Shakespeare on Management: Wise Business Counsel from the Bard

Shakespeare on Management: Wise Business Counsel from the Bard

by Jay M. Shafritz, Seymour Chwast
     
 

Long before the Harvard Business School, there was William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's vast and important contributions to literature have long been acknowledged, but his shrewd insights into business and management have been all but ignored—until now. A pithy book of wise business musings from the bard, Shakespeare On Management captures

Overview

Long before the Harvard Business School, there was William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's vast and important contributions to literature have long been acknowledged, but his shrewd insights into business and management have been all but ignored—until now. A pithy book of wise business musings from the bard, Shakespeare On Management captures entertaining and uncannily accurate reflections on fifty-six of the most popular topics in business today, from mergers and acquisitions to office politics, power lunches to public relations.

Think of Hamlet, the poignant case of too-sensitive young executive who fails to move up the corporate ladder because of his inability to make decisions. Or Julius Caesar, which at its heart is nothing of not an attempt at a hostile takeover by disgruntled stockholders. Or consider King Lear, a warning to all executives of family businesses the perils of divestiture and early retirement.

Smart, thought-provoking, and astonishingly contemporary, Shakespeare On Management is truly a time-tested classic that belongs on every well-read executive's bookshelf.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780066620374
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/08/1999
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 7.25(h) x 0.48(d)

Read an Excerpt


Fat Versus Thin Employees

All upwardly mobile managers need the ability first to spot and then to cope with organizational rivals. In Julius Caesar (Act 1, scene ii) Shakespeare offers literature's most succinct description of a now familiar figure-the highly ambitious, humorless workaholic. Caesar, who would rather have fat and contented "yes men" about him, describes the "lean and hungry" Cassius to Mark Antony:

Let me have men about me that are fat; Sleek-headed men and such as sleep a-nights. Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.... Would he were fatter! but I fear him not.

Yet if my name were liable to fear, I do not know the man I should avoid So soon as that spare Cassius. He reads much, He is a great observer, and he looks Quite through the deeds of men. He loves no plays, As thou dost, Antony; he hears no music; Seldom he smiles, and smiles in such a sort As if he mock'd himself, and scorn'd his spirit That could be mov'd to smile at any thing. Such men as he be never at heart's ease Whiles they behold a greater than themselves, And therefore are they very dangerous.

Is there a lesson here? Julius Caesar would have disagreed with what the late Duchess of Windsor is supposed to have said: "One can never be too thin or too rich." He felt that too thin was dangerous-especially to organizational rivals.

Shakespeare's Caesar would have been much more comfortable with Sir John Falstaff; but alas, they were in different plays. In Henry IV, Part I the Prince of Wales is assessing Sir John for a position in his future administration (when he becomes King Henry V) but (Act 11, scene iv) finds him to be too fat for any job:

There is a devil haunts thee in the likeness of an old fat man, a tun of man is thy companion. Why dost thou converse with that trunk of humors, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swoll'n parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuff'd cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with the pudding in his belly, that reverent vice, that grey Iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years? Wherein is he good, but to taste sack and drink it? wherein neat and cleanly, but to carve a capon and eat it? wherein cunning, but in craft? wherein crafty, but in villainy? wherein villanous, but in all things? wherein worthy, but in nothing?

In his own defense Sir John replies:

If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked! If to be old and merry be a sin, then many an old host that I know is damn'd. If to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh's lean kine [cows] are to be lov'd.

Fat people are still discriminated against today. Studies constantly show that the "lean kine" are far more likely to be promoted. Equal employment opportunity laws are still not weighty enough to protect the fat: "If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked," because the law won't. Sir John's hefty defense is futile. As soon as the prince rises to top management (becomes king), he cuts his old fat friend off from all contact. This is the classic example of deserting a long-standing friend of lesser status when one moves on to a new position of higher status. This broke Sir John's heart, and the old knight apparently died from the rejection. How ever, if someone does this to you, don't crawl off somewhere and die. Instead, immediately read this book's chapter entitled "Getting Even....."

Meet the Author

Jay M. Shafritz is a prolific author who has written or edited more than three dozen professional and academic books on management, organizational theory, and public affairs. He is a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

Jay M. Shafritz is a prolific author who has written or edited more than three dozen professional and academic books on management, organizational theory, and public affairs. He is a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.

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