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For any unfortunate soul that has ever suffered at the hand of an unreasonable boss or colleague during their working careers, this is an indispensable guide to reclaiming one’s life and dignity in such situations. With the 21 st century job market a more competitive environment than ever, as well as decreasing employment opportunities spawned by global corporate downsizing, employees are increasingly vulnerable to workplace bullies. Often left with little choice in the matter, due to financial dependence on their jobs as their sole source of income, many individuals today find themselves trapped in companies that are characterised by intimidation and bullying techniques. What’s even scarier is the fact that it is usually the most talented and hardworking individuals within the corporation who are targeted: Either by superiors who demean lower-ranking executives to disguise their own inadequacies and insecurities, or by fellow colleagues who see them as competition for promotional opportunities.
Steinman is brutally honest and humorous in her take on the different types of hyenas circling the workplace compound. Using real-life case studies of hair-raising hyena attacks on individuals in South African and international companies, Steinman illustrates how one can become “Hyena Wise” and nip potential attacks in the bud. In a delightful analogy, Steinman outlines how in the natural environment, hyenas will never attack other animals that are a head or so taller than them. In the same way, Steinman discusses how employees can stand tall and confront their tormentors head-on, reclaiming their dignity.
There happen to be many different types of hyenas that can be found in any working environment. These include Makhula hyenas, Squeeza hyenas, laughing hyenas, quiet hyenas, halo hyenas, shit-stirrer hyenas and den creepers. Hyenas hunt alone, or within packs. Perhaps the most dangerous hyenas lie waiting within management circles, and have been known to pull rank to obliterate employees who have dared to challenge the authority of one of their fellows. Steinman helps the reader to identify whether or not they are working for a hyena-dominated company – she also lists the symptoms associated with emotional and psychological abuse within the workplace. These include increased substance abuse, sleeplessness, a growth in accident-prone behaviour, depression, and fear of making a decision.
Drawing on well-known cases to augment her argument, Steinman looks at the infamous ENRON collapse as an example of an organisation that became “hyena-positive”. It began with bullying tactics aimed at sustaining a fraudulent agenda. Brainwashing techniques to indoctrinate employees, a total lack of moral or ethical conduct from Enron’s leaders, and ‘creative accounting’ served to bring about the giant’s downfall, sustained as long as it was through a watertight pack of hyenas working together to further their own shared agenda.
Steinman suggests a course of action to those unfortunate enough to be victims of hyena attacks in the workplace. She offers tips on how to handle the situation as effectively as possible, and she cites resignation as an alternative that should only be taken as a very last resort. Her advice is not to let hyenas win, but rather to outwit them at their own game. As a practical finale, Steinmain describes how to handle disciplinary hearings, legal action and labour court procedures. She says that silence is akin to failure – it is far better to speak-up and challenge abusive hyenas. Even though the process may be traumatic, in the end the truth will always emerge to liberate the victim from his or her suffering.
All in all this is an amusing and practical guidebook to surviving the workplace killing fields. Everyone should read this, and learn from Steinman’s wise and compassionate advice.
(Review by Lexi Fincham)
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