March 2022 (March 16, to be exact) is the 10th anniversary of All About Work.
It doesn’t feel like 10 years have gone by, but who doesn’t say that on an anniversary? When I started this blog, I didn’t have any goals about keeping it going for a certain length of time. I decided to just start it up and see what happened. I wanted to have a place to discuss work and organizational issues in a more informal style than academic writing uses, and where I could write for whatever length I thought was appropriate, without external editorial constraints like the dreaded Reviewer #2.
Writing and running All About Work has been an incredible education. I’ve learned a lot about how online publishing works, and about how to communicate ideas in different ways and to different audiences. I’ve written nearly 350 posts on this blog over the past 10 years. Some of them have had almost no readers, and some of them have had thousands of readers. All About Work has also been an opportunity for me to explore ideas and information beyond my work-related interests, and I appreciate the faithful readers who are willing to take a look at a post regardless of its topic.
I learned enough from running this blog to start a second blog, Writing On Music. As its title suggests, that blog is more focused on my freelance music writing career. In the 10 years since this blog started, some bloggers have moved over to more writing-focused sites like Medium, or started producing email newsletters using something like Substack. But I like the format of blogging on WordPress, and I like not being tied to a regular schedule and having the flexibility to post whenever I have something to say.
All About Work has been a little quiet of late because I’ve been working on a major project. I hope to wrap that up soon and start posting more regularly. But in the meantime, I want to express my thanks to everyone who’s read, shared, or commented on All About Work posts over the past decade. It’s been a trip, and it’s one I intend to continue.
An unexpected benefit of mask-wearing is being able to say things without being heard. That came in handy a few weeks ago at my local public library, when I uttered “what in the actual f***?” at the completely unexpected sight of a new Jonah Lehrer book.
Mystery, the new book, is indeed mysterious in that it seems to have sprung out of nowhere. I couldn’t find any online news about a new Lehrer book on the way, and there doesn’t seem to have been much advance promotion for the book. So, being intrigued by that additional layer of mystery, of course I read it.
I posted about Lehrer’s previous problems several times on this blog, including an analysis of his now-withdrawn book Imagine which became a featured post on WordPress and attracted thousands of readers. I don’t say this to be boastful, but to be forthright about the reality that I’m familiar with the controversial history of Lehrer’s writing – and that inevitably colours how I look at his current work. I didn’t deliberately go through Mystery looking for things to pick on, but I have to be truthful and say that there were several places where information in the book just didn’t read or feel right. When I encountered those places, I did additional research on the information that Lehrer presented.
Business is the most popular major at most universities and colleges around the world. In Canada, business-related programs enrol almost 20% of all post-secondary students. But business has always struggled to define itself as an academic discipline. Business schools started in the first part of the 20th century because of the need for managers in an industrial economy. It was assumed that scientific research could identify the qualities of a good manager, and that people could be trained to develop those qualities themselves.
Historians of management education have since pointed out that those assumptions were wrong. For one thing, the ideal manager in the early 20th century used a hierarchical “command and control” managerial style. But that type of management doesn’t work well in every situation or in every organization. Collaborative and supportive forms of management can also be very effective, but most management training still assumes that managers have formal authority over the workers, and that managers should use that authority to control how the workplace operates.
There are some managerial skills that can be taught, such as understanding financial statements. But one of the most important skills of a good manager is being able to understand a situation and to respond appropriately – and that is mostly learned through experience. Even after nearly a century of research into management and organizations, we really can’t identify the “best” way to manage, or how to effectively teach that. And that’s a big problem for a very prominent and powerful academic discipline.
Two newly published essays have bravely spoken out in very blunt terms about the sad state of management education, along with suggesting some ways to start fixing it. Both of these essays (more…)
Last Friday, the website of the Vancouver Sun newspaper posted an op-ed article titled Can Social Trust and Diversity Co-Exist? The opinion piece, submitted by Mount Royal University instructor Mark Hecht, argued that “a not insignificant proportion of Muslim immigrants have no intention of assimilating into any western society” and concluded that “the minimum requirement is that we say goodbye to diversity, tolerance and inclusion if we wish to be a society that can rebuild the trust we used to have in one another, and start accepting a new norm for immigration policy”.
As you might imagine, the article caused a firestorm of criticism, and it was pulled from the newspaper’s website – although it still appeared in the Sun’s Saturday print edition, which had already gone to press. Many commentators were asking why anyone at the Sun would have approved this article for publication, with its shoddy argumentation, lack of solid evidence, and anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim bias. (The article is still available on several other Internet sites; I don’t want to give it any more attention by linking to it, but you can find those sites by Googling the article title.)
When I saw the description of David Weitzner’s book Fifteen Paths – “the work of a disillusioned business professor who gave up on old arguments and set out to learn about the power of imagination” – I knew this was a book I wanted to read. As the readers of this blog know, I am a business professor, and while I don’t think I would call myself “disillusioned”, I definitely have a lot of problems with the standard curriculum in business degree programs and with the negative effects of traditional business structures. ECW Press was kind enough to provide me with a review copy of the book, and I also had the opportunity to speak with David about how Fifteen Paths happened.
As a kid, Al Snow was one of those devoted fans – and he went on to spend more than 35 years in the wrestling industry. I’m really happy that he’s written an autobiography, because I loved his work as a performer. However, Snow’s story is particularly intriguing, because (more…)
Well, I’m fed up too, but not from doing emotional labour. I’m fed up with writers who grab a catchy-sounding term from social science research and misuse it for their own purposes. Hartley certainly isn’t the only author who’s done this, but what she calls “emotional labour” is clearly not what a substantial body of research says is “emotional labour”. That’s not only misleading to readers, but also insulting to the many researchers whose work has produced fascinating insights into this aspect of the workplace.
It’s telling that when Hartley mentions the first in-depth research investigation of emotional labour – Arlie Hochschild’s 1983 book The Managed Heart – she omits the book’s subtitle. The full title of the book is (more…)
March 18 marks seven years since I started All About Work. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun.
On every anniversary, I compile a list of the five blog posts that have received the most hits ever on All About Work. The list hasn’t changed significantly over time, but it’s nice to see that people are still finding and enjoying these posts.
Thanks to everyone who reads, posts, and comments! I appreciate the support.
The All-Time Top Five Posts on “All About Work”(more…)