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The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle Paperback – January 15, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Reardon, an academic and business consultant, describes her book as a journey to help the reader become better informed, better armed, more confident, and considerably more adept at mastering the interpersonal politics of work. In her view, political savvy is a prerequisite for the inner circle, even more so than job competence. Through information gleaned from hundreds of interviews of CEOs, senior managers, and high achievers during her 20 years of consulting, she explains the role of politics in organizations and provides ideas for gaining admission to the inner circle. Topics covered by the author include knowing your political style and when to change it, forming relationships the politically savvy way, the art of conversational politics, creating positional power, and managing conflict and cultivating influence. Although many will not agree with all of the author's theories and advice, she is probably correct when she states that politics is the way things work in most organizations. This book is thought provoking and offers valuable insight. Mary Whaley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Acclaim for The Secret Handshake:
"I read a little bit and I was hooked...The book is full of practical advice, illustrated by the kinds of point-making stories that they tell in business schools: knowing your own political style (and when to change it), forming relationships, recognizing political 'naturals,' managing conflict, creating niches, defusing heavyhanded games.  Most of her strategies emphasize constructive engagement.  I liked The Secret Handshake so much I gave a copy to my daughter."
-- The Boston Globe

"A gold mine of strategy and information... (The Secret Handshake) shows readers how they, too, can place themselves in the inner circle.  The author, a management professor and corporate consultant, has written a fascinating book -- that helps shine a light on the sometimes murky world of corporate politics."
-- The Dallas Morning News

"Goes beyond figuring out how to survive Dilbert-like irritations of cubicle cunning.  This isn't how to be sneaky, how to sabotage, how to sink someone else.  This is more geared to the truly ambitious who hope to make it to the inner circle...The Secret Handshake is like a crash course in Business Psychology 101...Reardon writes crisply and to the point, and her all-business style fits her subject perfectly."
--USA Today

"Best of the Month...selection for best career tool...While insisting that you refuse to play politics might be a good career strategy, everyone who works is a politician and you might as well be good at it."
--Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Even if you don't yearn for the highest ranks and the Secret Handshake, this book can't help but smooth your path through the organizational life."
--Baton Rouge Business Report

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business; Reprint edition (January 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385495285
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385495288
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #113,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Kathleen Kelley Reardon's newest book, the mystery thriller SHADOW CAMPUS, is her debut novel.

Author of 10 books, she is a professor at USC's Marshall School of Business, a featured political blogger at The Huffington Post since 2005, and the recipient of the 2013 Humanitarian Award from the UConn Alumni Association.

Her first book, PERSUASION IN PRACTICE, (revised edition retitled), was called by Public Opinion Quarterly "a landmark contribution to the field" of research and theory in persuasion.

Her first trade book, THEY DON'T GET IT, DO THEY?, was based on her Harvard Business Review article "The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk," which became an HBR reprint best seller. Her latest HBR article is "Courage as a Skill."

THE SECRET HANDSHAKE (2000), an Amazon business and nonfiction bestseller, provides a rare and perceptive inside look at the politics of business. IT'S ALL POLITICS (2005) provides a deeper analysis of workplace politics. Other Kathleen Kelley Reardon books for professional people include THE SKILLED NEGOTIATOR (2004) and COMEBACKS AT WORK: USING CONVERSATION TO MASTER CONFRONTATION (2010).

Professor Reardon also wrote CHILDHOOD DENIED: ENDING THE NIGHTMARE OF CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT (2008) an investigation into the legal, political and societal treatment of foster children in the U.S. The concept she introduced in that book of creating university-based academies to prepare foster children for college (of whom only approximately 3% graduate) has already resulted in the creation of four such academies at major universities, with more on the way. At First Star, the nonprofit with which initiates and develops those academies, she was a co-founding board member is the its Distinguished Research Fellow

Her breakthrough INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS GIFT-GIVING: A GUIDE FOR AMERICAN EXECUTIVES was used by the White House Office of Protocol as a primary reference for many years as well as by chiefs of protocol for nations and businesses around the world.

At USC, Dr. Reardon also served on the Preventive Medicine Faculty for over 15 years and was earlier a professor of Communication Sciences at UCONN. She earned her Ph.D., at UMass Amherst, where she graduated with distinction and won the NCA national dissertation of the year award. She is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board. She has consulted for many individuals, and companies large and small around the world on topics related to communication, persuasion, negotiation and politics at work.

She has appeared on The Today Show, NBC Nightly News and Good Morning America. Her research and writings have been covered in hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and broadcast news segments.

In SHADOW CAMPUS, she has taken her knowledge of politics in the workplace to fiction and shows us how even at universities often all is not what it seems.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

104 of 112 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
To my knowledge, this book is the first thorough look at the subject of office politics. As such it will surely stand as the foundation of all work in this field for many years to come.
The book obliquely alludes to the secret fraternity handshakes that men use to identify each other as "brothers" and often help to accelerate the formation of relationships. Instead, Professor Reardon refers to "The Secret Handshake" as "the acknowledgment one in-group insider gives another . . . ." which is the broader form of this phenomenon.
Those who like to work the political side of any situation hardly need any more tips. The downside of this book is that the moderately adept influencers will become more skillful in their apple polishing. The upside of the book is that those who are getting creamed by office politics will have a better idea of how to defend themselves by finding environments where they can prosper. This appropriateness of this book will be as controversial as Machiavelli's Prince has been. In my view, this book has both great potential for harm and for good. It all depends on who uses it . . . and for what purpose. Unfortunately, the author has framed the book in terms of personal career advancement. That will increase the likelihood of misuse. She is aware of the issue and addresses it in the book, but I think her good intentions exceeded her effectiveness in implementing those intentions.
Basically, this book is all about ways to overcome the communications stall. There is much fine work in here on that subject, which is why I graded the book at five stars. If I were grading the book for its likely impact on the effectiveness of organizations, I would rate it vastly lower.
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Chen Sun on July 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
I'm half way through reading this book, and am surprised by the diversity of reviews and ratings. This is a "foundation of basics" type of book, that provides a workable framework to then enhance one's skill set. It's fast, short reading, and, unlike most business books, worthy of being reread.
I think highly of this book because I'm one of the politically challenged type of person--no idea what's going on. One of these guys walking around the world, wondering why everyone else is doing the funny things they're doing. And I think it takes someone who is from outside the social-realities world to really appreciate this book.
This isn't Plato or Machiavelli that describe the full implications of power, but this is the best I've seen on how to get power. Most of the popular how-to-get-power books describe common-day tips and anecodotes. This book though, gives a set of simple principles, hence a framework, that one can use to assess a situation and oneself to then deploy how to get and use power. As such, I'd say that it's a better book on how to get power than (dare I) Machiavelli's the Prince, which claims to teach about power, but doesn't really say much on how, in my opinion.
I find it's actually very difficult to "see properly" without a framework. Most people learn about power naturally. I had to read this book, before I could see. Perhaps that explains the wide range of opinions here--some reviewers who understand power think this book is obvious and silly. Others, like me, believe it's simply the best set of principles to use to start learning about power.
A truly fast reading book--I've learned more that's valuable about business, politics, and social relationships in the estimated 3 hours it'll take me to read this book than I've learned about anything in semester long textbooks.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
As a career consultant, I'm always looking for books to recommend to clients and ezine readers. While we tend to assume corporate managers are all savvy, in fact many are surprisingly naive and we all can stand to learn more.

Secret Handshake is not as strong as Reardon's first book, They Don't Get It, Do They. The first book included novel and original ideas about a subject the author obviously cares about. But it's worth a quick read - not much more.

Reardon begins by categorizing both companies and employees in terms of their political styles. I'm always suspicious of profiles, but her ad hoc approach offers a face-saving way for people to say, "Hey, I'm just not political."

Overall this book includes useful perspectives, although some readers will not be impressed by the common sense reminders. Most corporate employees can figure out that one-upping the boss is bad timing. But some ideas (like he PURRR technique) will save some careers. The section on getting heavy-handed will be especially valuable.

And some will disagree with Reardon's interpretation of a situation. For instance, a young woman visits a recruiting booth while the company recruiter talks to Reardon. She politely excuses herself for interrupting and insists on leaving her resume. The young woman was interested in a sales job; in my opinion, her persistence should have been applauded!

I read this book after hearing Barbara Ehrenreich speak on her latest book, Bait and Switch. What a contrast! Ehrenreich questions everything that Reardon takes for granted. Reardon warns against "showing up the boss (p 59), while Ehrenreich would point out that stifling disagreement wouldn't be in the best interests of the company in the long run.
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