Are you listening? by Jenny Rogers Critique – Putting the Office in Therapy | Books
HAmish is a rich and successful entrepreneur, a man who seems to win in life. Yet, in secret, he is collapsing. His second wife has left him, he’s stressed out, and he’s just sadly realized that no matter how many trophy girlfriends or French chateaux he acquires, another millionaire will always have a better one.
If you already hate Hamish, then you may be missing this book’s larger lesson, which is that unhappy professional lives are just as complex and fascinating as the unhappy private lives they frequently reflect, and also just as worthy of comment. ‘Warning. Hamish, it turns out, is now a happy social entrepreneur with an admirable mentorship of former care leavers and ex-prisoners in work.
Jenny Rogers is a work coach, one of those professions that brings instant skepticism to some, though the gripping case studies she’s collected in Are You Listening? suggest that she really is more of an office shrink. The high-flying executives she’s hired to help her invariably begin by presenting dry corporate dilemmas, but quickly end up tearfully confessing to childhood trauma or hidden vulnerability, which turns out to be what that really motivates their behavior in the office. Time and time again, it becomes clear that the emotional baggage that most people carry does not just affect intimate relationships. Many of us end up taking it with us to work and unloading it on our colleagues as well.
His book is decidedly not a self-help manual for those in a difficult professional situation, although reading it may make you slightly more likely to identify the psychopath in the residence hall. And while it contains universal themes, typically well-heeled Rogers customers may not quite compare to the average office worker. But the stories are intriguing, told well enough to draw the reader in, and packed with nifty truths. The overall effect is more like an intermediate version of psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life, which distilled a lifetime of couch conversations.
If Rogers sometimes seems too eager to highlight the parallels between coaching and psychotherapy, perhaps it stems from a lifetime of people snorting in disbelief (as Hamish initially does) that “people actually pay you for it.” “. But the sensitive process she describes seems worth taking seriously, especially for anyone who has experienced the profound daily misery that a bullying boss or a dysfunctional team can cause. It’s also a helpful reminder both that tricky co-workers can be dealing with more than meets the eye, and that in the end, it’s the people who make a workplace work.
Managers sometimes blame young employees for wanting to bring to work what millennials call their “whole selves,” and older generations might call “messy personal things.” What this book elegantly exposes, however, is that there’s really no such thing as keeping it “strictly commercial”; that somewhere beneath the stiffest padded corporate shirt there is a semblance of a beating heart.