How to Actually Build a Better Boss

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This is the midweek edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen, which you can read about here. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing. I never thought I would be the sort of person with a massive stack of management books in their office. I would look at those books in the airport and think
This is the midweek edition of Culture Study — the newsletter from Anne Helen Petersen, which you can read about here. If you like it and want more like it in your inbox, consider subscribing.

Weird manager hair courtesy Getty

I never thought I would be the sort of person with a massive stack of management books in their office. I would look at those books in the airport and think who reads those things? Well, there's an answer: millions of people who want to be better at their jobs, or want to feel like the sort of person who is better at their jobs, or have been told that they need to get better at their jobs. They're eager, they're desperate, and/or they're not actually interested, but feel like they should be. That's the market for management books, but that's also the market for all manner of self-help books — which are responsible for millions upon millions in book sales every year.

I generally want to be better at my job, but my job isn't managing. I have these piles of books, many of them bought for approximately 99 cents off of eBay and various other Used Book Sellers, some of them from the last five years and others from fifty years ago, because I wanted to see both the perceived problems of management — as well as the advice for how to fix those problems — has changed. Charlie and I read, gutted, or threw a lot of these books across the room while researching Out of Office (pre-order that shit!) Some of it was interesting, most of it was quite bad, in part because most of it seems to profoundly misdiagnosis the problem in the first place — or, just as often, attempt to treat the symptoms of bad management without confronting the actual malady.

And then Charlie had a long, meandering phone conversation with two ex-Mozilla employees, Melissa and Johnathan Nightingale, in Toronto. I have a memory of Charlie coming down the stairs afterwards: we were in the real depths of trying to write the chapter on work culture, fumbling around to give shape to what…
Anne Helen Petersen
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