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Tanya Cowin

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Book review: Never Mind the Bosses by Robin Ryde


Reviewed by Tanya Cowin

The objective of the book, Never Mind the Bosses by Robin Ryde, is to demonstrate that deference in the workplace “impedes organisational success.”

The author has been strongly influenced by the punk movement and its anti-deferential attitude and devotes a whole chapter of the book to explaining the punk music explosion of 1976. He shows us that the anti-deferential attitude is still alive and well today citing examples such as Google, Bansky and computer hacking.

Ryde examines the changes in relationships between men and women, doctors and patients, Middle Eastern revolution and the changes in the hierarchical cultures of countries such as China and India.

This is, however, a book for and about management and these chapters provide the background to understanding how organisations need to change as the Generations Y (born 1981-1995) and Z (born 1995-2012) have been brought up within the fast moving digital life and social media and do not share the same attitude as their parents to loyalty to their employers.

In Chapter 1, Ryde introduces both the rules of deference for both the deferred to and the deferrers and presents a model against which organisations can measure their levels of deference.

  • Symbols – gatekeepers and office space or equipment
  • Psychological contract – is it meaningful?
  • Executive powers – who can make decisions?
  • Engagement – the level to which employee ownership is encouraged
  • Discourse – is the relationship parent-child or adult-adult?

Later in the book in Chapter 6 he builds on the SPEED model “for diagnosing deference and raising organisational performance” and lists a variety of ways in which an organisation can measure the extent of its deference to enable the development of alternative strategies.

Reviewer’s comments

I found this book to be very different to other management books I have read. Robin Ryde’s style of writing is very easy to read and digest and I found the history of the punk movement and other moves away from a deferential approach fascinating.

Throughout the book he gives examples of how a culture of deference can lead to wrong and, in some cases, disastrous results. In contrast he highlights how the Generation Y thinking can lead to positive action, such as during the Christchurch earthquakes in late 2010.

I did not always feel that there was a natural flow from chapter to chapter but this did not detract from the overall impact of the text.

I would recommend this book both as a generally good read as well as for management who want to analyse and possibly change their organisation’s culture in line with the expectations of the workforce of the future.

Rating: 4 stars our of 5

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