Gray Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide (A Book Review)

I never thought a business book would make my summer reading list until I skimmed through “Grey Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide” in the local bookstore. At first glance, the book appears to be a parody of the working life, because it is funny and entertaining. Yet, it is heavy on practical advice for anyone who has, at one time or another, felt he was hanging from the end of his rope inside the maze of company politics.

The illustrated format suggesting comic strips is an excellent survival guide in any chaotic work environment. What keeps the reader reading is the narrative that teaches and offers solutions to workplace problems through the main character Gray Blanderson’s adventures while he stumbles and then glides over working life’s imperfections and product marketing challenges.

The character development in this book could make many a fiction writer turn green with envy. Gray Blanderson is a product engineer who comes up with a new idea, which seems hopeless in the beginning, but learning and using proper tactics along the way, Blanderson achieves his goal and wins the respect of his boss and co-workers.

In Gray Matters, several secondary characters complement the narrative; all characters are fully developed, for they perfectly function to teach, to provide interest and excitement, to keep up the suspense, and to maintain the reader’s interest.

The setting for the narrative is a city in USA and the company is Global Gadget where Gray Blanderson works. Global Gadget is in a survival race with rival companies and Gray Blanderson’s division is in danger of being closed down.

The book is divided into four parts and twenty-three chapters. In the first part, “How Business Works,” the authors introduce the tactics of introducing change and getting the co-workers’ and bosses’ cooperation.

The second part, “Sales,” is all about customers: identifying and winning over customers; understanding their problems; and how to ask for their business.

The third part, “The Seven Deadly Workplace Sins,” deals with what not to do and how not to succumb to exhaustion, anger, surrender, obsolescence, incompetence, withdrawal, and dysfunction.

The fourth and last part, “Innovation,” offers suggestions on how to put into practice new ideas and how to cross over barriers.

The authors of the book are Bob Rosner and Allan Halcrow, with John Lavin the illustrator.

Bob Rosner is a columnist and an international keynote speaker who writes a worldwide syndicated column, “Working Wounded.” He is also the co-author–with Allan Halcrow–of “The Boss’s Survival Guide” and the author of the book “Working Wounded: Advice That Adds Insight to Injury.”

Allan Halcrow is a business editor, writer, and a partner in WorkPositive, a consulting firm in communications strategies.

John Lavin is an artist and a cartoonist with clients like Starbucks, Barney’s New York, and Nordstrom.

I was very impressed with the book’s introduction through the mouth of the main character Gray Blanderson, especially when he says: “Your Gray Matter Includes Your Emotional Intelligence. Use it wisely.”

“Gray Matters: The Workplace Survival Guide” (ISBN: 0-471-45508-3) is one-of-a-kind workplace strategy book, and I believe, most anyone will benefit from reading it.

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