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Don't Bring It to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success Hardcover – March 3, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


This book is emotionally engaging and the message is fantastic.
Robert Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University, Author, No Asshole Rule

This engaging book has a powerful core message. We’re bringing family dynamics – from childhood and even from our parents’ childhoods – to work. – and the results are not pretty. Packed with stories of workplace dynamics gone awry – and, then, amazingly enough, transformed by Lafair’s compassionate approach – the book is immensely readable. You will be motivated to create change for the better.
Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management, Harvard Business School, Harvard University

Wonderful insights for anyone who manages a business, works in a business, or leads a business. Read it now!
Michael E. Gerber, Author, The E-Myth Books

Sylvia Lafair’s book brings a rare view of “systems” and “systems thinking,” is helpful to individuals and families, as well as business people working to build appreciation, cohesion and success.
Frances Hesselbein, Chairman and Founding President, Leader to Leader Institute

Dr. Sylvia Lafair has written a superb book on working relationships that should be on every executive's desk and used by anyone who is in the business of depending on efficient teamwork for productivity. Her reflections of how our family systems can sabotage our working lives are brilliant and totally applicable in practical terms. This is a must for all business programs, regardless of how large or small.
Dr. Frank Lawlis, Author, Mending The Broken Bond

Through Sylvia Lafair’s astute work, you will see yourself, your co-workers and your family dynamics in an entirely new light. More importantly, this will help you change the patterns that have been keeping you from reaching your highest potential. This ranks with the best business and psychology books on the market; not only is it insightful and practical—it’s a great read!
Anita Sharpe, CEO & Founder of GeniusSuite, Pulitzer Prize Winning Writer at The Wall Street Journal

A phenomenal book! Sylvia's insights, experience and her brilliant communication style make her one of the leading experts in this field. I have had the honor of working with Sylvia over many years and can attest to the power of her methods in transforming co-workers into highly functioning team members. This really works!
Eslie Dennis, MD, VP Medical Head Northeast, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

Most educators’ feel they are standing sentry over a system under siege on all fronts. It’s exhausting! Sylvia Lafair shows us effective ways to make change happen. This seminal book provides me the Holy Grail to forge a strong team on behalf of our mission to prepare children for the future. I’ve been waiting for this for 35 years.
Linda C. Brewer, Ed. D., Superintendent, Derry Township School District

Sylvia takes a highly personalized approach to Leadership Development. She helps each person become more aware of their personal styles, their possible origins and raises behavior patterns to a conscious level. From awareness comes change. I found great value in applying these lessons both at work and home to successfully balance demanding jobs, motherhood and a 2 career marriage.
Nancy Singer, Senior Director, Global Sales and Marketing Leadership Development, Merck & Co., Inc.

This book helps bring a new way of doing business. It changed the way we run our company and the results are significant. This sentence says it all, “It is time to get out of the sandbox of childhood and gain a deeper knowledge of the fact that we are all connected and no one wins unless we all do.”  This book is a “must have” for Supervisors all the way up to top Executives of the company.
Yvonne Cangelosi, Executive VP, SPEX CertiPrep, Inc.

Amazing! Sylvia Lafair tells us what every successful person already knows… Business and personal lives can never be totally separate. She destroys this myth and gives us the tools to bring people together to build great companies and deliver bottom-line results. Groundbreaking work!
Richard Harris, CEO, Spa Sydell

Sylvia Lafair's life work is helping people reach their potential. Like many brilliant ideas, the pattern recognition process described in this book seems obvious in hindsight. Its power is the power to transform not just life in the workplace, but the total quality of human life. Vital for those working in a family business.
Edwin Neill III, President, Neill Corporation

Dr. Lafair is on to something that will totally change how you see yourself and others in the workplace. The Pattern Aware Leadership Model helps people recognize and address their core issues. This is so much more than "dress for success" advice. Buy it, read it, apply it! It will transform you and your relationships.
Dorene E. McCourt, VP, Product Development & Management, MedImpact Healthcare Systems, Inc.

This book has wonderful tools for anyone wishing to make their work environment more successful. It addresses the baggage that we all bring to the workplace and gives wonderful revelations as to how to move forward from this and build on our strengths. It is about leadership of the highest level.
Carole Haas Gravagno, Board Member, Philadelphia Orchestra

This book distills various behavior patterns that we have at work and helps you identify negative patterns and takes you through personal transformation. Every leader and manager should read this book!
Wow! It’s wonderful!
Nancy Duarte, CEO of Duarte Design, Author, slide:ology

This is an incisive exploration of the limiting patterns that hold us captive and sabotage our efforts to be effective leaders in our organizations. Sylvia Lafair’s call is simple and practical as she sets out to offer her readers clear steps to unravel their past and transform limiting habits into pathways of success and wellbeing in our organizations. I highly recommend this book.
Amber Chand, Founder, The Amber Chand Collection: Global Gifts for Peace & Understanding

This book offers keen insights into how individuals process information and guides leaders in helping employees at every level become the best they can be. It is amazing how quickly conflicts can be resolved when we understand the meta-messages that lie at the core of most communication. It should be required reading for all leaders and leaders-in- training.
Lynn Rolston, CEO California Pharmacists Association

From the Inside Flap

Don't Bring It to Work

You know the type—maybe he's the office cutup, or the woman who manages to look busy but avoids work, or the guy who is the long-suffering victim—there's one in every office. Perhaps you or someone you know fits one of these profiles. These behaviors are painfully annoying and stir up conflict in the office.

How can you get to the bottom of workplace behaviors that simply don't work for you or your organization?

Don't Bring It to Work explores what happens when patterns originally created to cope with family conflicts are unleashed in the workplace.?This groundbreaking book draws on the success of Sylvia Lafair's PatternAware program Total Leadership Connections. Throughout the book she shows how to break the cycle of pattern repetition and offers the tools that can turn unhealthy family baggage into creative energy that will foster better workplace associations and career success.

Lafair identifies the?thirteen most common patterns that correspond to characters familiar to anyone who has ever worked in an office: Super Achiever, Rebel, Persecutor, Victim, Rescuer, Clown, Martyr, Splitter, Procrastinator, Drama Queen or King, Pleaser, Denier, and Avoider. To help overcome destructive behavior problems, she maps out the three main steps for becoming aware of patterns and finding the way OUT:

  • Observe your behavior to discern underlying patterns

  • Understand and probe deeper to discover the origins of these patterns

  • Transform your behavior by taking action to change

The book includes a wealth of real-life anecdotes and practical, workbook-style exercises that clearly show how anyone can get beyond old, outmoded attempts at conflict resolution and empower themselves to make profound differences both at work and in their personal lives.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470404361
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470404362
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (75 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #259,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sylvia Lafair, PhD, business leadership expert and President of Creative Energy Options, Inc. (CEO), a global consulting company focused on redefining leadership, optimizing workplace relationships, and conflict resolution through extraordinary leadership. With a doctorate in clinical psychology, Dr. Lafair, who was a practicing family therapist, took her talents into the work world and has revolutionized the way employees react and teams cooperate. Not only are folks finding new ways to relate and innovate, they are taking skills home for more rewarding family time.

Always an adventurer, Sylvia has spent her life uncovering the basic building blocks of relationships. Along with her husband, Herb Kaufman, programs were created to help business and social-service professionals explore the newest advances in health, wellness, and spirituality. They hosted a stellar collection of thinkers, including Deepak Chopra, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, Matthew Fox, Huston Smith, Herbert Benson, Robert Bly, David Whyte, Joseph Chilton Pierce, Willis Harman, and many others.

Believing in experiential learning, Sylvia and Herb took business leaders to hike the Inca Trail, explore the Amazon rain forest, and study with Native American elders in New Mexico.

Delving into the complexities of conflict, The Center for Intercultural Dialogue was created to better understand the human dynamics between Israelis and Palestinians with a focus on the expressive arts as a means of communication. Sylvia has taught in Europe, South Africa, India, and has begun a leadership program in Ghana.

In all her journeys to "the heart of the matter," Sylvia has sought out "that which connects us" to bring this perspective into the business world. She has developed such intriguing educational programs as: The Gotcha Game: Decoding Office Politics; Get the But out of Your Yes: Effective Communication Skills; Ouch! : Resolving Conflict at Work; The Creative Edge: Team-based Innovation. CEO's flagship program, Total Leadership Connections(tm) utilizes the tools of Pattern Aware learning to help individuals understand how behavior patterns developed at home and repeated at work can derail success and how to transform them into productivity, purpose, and profit.

As a workshop leader or keynote speaker, Sylvia engages audiences with her natural storytelling ability. She weaves her knowledge of what makes a business successful using real life stories about workplace cultures. Her thought-provoking messages leave audiences with information to take back to the office and immediately put into practice. She has written numerous articles for trade publications and national magazines.

Sylvia and Herb divide their time between White Haven, Pennsylvania, and headquarters of CEO with its private retreat facility, the Country Place Retreat and Conference Center, and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Sylvia enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren; she is especially fascinated watching them all "stand on the shoulders of the past."

Sylvia can be reached through her website and, or by calling (570) 636 -3858.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jim Estill on March 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
When I saw the title I thought the book would be about separating home from work or work/life balance (A good reason to study Time Management). But it is not.

Lafair approaches life from a psychological viewpoint (she is a psychologist) and the impact that our families have on who we are and what that means when we bring it to work.

This is an in depth book that requires work and thought to dig into and do properly.

I am sure Lafair's points are completely valid on what we came from and how our families and backgrounds impact who we are at work and our interactions there.

She talks about 13 common patterns and what the impact is in the workplace; for example, super achiever (that would be me), rebel, procrastinator, etc. She then goes on to talk about how these can be transformed from super achiever to creative collaborator (that would be who I should strive to be) and from rebel to community builder, etc. The book has tools on how to identify who is which type in a work environment.

I think the book would be of interest any Human Resources person or any leader or manager who wants to understand how to maximize performance of their team.

This is an excellent researched, in-depth book. Good book. I recommend it.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Robert Morris HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In this book, Sylvia Lafair explains how to break certain family patterns that limit career success by "claiming and taming the world of interpersonal relationships." All people have problems at work and in their personal lives. They become upset, confused, and impatient. "Such frustrations are understandable. But what most of us...never really `get' is why people believe the way they do, and what can be done about it. The problem isn't always other people's behavior, either. How many times have you regretted something you said or did at work and thought, `Why do I always do that?' Ever want to help your employees find out what's holding them back? Or holding you back?" Lafair poses other questions of comparable importance. Her purpose in this book is NOT to answer them. Rather, to help her reader answer them...and perhaps help others to answer the questions they have.

"This book helps you get to the bottom of workplace behaviors that simply don't work for you or your organization. More important, it shows you exactly what you can do about them. You'll learn practical steps you can take to improve your professional relationships and make you a better leader, a better mentor, a better teammate. You'll gain a remarkable new understanding of yourself and your colleagues almost immediately." What I realized almost immediately as I began to read the first chapter is that Lafair is demonstrating the importance of context and frame-of-reference by establishing them for the PatternAware(tm)Leadership Model, an approach based on her more than 30 years of experience with both healthy and dysfunctional interpersonal relationships. Her observations and recommendations are thus supported by an abundance of empirical, real-world evidence.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Eric Kassan VINE VOICE on September 28, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book starts with a great basic point - that people need to be looked at systematically. This means that people must be looked at *in context* with their environment and other events and people in it. While minor distractions from either home or office can be left in its respective place, major issues from either affect the whole person. The book also highlights how certain behaviors are contextual - that is, if a person is carrying an issue from having an over-protective mother, then that issue would only surface when working with someone who, often subconsciously, reminds the person of their mother.

Unfortunately, the book urges people to go from one extreme (looking at people in isolation) to the other extreme (looking at people exclusively in context) rather than recognizing there is a happy medium. For example, the book says that when a newcomer enters a well-functioning team and the team's harmony and performance suffers, the solution is *never* to remove the newcomer. Obviously there are cases where the issue is the individual. Further, even if the problem is with the interaction among multiple team members, moving the person to another team, one without certain "triggers", may still be an acceptable solution.

This initial context-only direction is made more confusing when the key 13 destructive patterns are presented. None of them are presented in context - they are all individual-focused patterns. That said, the patterns are well presented, and the author shows that by making a relatively minor change to each of the 13 destructive patterns, they can be turned into 13 constructive patterns.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By DAChristel on May 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Don't Bring It to Work" is the first "systems" book a person in business should read before reading any other how-to book geared toward business. After having read so many of the other books, Sylvia Lafair's approach actually got to the real heart of the matter in terms of the roles we play and then how we enact them not just at home, but at work and in all of our relationship interactions. It's easy to see how all other systems can be retro-fitted into Sylvia's work in order to make them more effective or even obsolete. Though other systems have their place, without attending to the core issues and upon what they are based, then we're only treading water and left wondering why something isn't working as it should or could, and we achieve only moderate success at all levels. Sylvia's book is the "square one" upon which all corporate and non-corporate environments can truly find their roots and grow into healthy, sustainable, and far-reaching entities that positively impact all of humanity. It's all about the players involved knowing who they are and how they developed into the person they are today. It's truly an extraordinary journey when reassessed through "Don't Bring It to Work."
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