Some Suggested Reading

My third article for Chronicle Vitae went up last week. It is about how improving your personal productivity is both simple and hard. I’ve gotten a lot of nice responses to this one, which is always gratifying. Check it out, but- spoiler- it doesn’t offer any “magic” tricks for improving your productivity. That’s one of my main points in the article. There are no “magic” tricks, improving your productivity takes work.

If you’re looking for other things to read to improve your management practices, I recommend the series of blog posts Kate Heddleston is writing about aspects of work culture that impede our efforts to improve diversity. There are links to the individual posts at the bottom of the introductory post. She is writing with a focus on the tech industry, but her points are broadly applicable, and many of the cultural features she highlights in the tech industry are also found in other STEM fields. All of the posts are worth your time, but in particular, anyone who gives feedback should read her post about criticism and ineffective feedback.

Her post about the impact of “argument culture” really resonated with me, too, and prompted me to go get Deborah Tannen’s book The Argument Culture. I’m only a couple of chapters in to it, but I am finding it very interesting. In particular, it is interesting to read about how many of the problems that plague the internet were already evident in the early 90s, before the internet was much of a presence in most people’s lives.

I’ve been toying with the idea of using this space to take a deeper look at the research behind management practices. I want to read more of the original literature that is relevant to management, since, as I’ve discussed before, a lot of nuance can get lost when that research is translated into management advice aimed at a general audience. Perhaps I should start with a paper on the impact of communication styles, to see how that field has progressed since Tannen’s book came out.

I often say that I dislike conflict, but as I read more in this area, I think that perhaps I should be more precise. I strongly dislike conflict that serves no real purpose, i.e., arguing just for the sake of the argument. I don’t mind disagreement at all, and actually find discussions and dialog to be an excellent way to clarify my own thoughts on some topics and learn about aspects I had not previously considered. However, I want there to be some mechanism to resolve disagreements, particularly in a work setting. Sometimes, it is not possible to come to consensus. When that happens, I think there needs to be a way to resolve the issue, anyway, so that it is not a source of continual conflict.

I think I have seen this done well, and I know I’ve seen it done poorly.  However, I can’t yet pin down any concrete techniques that I can discuss. So, clearly, I need to read and think more on the topic. I will probably eventually write more on this topic, too, since writing helps me work through topics and better understand them. In the meantime, definitely check out Heddleston’s posts. They are well worth your time.

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