits plans, the broadly integrative ideas and data
presented here will likely feel like a door opening into a whole new
Dennis Tourish. The Dark Side of Transformational Leadership: A
Critical Perspective. New York, NY: Routledge, 2013, 252 pages, $39.95
Reviewed by Gary B. Brumback, Palm Coast, FL.
Mountains are there for climbers
Leadership is there for professors
To theorize and write books
224 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
Mountains donâ€™t change
Neither does bad leadership
Dennis Tourish is a professor of leadership and organization studies
at Royal Holloway, University of London, UK. This is his eighth book on
leadership and organizational communication. Eight books on the subject
from one author are a bit much. How long, for goodness sakes, does it
take an intellectual to understand leadership? Its meaning to me is very
simple. In its most generalized, abstract, and simple form, leadership
means controlling means in the pursuit of ends. My definition obviously
wonâ€™t suit Professor Tourish, probably any other professor, or the Harvard
Business School, or any other business school. As for all these schools,
Tourish would agree for he devotes Chapter 6 to â€œThe folly and the dangers
of leadership education in business schoolsâ€ (p. 96), a topic Iâ€™ll let speak
My reading of history tells me that the world throughout the ages
has been plagued by leadership in the public, commercial, and spiritual
spheres of life that has led to negative successes (e.g., wars fought and
won) and negative failures (e.g., wars fought and lost), and rarely to
positive successes and positive failures (i.e., positive ends not achieved
due to unpredictable situational interventions). There are today numerous
tinder boxes throughout the world being fueled by reckless leaders in their
quest for more power, and some notable observers believe U.S. militarism
is setting the stage for WWIII (e.g., Boyle, 2012; Roberts, 2014). Tourish
alludes to this volatile situation very early in the first chapter when he
states: â€œThe world is on fire and it will take more than a spirit of sorrowful
torpor (whatever that means to Tourish) to extinguish the flamesâ€ (p. 14).
But judging from the four ill-chosen case studies he uses in Part II to
illustrate the dark side of transformational leadership, I wonder if heâ€™s got
a clue as to the size of the fire, its causes, or what to do about it.
The six chapters of Part I are spent as he puts it on unraveling leadership agency. He clearly disdains the theory, teaching, and practice of
transformational leadership, all three of which he claims result in giving
leaders all the power and followers none. He examines the dynamics of
excessive leader agency that encourages authoritarian forms of organization and popularizes transformational leadership that to him resembles â€œa
form of â€˜nympholepsyâ€™â€ (p. 37).
Transformational leaders, he says, â€œoften exercise their power through
â€˜coercive control mechanismsâ€™â€ (p. 40). Relying on a study (Schein,
Schneier, & Barker, 1961) of U.S. POWs in Korea in the 1950s, Tourish in Chapter 3 compares side-by-side the key techniques of coercive
persuasion used by the captors with those used by leaders of organizations today, such as, for example, role modeling.
BOOK REVIEWS 225
In Chapter 4, Tourish explains how leaders use ideology to enhance
their power. Thereâ€™s certainly no doubt in my mind that leaders do just
that. To me, ideology is an intellectualized and usually firmly held set of
beliefs, and a perfect contemporary example is that of the neoconservative
politicos who influenced President George W. Bushâ€™s decision to invade
Iraq. But Tourish settles for a different example, one that he spends a whole
chapter discussing, namely, the example of leaders promoting spirituality
in the workplace as a very invasive form of control. A more uncommon,
off-beat example would be hard for me to imagine. But Tourish defends
his choice by mentioning that â€œThe Academy of Management has a special interest group devoted to the subject with almost 700 members, a
development which has created â€˜legitimacy and support for research and
teaching in the fieldâ€™â€ (pp. 59â€“60). Well, I am singularly unimpressed.
Spirituality has helped to fuel, not dampen the worldâ€™s fire, and it is worth
noting that President Bush reportedly prayed before making momentous
decisions (Suskind, 2004).
In the fifth chapter he explains the obvious, how the dark side of
leadership stifles if not extinguishes dissent among followers. He describes
the benefits of upward feedback and the barriers to that feedback ever
happening. He ends the chapter by offering â€œTen commandments for
improving upward communication,â€ as if any powerful leader would, for
instance, â€œpromote systems for greater participation in decision makingâ€
This brings us to Part II and its four case studies, which themselves
are a case study in the irrelevance at worst and limited implications at best
for taking transformational leadership out of the ethereal of Part I and into
the real world of leadership. Even taken together, the case studies donâ€™t
even remotely reflect a world on fire and primarily at the hands of the dark
side of leadership no matter how theorized.
â€œEnron revisitedâ€ (p. 117) is the first case study, and the story of this
corporationâ€™s implosion is indeed a revisited one. Tourish himself cites
two books and a documentary about the companyâ€™s fall, and there are
countless more post mortems that could have been cited judging from a
browsing of the subject on the Internet. Enronâ€™s executives clearly were
operating on the dark side, but the harm they caused, although widespread
and varied, was still mostly confined to the United States. Although two
of them were imprisoned and one died before being jailed, â€œhands up
corporate crooksâ€ could be on a theater marquee but is as uncommon
in Americaâ€™s corpocracy as is the failure of companies â€œtoo big to failâ€
where U.S. politicians are indebted to large corporations (see Brumback,
The second case study, picked by Tourish to illustrate cultic leadership
in practice, is way out in left field, literally, on the political spectrum. It is
226 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
an accounting of the rise and fall of the far-left Trotskyite movement and
the Committee for a Workerâ€™s International in the 1980s and early 1990s
that had launched â€œa prolonged struggle against the Tory governmentâ€
(p. 136). He could have but didnâ€™t mention that leadership on the right and
in the center on the political spectrum can be even darker, and he could
have but didnâ€™t include the cult of unbridled capitalism in the discussion
(a subject not in the bookâ€™s index).
Tourish continues his fascination with cultic leadership in the third
case study so anomalous so as to be beyond even the extreme fringe of
transformational leadership. He entitled the chapter, â€œLeadership, group
suicide and mass murder: Jonestown and Heavenâ€™s Gate through the looking glassâ€ (p. 157). This is such a ludicrous choice that it doesnâ€™t deserve
comment other than to say it makes me wonder if he is deliberately avoiding politically sensitive cases such as the role of nationsâ€™ warriors-in-chiefs
in sending millions to their graves for the sake of self-serving imperialism and the demands of multinational corporations, banking cartels, new
world order ideologues (see below), and the military/industrial complex
(see Brumback, 2011; 2013).
The last case study puts four UK senior â€œbankstersâ€ (my term) in the
slimelight (again, my term) by highlighting in testimonies before the UK
House of Parliamentâ€™s Banking Crisis Inquiry their rationalized excuses
for the global economic meltdown of 2008. Tourish shows no sign of
insight into the more dangerous role that big banksters play in helping to
instigate and fund wars or whatever other means necessary to establish, in
the words of the worldâ€™s premier banker, David Rockefeller, a new world
order of â€œsupranational sovereigntyâ€ dominated by â€œan intellectual elite
and world bankersâ€ (Kozy, 2013).
Tourish, seemingly without any sense of irony, declares that the
banksters have learned their lesson and are now â€œkeen to shore up their
tattered reputations and to ensure that they retain their ability to lead banks
in a manner as close to the way they have traditionally done as possibleâ€
(p. 178). Yes, Professor Tourish, the banksters are now displaying the
same impression management they displayed in giving their testimonies,
and the state of the world will never improve as long as the international
financial system remains â€œcorrupt to the coreâ€ (Todhunter, 2014).
Tourish wraps up his book in the 11th and final chapter, â€œReimagining
leadership and followership: A processual, communication perspectiveâ€
(p. 199). It stands to reason that being a specialty of his organizational
communication would be part of his perspective. It offers, he says, â€œa
dynamic conception of power dynamicsâ€”as a struggle over meaningâ€
(p. 211). That is certainly not my conception of power, which is simply
the capacity to control the means to ends.
BOOK REVIEWS 227
The proper perspective furthermore is one he says in which leadership â€œemerges through the interaction of organizational actors and has a
contested, fluid meaning for all of them in a given social situation for
determinate amount of timeâ€ (p. 205). I suppose that quote would make
more sense to you if I copied the rest of the chapter here. He concludes it
with the â€œhope that the journey undertaken in this book enables us to map
at least the outline of some answersâ€ (p. 215). If by the time I was writing
an eighth book on the subject, I surely think I would have more than an
outline to offer.
You can easily tell from my foregoing review that I canâ€™t give an
unqualified endorsement of the book. Yet, recognizing that Tourish is an
eminent authority on leadership theory, I have no qualms in recommending
his book for professors and their students who canâ€™t get enough of the
subject. For readers like me retired from their careers, you should have
the time I think to understand leadership better, if you want to, by reading
history and current events as reported and analyzed by the independent
media. The rest of you will know what to do.
Boyle FA. (2012, December 12). American militarism threatening to set off World
War III. OpEdNews. Retrieved from http://www.opednews.com/articles/AmericanMilitarism-Threat-by-Francis-A-Boyle-121212-394.html
Brumback GB. (2011). The devilâ€™s marriage: Break up the corpocracy or leave democracy
in the lurch. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.
Brumback GB. (2012). The corpocracy and Megaliioâ€™s turn up strategy. Palm Coast, FL:
Democracy Power Press.
Brumback GB. (2013, April 1). Grave choices by Americaâ€™s presidents. Cyranoâ€™s
Journal. Retrieved from http://www.cjournal.info/2013/04/01/grave-choices-byamericas-presidents/
Kozy J. (2013, February). The real new world order: Bankers taking over the world. Global
Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-real-new-world-orderbankers-taking-over-the-world/5322085
Roberts PC. (2014, March 28). Pushing toward the final war. OpEdNews. Retrieved from http://www.opednews.com/articles/Pushing-Toward-The-Final-W-byPaul-Craig-Roberts-Deception_Obama_Putin_Russia-140328-754.html
Schein EH, Schneier I, Barker CH. (1961). Coercive persuasion: A socio-psychological
analysis of the â€œbrainwashingâ€ of American civilian prisoners by the Chinese
communists. New York, NY: Norton.
Suskind R. (2004, October 17). Faith, certainty and the presidency of
George W. Bush. The New York Times Magazine, Retrieved from
Todhunter C. (2014, April 9). Corrupt to the core, the fire power of the financial
system: The destructive impacts of financial markets. Global Research. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/corrupt-to-the-core-the-fire-power-ofthe-financial-system-the-destructive-impacts-of-financial-markets/5377262
228 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
Amy L. Kristof-Brown and Jon Billsberry (Eds.). Organizational Fit:
Key Issues and New Directions. Malden, MA: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.,
2013, 246 pages, $127.95 hardcover.
Reviewed by John A. Lust, Professor of Management, Illinois State
University, Normal, IL.
Organizational Fit: Key Issues and New Directions is an outstanding
volume. The goal of the book is to go beyond the current research on the fit
of individuals with organizations to begin to develop new approaches to the
study of the area. The authors certainly have achieved this goal and more.
Kristof-Brown and Billsberry bring together some the key researchers in
this arena to provide an exciting and thought-provoking work.
In all, there are 10 chapters in the volume organized in two sections.
The editors begin the volume with an excellent introductory chapter that
summarizes the existing fit research and details a number of problems associated with that research. The first section follows and has five chapters
that examine topics related to fit using existing concepts and approaches.
There is a chapter on the motivational processes that lead people to seek
fit, a chapter describing the role of organizational socialization programs
in helping to achieve fit, a chapter outlining self-regulation processes that
individuals use to maintain fit, a chapter on fit and its impact on organizational citizenship behaviors, and a chapter that outlines the potential use
of cognitive mapping concepts to determine how individuals develop fit
The four chapters in the second section of the book take a very different
approach and look at new ways to approach the study of fit. These chapters
tend to be among the most interesting in the volume. There is a chapter that
outlines the potential use of the attractionâ€“selectionâ€“attrition framework
as a way to understand fit and in particular how and why fit perceptions
may change over time; there is a chapter that takes a â€œconservation of
resourcesâ€ perspective to analyze fit, a chapter that focuses on the role of
time in fit determination, and a chapter that takes a more macro approach
and reviews the potential impact of national culture on fit perceptions.
As mentioned, the editors have really done an excellent job with this
volume, and they are to be commended. Most certainly one of the reasons
for the quality of the work is the process that Kristof-Brown and Billsberry
employed to gather the manuscripts for the work. The process started in
2009 when the editors held a caucus on fit at the Academy of Management
annual meeting in Chicago. At that caucus they discussed the concept of
this book and the competitive process that they wished to employ to select
chapters. From there they issued a general call for papers where authors
provided a 2,000-word extended abstract for review. The best of these
BOOK REVIEWS 229
papers were presented and discussed at the 3rd Global e-Conference on Fit.
After the conference, the editors reviewed the 18 papers presented at the eConference and ultimately chose nine to be developed as full chapters for
the book. After that decision, there was a â€œtwo-round feedback and editing
processâ€ that Kristof-Brown and Billsberry held with the authors. Many
of the papers were then presented and discussed further at a symposium on
fit held at the 2011 Academy of Management annual meeting held in San
Antonio. The final results are the manuscripts contained in this volume.
Most certainly the extensive review (and somewhat atypical approach for
edited volumes) has contributed to the clarity of thought and interesting
approaches employed by the chapter authors.
Although all of the chapters in the work are quite good, there are
several that stand out as having the potential to significantly impact the
field. Chapter 7 by Van Vianen, Stoelhorst, and De Goede and Chapter 9
by Jansen and Shipp are both outstanding. The two chapters have similar
goals in that they examine how perceptions of fit change. Van Vianen et al.
use the attractionâ€“selectionâ€“attrition framework to explain key points in
oneâ€™s career where fit perceptions will be impacted. Especially interesting
is their argument that individuals will employ both different sources of organizational information and different reference individuals as they move
through the process of career management and adaptation. In addition,
their discussion of possibilities for future research should be reviewed by
anyone interested in the field.
The Jansen and Shipp chapter examines the role of both â€œclock timeâ€
and â€œpsychological timeâ€ on fit perceptions. One of their more interesting
conclusions is that type of fit will vary in importance as one moves through
the organization from prehire to posthire. For example, fit with job-related
concepts (personâ€“vocation fit and personâ€“job fit) will be extremely important early in the process. Once one becomes a fully contributing member
of the organization, other types of fit become more important. For example, personâ€“work group fit and personâ€“supervisor fit will become more
salient in shaping individual perceptions and outcomes. As with the abovementioned Chapter 7, Jansen and Shipp also have an excellent section on
future research possibilities.
The final chapter I wish to highlight is Chapter 10 by Lee and
Ramaswami on the impact of national culture on fit perceptions. This
chapter takes a very different focus from others in the volume in that it is
more macro in its approach. The authors do a very good job in outlining
the cultural dimensions that might impact fit. In addition, I thought that
their discussion of the role of culture on fit before organizational entry,
during entry and employment, and at organizational exit was very insightful. This area of research is largely untapped and represents an important
opportunity to increase our understanding of the fit phenomenon.
230 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
In summary, I found this volume to be outstanding. Although I only
highlight a few chapters in the work, the potential reader should not be
dissuaded. This work makes an important contribution to the research on
organizational fit and should have an impact on shaping the field for years
There is an interesting sidenote that I wish to mention. Even though this
volume is clearly aimed at current and future fit researchers, it will be of
benefit to other potential readers as well. In particular, we have seen growth
in recent years in the number of U.S. colleges of business offering courses
on professionalism to their undergraduate students. I developed and teach
our course on professional and career development here at Illinois State.
A major component of this course is focused on ensuring that our students
understand the decision-making processes that companies employ during
recruitment and selection. Obviously a key component of this discussion is
fit perceptions for both the applicant/future employee and the organization.
Although I know quite a bit about the area, this work has changed some
of my thinking and so will impact how I approach several sections of the
course in future semesters. Thus I am very grateful to Kristof-Brown and
Billsberry and to the various chapter authors for the work that they did
on this unique volume. Fit is important to both individual employees and
the organizations that they populate. This work has done much to increase
our understanding of this important phenomenon and provides the promise
of even more important future results. It will certainly become required
reading in human resource management and I-O psychology doctoral
programs, and hopefully it will receive the wide-spread readership that it
Bryan J. Dik, Zinta S. Byrne, and Michael F. Steger (Eds.). Purpose and
Meaning in the Workplace. Washington, DC: American Psychological
Association, 2013, 248 pages, $69.95 hardcover.
Reviewed by Tom Walk, Director, Learning Design and Technology,
MetLife, New York, NY.
By way of an overview, Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace is an
edited compilation of 10 chapters, organized into three discrete sections:
(1) Cultivating a Meaningful Careerâ€”focuses on research and interventions focused on individuals and their career satisfaction
(2) Meaning Making on the Jobâ€”discusses theory and practice
around designing and deriving meaning from jobs
(3) Leading a Meaningful Organizationâ€”reviews how organizationlevel activities and interventions can positively impact experienced
meaning for the associates
BOOK REVIEWS 231
In the introduction, the editors make clear the purpose of this compilation, stating that â€œThe overarching mission of Purpose and Meaning in the
Workplace is to provide a resource that supports paradigm integration and
assimilation of cross-disciplinary theory and research related to purpose
and meaning in the workplace in a way that highlights clearly defined,
empirically derived practical applicationsâ€ (p. 7).
As I began reading Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace, I was very
much heartened by the introductory content. The tone taken by the author of the foreword and the editors was reminiscent of work by Douglas
McGregor or Hackman and Oldham where enhancing the meaningfulness of work was viewed as a valuable outcome unto itself. Increasingly,
the employee attitudes literature has taken on a more instrumental tone
where any benefits that an individual or society might accrue from an
employeeâ€™s improved experience of work are secondary to the economic
benefit accrued by the enterprise.
In addition to the more appealing, humanistic tone of Purpose and
Meaning in the Workplace, Dik, Byrne, and Steger also compiled some
very strong work. Generally, the chapters are thorough and interesting.
In particular, I was very impressed with Jo-Ida Hansenâ€™s chapter on how
good personâ€“environment fit can enhance meaning, and I found myself
debating Robert Lent as he discussed his social-cognitive view of meaning
in the workplace. Although it is beyond the scope of this review to discuss
each chapter in detail, I felt that these two chapters were particularly
noteworthy only because they engaged my curiosity and challenged my
preconceptions in a positive way. I am sure that readers with different
interests would find some of the other chapters equally interesting.
Having acknowledged what I perceive to be the key virtues of this
volume, I still feel somewhat disappointed with this work, overall. Stylistically, I found the book very difficult to read, though I acknowledge that
this difficulty may have been unavoidable. As a cross-disciplinary work,
the book necessarily covers a broad range of topics that some readers will
find unfamiliar and, consequently, more challenging. In addition, by using contributing authors, each chapter introduces a new writing style and
approach, making for a somewhat choppy reading experience. Finally, the
book is written in a more formal and academic style that is very information dense and works reasonably well in the context of a journal article
but translates less comfortably to a longer work.
Acknowledging these points, it is also the case that I have read other
collections that flowed much more smoothly. Although some of the contributors displayed mastery of the academic writing style, others appeared
to struggle navigating that style and presented too much material without
cleanly transitioning between concepts. As a consequence, some chapters
are rather difficult to follow, particularly if the reader is less knowledgeable
232 PERSONNEL PSYCHOLOGY
in that topic area. In summary, I believe that some of the chapters could
have benefited greatly from more assertive editing than they received.
Although this volume does have some notable lapses in clarity on a
chapter-by-chapter basis, my biggest concern is actually with how the
book addressed its stated purpose. The editors do an excellent job of setting a tone and providing a compelling purpose for the book, but their
stated mission is quite expansive and encompasses some broad and wellresearched topics, like job design or leadership, that are the topics of
their own books. Given this incredible breadth of topics, I was surprised
to see that several chapters were very deeply and narrowly focused on
one technique or practice, whereas other, equally worthy topics werenâ€™t
discussed at all. By way of example, in the section on â€œMeaning Making on the Job,â€ one chapter is devoted to job crafting, a well-researched
technique for job design originated by Justin Berg and his colleagues. Although I appreciated the chapter on its own merits, I wondered if a chapter
focused exclusively on job crafting was the best choice for this book
given the breadth of job design literature and the relatively short length
of the book. I had similar reservations with articles in the other two sections. Past experience reading compiled volumes suggests that presenting
a larger number of narrowly focused, shorter chapters or fewer chapters
constructed as broad literature reviews are both effective approaches. The
mixed approach presented in this volume did not, in my opinion, provide
sufficient coverage of the construct space that they outlined to be fully
Beyond coverage, however, I also found that the volume simply did
not have a strong unifying thread. Although the authors clearly present
cross-disciplinary integration as a key purpose, none of the contributing
authors sought to highlight integration opportunities. As an alternative,
the editors could have provided interludes that made those integrative ties.
Unfortunately, neither approach was implemented, leaving me with the
feeling that this wasnâ€™t so much a book as a set of articles.
In summary, Purpose and Meaning in the Workplace certainly possesses some genuine strengths. Several chapters are very well-written and
provide interesting insights and perspectives on the topic of how we might
influence the meaningfulness of work. Unfortunately, inconsistencies in
style across the chapters and an overly forgiving editing style make the
book rather difficult to read unless you are already very familiar with the
topics presented. More important, however, the ambitious purpose stated
in this volumeâ€™s introduction is simply not fulfilled by the chapters that
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