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104 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Defensive Aid for the Politically Challenged
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...
Published on February 3, 2001 by Donald Mitchell

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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a bit misleading
This book is an easy read, but unsettling. The anecdotes are particularly engaging. Yet, several of the themes in this book seem more to mislead rather than help the reader understand the nature of organizational politics. Reardon implies that there is an exclusive insiders group, which one can enter using political savvy. It makes for a good marketing since everyone...
Published on January 26, 2005 by H. Friedman


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104 of 112 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Defensive Aid for the Politically Challenged, February 3, 2001
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle (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. So if you see this book starting to show up in your office, beware!
The best parts of the book come in two quizzes you can take to determine your own leadership and negotiating styles. These quizzes are very well designed, and I found the results very valuable for me. In particular, it helped me to understand how my own style differs from those of others I see by articulating the alternative styles in good depth. Then, Professor Reardon provided good information on what types of organizations would make best use of your or my style. She also points out ways that we can shift our styles slightly to make them better fit the circumstances we are in. At that point in reading this book, you would be well advised to read NLP Business Masterclass for specific ideas for shifting your effectiveness.
Your understanding of the psychological bases for the points she makes would be greatly expanded by reading Robert Cialdini's classic book on this area, Influence. When you read that book, you will be much impressed by how he handles the ethical dimensions of helping people to be more persuasive.
A great strength of this book is also to be found in the examples. Professor Reardon conducted hundreds of interviews and discussions as background for this book. Unlike most books about working, this one has as many examples from women leaders as from men. As a result, female readers will find much of relevance for their specific situations of how to exercise influence in environments where most other leaders are men. Male readers will benefit from hearing about the special problems that women face.
A valuable contribution to sociological research comes in the ways that Professor Reardon has characterized working environments by their degree of politicization. She astutely points out that each degree of politicization can exist inside the very same organization, in different places.
The book does not do enough to help the reader understand how to reduce the politicization of an organization, or to shift it into more productive paths. I hope that Professor Reardon's future work will focus more on improving organizational effectiveness, and less on career management for the individual. The former task is a far more important one for leaders than the latter one.
Reading this book should cause you as a leader to think about what sort of working environment is optimal for what you want to accomplish. How can you identify the elements that need to be changed in your environment? How can you make it appealing to everyone to make the needed changes to enhance group and personal effectiveness and career progress?
Basically, the challenge is to overcome the problem that the optimization of one person's career is usually the sabotaging of the organization's opportunities and thus everyone's progress. For example, Professor Reardon tells the story of one executive who artificially created problems that he could solve as a way to get promoted every 18 months. That's just horrible!!!
Communicate the need to cooperate for building more . . . in improved ways!
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34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best I've ever read, by far!, July 13, 2002
By 
Chen Sun "WebAndNet.com" (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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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
4.0 out of 5 stars Politics 101, September 26, 2005
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. Reardon accepts corporate values -- or at least implies, "Hey -- that's the way it is." I can just see Ehrenreich rolling her eyes and raising her eyebrows.

There are a couple of minor bloopers on pages 66-67. On page 67 is a reference to Daphne Merion - I think she means Daphne Merkin, a rather outspoken writer for the New Yorker.

And I question Reardon's version of the story behind Madeline Albright's nomination as Secretary of State. Reardon seems to suggest that Albright got the job in part because of her connections to Clinton. But other sources suggest that Clinton actually resisted naming Albright until he was pressured by female legislators. And in fact, some have questioned whether others were equally qualified.

But perhaps the biggest criticism of this book is that, although insights are valuable, it's..well, dull! We need more war stories and more anecdotes. The material has the potential to be as gripping as a novel -- and Reardon's first book (They Don't Get It Do They) managed to come across as much more reasonable.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Corporate Politics equivalent to "Myers-Briggs"!, March 12, 2001
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This review is from: The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle (Hardcover)
Remember the first time you took a personality test and learned your personal style and that of your co-workers? Your eyes were opened to a new style of communication. This book does the same thing for the corporate politics arena. You'll take quizzes to understand your political style (and figure out co-workers and executive management's style too) as well as your company's overall style - and how to stretch your style at times to meet certain needs. Some of the most helpful sections of each chapter are the descriptions of a situation, the various options of actions/words that can be taken, and the potential reactions to each option. You'll also learn how to handle recognition, patronizing behavior, separating offense from insult, influence cultivating, how to be gracefully right or wrong and much more. This book isn't only for those wanting to climb the corporate ladder - but for anyone wanting to improve productivity by learning the tools and understanding the options for making the politics involved in most any project work FOR you.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars a bit misleading, January 26, 2005
This book is an easy read, but unsettling. The anecdotes are particularly engaging. Yet, several of the themes in this book seem more to mislead rather than help the reader understand the nature of organizational politics. Reardon implies that there is an exclusive insiders group, which one can enter using political savvy. It makes for a good marketing since everyone wants to know `secrets' to success. However, this exclusive insider's club is more myth than reality. More realistically, there are those who have high credibility with each other. One's credibility with others is worth its weight in gold and is indispensable for career success. Such credibility is earned, sometimes by favoritism but more often by competency and gaining the trust of others. Being part of several credibility networks can increase one's favorable visibility. Learning how to use these networks can amplify one's influence.

Reardon suggests that being politically astute is more important than job performance. Sometimes that is the case, but more often job performance is necessary, if not sufficient. Reardon seems to have bought into the amoral Machiavellian stereotype of organizational politics. She says, "Simply put, politics is an illegitimate means of getting things done." President Harry Truman said, "Politics is the art of getting things done." He was not known as an amoral man.

Getting active in politics without an ethical base creates the risk of coming across as a `shark'. This perception can actually lower one's credibility with important others. Reardon defines political savvy as an interpersonal skill. This definition unfortunately omits the strategic level. Charting influence strategies, people can make things happen by navigating issues through turbulent political waters. In contrast, this book seems more about local face-to-face politics than organizational politics and more about getting ahead than getting things done.

Where this book shines is when it comes to communication skills related to politics and political situations and in its balance of both genders in its anecdotes. In addition, it contains important insights for defending one's self against negative politics. The quizzes included in the book provide valuable diagnostics about one's negotiating and leadership styles.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good Book. Nasty Subject, April 16, 2004
By 
John Galt "john_galt_iii" (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews
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I've noticed a wide variation of reviews, with most of the negative reviewers unable to separate the book and the subject. Office politics IS a distasteful activity...it wastes time and prevents many skilled workers from getting the rewards they deserve.
But--as the author herself notes, it is here to stay, so either arm yourself or be robbed.
I have read a number of office politics/OB books. What sets Reardon's book apart from the others is the following:
--Self-evaluation tests...of your workplace and your personal style. Knowing yourself is the first step to optomizing yourself.
--Relevant anecdotes...Reardon is an academic, and academic politics is really the second worst out there (the military is the worst). Furthermore, her experience as a consultant means she sees more politics in a year than most of us will see in a career.
--She covers all aspects of the game. When to fight, when to give in, how to make up, how to build bridges, how to recognize barriers.
This is a good overview of a nasty, brutish subject. Was it useful? Ask me in five years, when I'll have either made it or not.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars i borrowed it from the library, then listen to its cd's, and finally bought a copy to keep, January 17, 2006
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This is a fantastic eye-opener. As a technically-competent guy, I am always puzzled that certain managers like me a lot, while others seem the other way. This book gives me the answers.

I read the book from library several times during my vacation; then listen to its CD's on my way commute; and finally decide to own a copy of the book to put onto my shelf.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful information on how the executive world works, January 31, 2001
By 
This review is from: The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle (Hardcover)
Although I dislike politics intensely and have no desire to climb the corporate ladder (even if I thought I were capable of it), I've always been curious about why management does some of the things they do. This book was interesting and answered many of my questions, so I considered it a worthwhile read.
A previous reviewer indicated that Kelly is attempting to justify / apologize for the politics that dominate so many organizations, and I don't think that's true. As I mentioned, I dislike politics a great deal, but I also acknowledge the fact that they are real and aren't going away, and I believe that's the premise of this title. Since politics are a fact of life, a book such as this that at least helps me understand why things happen is a good thing.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Practical, emperically based and thoughtful., September 23, 2002
By 
P. Wood (Houston, TX) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle (Hardcover)
There are several negative reviews posted for this book with which I would beg to differ.
I found the book to be well written - it's an easy and quick read - with a good balance of analysis and allegory.
This is a difficult subject that has been used and abused my many opportunists. It is very clear from the text that the author has plenty of experience in business politics - something that is rare. This is not just another trendy 'business communications' treatment of the topic. This is NOT a workbook - it is NOT a step-by-step book, it is NOT a 'list' book (7 habits?), it is NOT a 'success' book. This is a practical treatment of a complex topic by an expert in the field.
As I read this book I was able to relate my experiences and see them in a different light - I was able to understand how I could have handled situations differently and perhaps better - not just once, but throughout the book.
We've all heard of 'dysfunctional families', there are also 'dysfunctional offices' and this book will help you identify if you are part of one.
For me this was a very worthwhile book, I will read it again and recommend it to friends.
That's my take - loopster - Chicago, IL
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Social skills count, September 19, 2005
This book is more evidence that success in social relationships is important to career success and meeting your personal and professional goals. Reardon does a nice job of breaking down this otherwise complex and cloudy subject into digestable chunks, and throws in a few self-assessment quizzes to boot.

In the first part of book, she discusses the gradients of politics at work, which can be very helpful in allowing the reader to discover what type of political animal they are, and also shedding light on seemingly "crazy" behavior at work. It's validating to learn that there are more "pathologically political" organizations than the company you may have had the misfortune of working for.

More importantly, Reardon goes on to outline how honing your observation, interaction and acting skills can contribute to your ability to move up within an organization. She is right about the in-group, out-group dynamics of the workplace, but people in the out-group often make the mistaken assumption that the in-group has conspired to create the social, cultural and organization norms that exist, when, in fact, the in-group has usually just evolved in response to various social, organizational and business pressures and personalities.

The most important lesson of this book is the idea that observing and emulating leaders, leadership culture and political norms is of critical importance in finding your place at the top of the org chart. Immitation is not only the sincerest form of flatery, it also demonstrates, through your actions, that you believe in the company and its people.
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The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle
The Secret Handshake: Mastering the Politics of the Business Inner Circle by Kathleen Kelley Reardon (Hardcover - December 26, 2000)
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