ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

December 1998

Once Around The Block

A Better Place To Live

Chevron Fuels-Up For The Future

Imagine What Creativity Can Lead To

Lessons Learned At The Water Cooler

by Maryann Brennan
Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

The Quality Tool I Never Use

Sites Unseen

Book Review


Book Reviews With a Twist

“Six Silent Killers: Management’s Greatest Challenge” by James R. Fisher, Jr.

Here’s an author who gets his ideas and data directly from the workplace. James R. Fisher, Jr. has worked inside of the corporate world for more than three decades. His conclusion? “We don’t know how to manage, motivate or mobilize our brilliant workforce, and as a consequence this spawns six silent killers which destroys the foundation and infrastructure of the organization within without anybody noticing it.”

The six silent killers that Fisher identifies are: passive aggressive, passive defensive, passive responsive, approach avoidance, obsessive compulsive and malicious obedient behaviors. He sees these silent killers invading organizations much like termites invade and destroy the foundation and infrastructure of homes and buildings, silently and systematically until it is too late for damage control.
Fisher goes further to describe the American workplace culture suspended in adolescence with comfort and complacency taking precedence over contribution. The reason? Contribution is messy, conflicting, confrontational, creative, individualized and dynamic, where as comfort and complacency are geared towards reaction, conformity, obedience, submissiveness and compliance. He sees the latter as being stuck nostalgically in a 1945 controlled environment where the status quo, hierarchical management, and the unit of command still reign supreme. Granted, he says, the rhetoric and even the ritual of organization supports dynamic change, quality management and employee involvement, but the reality is far from the norm.

Favorite Quote: “Make no mistake, the workplace is in the midst of a revolution. Yet the focus more often than not is exclusively on management, not workers. This is due to the faulty belief that if you fix management, you fix the problem. Social engineers have been fixing management for a quarter of a century with little success.”

Second Favorite Quote: “A high need to please others should not be confused with the need to serve others. These are worlds apart. The high need to please others is actually self-serving and reactive. The person doesn’t develop a point of view, but tries to perceive the most valued point of view and then attempts to echo this sentiment.”

Who Should Read this Book: This book is for anyone who works for a living, but it is directed at the professional workforce. Fisher feels that this workforce is far from reaching its potential because it is managed and measured as if it were making widgets.

Why Should you Read this Book: It will stimulate, anger, amuse and delight you the way a college bull session once did. It will get your dander up, but it will also put you in touch with those buried feelings, thoughts and concerns you have shied away from pursuing.

Best Parts: Chapters that provide real-life examples of how the “silent killers” apply to people in all professions. Examples include Ivan Boesky’s downfall for insider trading, John Delorean’s misadventure in Northern Ireland and Gary Hart’s derailed run for the presidency.

Most Useful Section: How to establish a real and effective culture of participative management, where workers not only accept power, but accountability as well.

“Six Silent Killers: Management’s Greatest Challenges,” James R. Fisher, Jr., 1998, St. Lucie Press, Tampa, ISBN: 1-57444-152-3, 304 pages, US $27.50. Reviewed by Billy G. Gunter, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, University of South Florida, Tampa, Fla.

December '98 News for a Change | Email Editor
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