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Book Review: Be bulletproof – How to achieve success in tough times at work


This book aims to help people cope with the everyday slings and arrows of working life and the debris left by poor management, office politics and difficult people.

In the introduction, the authors, James and Simon Brooke, explain the three main pillars of their work, namely:
  1. Mindfulness – Being self-aware, conscious of your thoughts and why you are thinking something
  2. Positive psychology – Changing the way that you view the world in order to improve your resilience
  3. Understanding your story – Thinking of things in terms of your on-going story to put specific incidents into a wider perspective.
The ultimate objective is help you emerge unharmed from the skirmishes that everyone experiences at one time or another in the workplace, some of which are intentional attacks and others that are simply misunderstandings. 
Learning to be resilient, although not in a hard, armour-plated way, is the secret to success here. The authors use the metaphor of silk or Kevlar to introduce the idea of flexibility and lightness with strength which, they believe, is the key to defusing any missiles coming your way in order to continue fighting on in the corporate jungle.
The structure of the book is based on understanding your brain and your attitude, hence the first two short chapters entitled:
  1. How the bulletproof mind works
  2. Changing your mind set.
Subsequent chapters share a wide range of techniques that are built on these ideas, including:
  • Using jujitsu communication
  • Handling toxic bosses and other dementors
  • Turning rejection into a springboard
  • Decontaminating toxic feedback and other assaults
  • Turning around failures and setbacks
  • Winning in the face of politics and ostracism
  • Delivering feedback in a way that works.
Reviewer’s rating
Such topics as the “toxic boss”; dealing with rejection and aggressive questioners in presentations; “decontaminating” feedback and winning in the face of politics and ostracism are comprehensively covered.
The authors provide lots of examples, mini-case studies, some insightful theoretical background and a lot of practical tips and techniques in a bid to help readers feel more able to venture “once more unto the fray” at work.
My major concern is the sheer volume of ‘stuff’ crammed between the covers and the structure of the book itself. It feels a bit like one of those 150-slide PowerPoint presentations that takes place in under an hour. 
There is more than one book contained here – a big clue to this is included in chapter 11, which acts as a restatement and summary of previous content. It is entitled “82 Ways to be Bulletproof” – but, phew, 20 would have been enough. While I’m looking for technique number 47, I could be decimated by political shrapnel…
Oh – and Random House could have done a better job of editing – I spotted three typos during my first read. I recognise that I’m a pedant, but I’m not talking grammatical vagaries here. 
In my view (I learned to say that in chapter 9, which offered excellent advice on giving feedback), a higher standard is required and it looks to me that not enough care was taken over the editing process. What are your thoughts, Random (I’m getting good at this)?
All the same, it was a useful book to plough through and gave me lots of ideas to absorb.
From time-to-time, it would be worth opening it at random to remind yourself of a given technique or, more importantly, to remember about that cave dweller still living in your head and why s/he gives you problems (you’ll have to read the book to find out more about that one).
  • This book was reviewed for us by Clive Hook, director of team and leadership development consultancy, Clearworth.
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