Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Curmudgeons Guide To Getting Ahead - Audiobook Review

Author: Charles Murray
Narrator: Charles Murray
Unabridged Length: 3 h, 10 m
Published by Blackstone Audio, 2014
Genres: Nonfiction, Business

From the Publisher
In the bestselling tradition of Eats, Shoots & Leaves, a gently curmudgeonly but invaluable guide to the dos and don’ts of the workplace.

Bestselling social historian Charles Murray has written a delightfully fussy—and entertaining—book on the hidden rules of the road in the workplace—and in life—from the standpoint of an admonishing, but encouraging, workplace grouch and taskmaster. Why the curmudgeon? The fact is that most older, more senior people in the workplace are closet curmudgeons. In today’s politically correct world, they may hide their displeasure over your misuse of grammar or your overly familiar use of their first name without an express invitation. But don’t be fooled by their pleasant demeanor. Underneath, they are judging and evaluating your every move and utterance. And in most cases, if you want to advance in your career, it is their approval you need to win.

In the course of this pithy and powerful book, Murray tells us the proper etiquette for email, how to stop using such overused and fuzzy phrases as “reaching out” and “sharing,” his thoughts on piercings and tattoos and proper dress, the importance of rigor in language and good writing, why being judgmental is good, and other curmudgeonly pieces of wisdom and advice. He suggests how to stand out at work (work long hours when you are young and unencumbered by family and other obligations), when to use strong language and when to avoid it, and offers a bare-bones usage primer on how to avoid confusing words like “advice” and “advise,” which look or sound similar but have distinct meanings.

Written with both verve and reserve and drawing on the core values that have historically made good manners the best lubricant to social and professional advancement, The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead is an invaluable resource for anyone hoping to land the job of their dreams—or get ahead in their career of choice.

My Review
I’m not the target audience of this book as I’m old enough to be (OK, I am) a curmudgeon and have observed most of what Charles Murray covers, since I started working with large corporations in 1976. I first ran into the writings of Murray when I read “The Bell Curve” (during my last time in graduate school in the late 90s) that he co-authored along with Richard J. Herrnstein in 1996.

Senior managers in most businesses today are curmudgeons, usually baby-boomers, whose values are different from younger workers, particularly Millennials. Young workers are judged by older managers for their communication skills, dress, timeliness, grammar, respect for elders, work ethic, manners, and general workplace behavior. The details matter and promotions are often based on how well young employees mesh with the values of the organization; that is, the values of senior management curmudgeons. 

While curmudgeons occupy the senior posts of most large businesses, he mentions this book does not apply to the entertainment or IT industries, nor to politics. I found this book does a good job of giving young workers an insider’s view to what is actually expected of them in the workplace, the pitfalls to avoid, and the behaviors to embrace. It is easy for curmudgeon managers to write off young workers who don’t seem to live the values of corporate managers. Being clueless of, or ignoring, curmudgeon expectations is not a formula for advancement in large organizations. 

This is a short audiobook, only a little over three hours, but it is full of interesting observations from one who has studied organizations for many years. Charles Murray narrates this book and does a good job. He is a good public speaker and presents the material in a manner as if speaking directly to the listener, as if sitting directly across the desk.

I found this book interesting and can see how it would be very useful to young professionals entering the workplace with large organizations. There is a lot of wisdom in this audiobook, even if it isn’t what younger workers want to hear.

A review copy of The Curmudgeons Guide To Getting Ahead was provided by Blackstone Audio through the Solid Gold Reviewer program of Audiobook Jukebox.

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