How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed in the Back My Fingerprints Are on the Knife: And Other Meditations on Management / Edition 1

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The role each of us plays in our own downfall creates the profound—and profoundly entertaining—basis for this series of linked "meditations" as the author of The Abilene Paradox takes another irreverent look at the nature of life on the job. With his title essay and the other cutting-edge queries found here, Jerry Harvey takes aim at many of our long-cherished assumptions about management, organizations, and human nature. In this work, Harvey draws on his extensive background in management science and organizational psychology to explore the ethical, moral, and spiritual dilemmas we all face in the modern world of work. But he does it in a most unconventional way. His is an approach that mixes equal parts humor, philosophy, and insight to make us laugh, think, and examine organizational behavior in a brand new light.Readers will come upon such diverse topics as elephants, passing gas in church, heart surgery, the importance of Not*Teaching, and back-stabbing as a social process. They'll also discover why high-performance organizations must always employ plenty of incompetent people, why Judas was not a traitor, and why no-nonsense managers are both tragic and useless figures. The twelve essays themselves carry such spirited titles as "What If I Really Believe This Stuff," "On Tooting Your Own Horn," and "Ode to Waco."On every page, Harvey offers hosts of office dwellers a fresh take on the problems they confront every day. And his refusal to prescribe solutions will be a relief to readers who know that the advice contained in most business books doesn't work anyway. Instead, Harvey delivers a collection of wise and witty parables that brilliantly illustrate the redemptive value of the truth, in a voice that is ultimately understanding of human shortcomings.

The author provides an irreverent look at the nature of corporate life. Draws on his extensive background in management science and organizational psychology to explore the ethical, moral, and spiritual dilemmas we all face in the modern world of work.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Jerry Harvey has the uncanny ability of observing the ordinary yet seeing the extraordinary. His insights are both provocative and useful, no common combination. Reading this book, you will learn to see the world through another lens." (W. Warner Burke)

"Here are real organizational worlds both terrifying and hilarious, where people say and do things that they don't do anywhere else, and feel things that they don't feel anywhere else, and fortunately Jerry Harvey is there, too, to record it, reflect on it, and help us learn from it. Bless him!" (Peter Vaill, professor and holder of the Distinguished Chair in Management Education, University of St. Thomas, Minnesota)

"A decade ago, Jerry Harvey's Abilene Paradox indelibly entered the lexicon as a metaphor for unproductive group behavior. Now, he's identified an equally damaging-and paradoxical-pattern of individual self-destruction. And, once again, he offers the same invaluable prescription: Tell the truth to everyone-especially yourself. Ah, if only this time we will listen." (James O'Toole, author, Leadership A to Z)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787947873
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 8/3/1999
  • Series: Jossey-Bass Business and Management Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,030,942
  • Product dimensions: 6.24 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

JERRY B. HARVEY,well-known author of The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management, is a professor of management science at The George Washington University. He has consulted with business, government, various healthcare services, and the nonprofit sector and has published many articles in the fields of organizational behavior and education.

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Read an Excerpt

It's Not My Dog

A number of years ago, our family -- which consisted of me, my wife, and two preschoolers -- rented a condominium adjacent to a pristine, crescent-shaped, sandy beach near Ocean City, Maryland. Because our lease commenced several weeks after the official tourist season had concluded, few outsiders were to be found. In comparison to the hurly-burly one finds during the middle of the summer, the resort area was deserted.

A Walk, a Man, and a Dog

At approximately 6:30 a.m. on the first morning of our foray into the world of surf and sand, I awoke before the remainder of the troops had sprung into action and decided to take a solitary stroll along the beach in preparation for the chaos that inevitably attends having two small children gamboling amidst an onslaught of waves and sharks. I don't know whether you have visited that particular area of Maryland's Eastern Shore during the off-season. If you have, you know that at daybreak, when you step onto the beach from an oceanside condominium and look toward the ocean, about all you are likely to see is the rising sun, a few clouds, several fishing vessels, and an uncluttered horizon. There is a tranquil ambiance born of quietness, vastness, and solitude. It was in that peaceful context that I began my journey.

Meditations at the Beach

Therefore, in Chapter One I begin the process by asking myself the penetrating question, How come every time I get stabbed in the back, my fingerprints are on the knife? That cutting-edge query arose from discovering that no matter how often I have felt betrayed by others in an organizational setting, the truth is that I have always played an active role in my own downfall. In fact, I have reached the conclusion that neither I, nor anyone else I know, nor any organization to which I have belonged, has ever truly been stabbed in the back. We have been frontstabbed, sidestabbed, or even murdered. Believe me, though, each of those experiences is fundamentally different from being stabbed in the back. Furthermore, I am convinced that it is important to know the nature of the difference if we and the organizations we create are to function effectively.

Other Elements of the Landscape

While revolving around life in organizations, the material in this book tends to be very moralistic in places. Being a confessed preacher at heart, I don't apologize for that. I want you to know, though, that I am aware of it and am acutely sensitive to the potential dangers it poses to my efforts to communicate with you. My fondest hope is that whatever moralism I exhibit is a gentle reflection of my lifelong concern with organizational issues that are ethical, moral, and spiritual in nature and is not a misguided expression of narrow-mindedness that is characteristic of a religious zealot. To state this differently, I hope that my moralistic themes are not oppressive or relevant only to individuals from a single religious or spiritual tradition or relevant only to those who have a religious or spiritual tradition.

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Table of Contents


The Author.

Introduction: It's Not My Dog.

Some Thoughts About Organizational Back Stabbing or How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed in the Back My Fingerprints are on the Knife?

The Spin Doctors: An Invitation to Meditate on the Organizational Dynamics of the Last Supper and Why Judas was not the Traitor.

On the Ethics of Standing for Something or Sitting on Our Duffs.

Learning to Not*Teach.

Prayers of Communication and Organizational Learning.

This Is a Football: Leadership and the Anaclitic Depression Blues.

What If I Really Believe This Stuff?

Musing About the Elephant in the Parlor or "Who the Hell Is Elliot Jaques?"

On Tooting Your Own Horn or Social Intervention as the Process of Releasing Flatus in the Confines of Religious Institutions.

Ode to Waco: When Bizarre Organizational Behavior Is Concerned, God Works in Strange and Mysterious Ways.

When We Buy a Pig: The Tragedy of the No-Nonsesne Manager.

Afterword: In Memory of Suzanne.



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