Customer Reviews: Beyond Bullsh*t: Straight-Talk at Work
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on May 29, 2008
I am an employment lawyer and there are few things more important than clear and honest workplace communication. More lawsuits, wasted time, and ruined careers result from it than anything else. Culbert hits the key issues: workplaces fixated on hierarchical approaches to relationships which result in people saying what the hot shots want to hear not what they need to know; failure to listen and divine the intent of the speaker before formulating a response; and when you do talk making sure that the other understands that you do not believe you have a corner on the truth by using "I - speak"---"I think" or "I belive" or "based on what I know". The book is a bit academic but nonetrheless practical especially when he talks about the outdated system we use for performance reviews which pit boss v. employee, which he woukld like to replace with a collaborative approach. I wish it was so but corporations are driven by fear (HR of lawsuits and hierarchy addicted jerks of losing their status) to change anytime soon. Give it a read.
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on March 28, 2009
Beyond Bullsh*t did well to explain and define the phenomenon of straight vs. BS-talk at companies.

Culbert starts off with definitions of the various degrees of BS and Straight-talk. Just defining them was useful as I've begun to notice the types of "talk"-relationships I have with others and what expectations might be in play. I thought the distinction between "truth-telling" vs. "straight-talk" was particularly insightful as it has helped me redefine several relationships on these terms.

Culbert also really hits home on explaining some of the characters that "claim" they want desire straight-talk, but actually return the favor with covert BS to simply further their own agenda. Again, what can I say, he calls 'em as he sees 'em, and I've definitely seen 'em myself.

After defining and explaining the phenomenon, Culbert goes into an applications section to talk about what you might expect to see when relating with people who communication in various levels of BS and straight-talk. This ties back to the beginning of the book where the role of BS in an organization was defined. I really enjoyed how Culbert acknowledges that BS *does* play a useful role in the workplace and treats it as simply yet another communication style.

An area I felt could use improvement, perhaps in a 2nd edition, would be making better use of the anecdotes at the beginning of each chapter. While they seemed somewhat relevant to the chapter, I felt in several cases they weren't really used beyond acting as a chapter kickoff. I think referring back to these in the chapter a little more or perhaps using some anecdotes as a "case study" to thoroughly explore a topic would have helped me better understand the concepts.

That aside, I've already recommended this book to several colleagues who I have at least "candid" relationships with, in part as a tool to hopefully morph these relationships into full-on straight talk ones by helping define the concept we may have been dancing around for so long.

I extend that recommendation to anyone looking to improve the quality of 1-on-1s with their directs or whose office atmosphere struggles under the burden of dysfunctional communication. Great book, I'm looking forward to reading "Don't Kill the Bosses".
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on June 24, 2008
This is a must read book for anyone in an organization - even more so -- if you lead or aspire to lead in that organization!

Culbert's wise words and witty articulations help readers understand the organizational value of the straight-talk relationship and ways to frame discussion that can help foster more of "it".

His "I-speak" and the innovative performance "pre-view" process are a must read for any leader. Personally, I have found that I have been able to integrate and develop more substantially as an organizational and people leader since reading Culbert's book. It also helped me understand the mysteries of an organization that often felt frustrating.

Although new - this book is showing up in offices all over my organization and has already started to make a positive organizational impact: more straight-talk and trusting relationships and the dialogue to get there.
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on March 28, 2011
First things first, I was lucky enough to be in a class taught by the author, so while I may appear biased- I'm no fool. Now, on to the review: Most people will have to really have an open mind in reading this. What it calls for us to do at work is the opposite of what so many of us are used to doing. Having an open heart and mind to really get to know those around you so that you can you can develop a proper working relationship is more work and can be awkward at first for many of us...BUT IS OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE. If you want to be able to tell your boss he/she's making a mistake or have your subordinates let you know before you make a blunder, then this is the book for you. It's amazing how much BS gets spouted at the office, and we all know it's more hurtful than harmful...yet we can't stop. Well, you can stop if you have the tools and techniques, which is exactly what you'll get from this book.
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on April 2, 2008
I was lucky enough to read a pre-publication version of Sam Culbert's book. I was taken with by the power of Sam's arguments and evidence for truth-telling in organizational life. I was equally taken with the power and charm of Sam's writing voice and personal experiences. I was delighted to endorse the book and encourage anyone who strives to become an effective and ethical leader or follower to read this lovely piece of work.
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on June 18, 2012
I didn't find this book useful. The book rehashed a lot of old platitudes that you've probably heard before:
1) sentiment that everyone lives in a "different reality". (Ignoring the obvious epistemilogical and practical difficulties of that attitude.)
2) build relationships with people
3) Dale Carnegie-esque tips on showing interest in other people's personal lives. (If I had the time to chat with everyone about their personal lives beyond a superficial level, how would I have time to get stuff done)
4) try to find win-win situations
5) Freudian pop-psycholgy... is this person sensitive to this issue because of how he was raised (this sort of pop psychology doesn't really help get stuff done)

I also dislike that the book--or rather I should use "I-speak" technique :). "How I see it is that" the author's thoughts are largely unprocessed, academic, and with endless exceptions. He says BS is bad, but BS is also necessary, consider X, Y, Z, ... and be very context-specific about what level of BS to use. He makes splits hairs about pedantic definitions of straight-talk vs. candor vs. truth telling vs. truth-finding--after wading through these paragraphs there is no payoff in practical terms for this exercise.

If you're looking for something practical or useful it's not here. If you want to sound cool around the academic water cooler this may do the trick.
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on July 22, 2008
Why is it that we can work all day on a project and feel energized and ready to tackle the world, while conversely, we can have one difficult conversation at work and fell drained and unmotivated? As Sam Culbert explains "It's all the bullsh*t I have to endure."

Culbert isn't afraid to call "it" like it is. He starts by telling us that this is a self-interested world and that bullsh*t is part of it. He tells us that bullsh*t is sometimes necessary and that straight-talk is not easy. It is often hard to uncover the truth but the author provides us with a process to interpret and uncover the meaning of words and behaviors of others.

A Professor of Management at UCLA, Anderson School of Management, Sam Culbert brings life, consulting, career and teaching experience together to help us peer into the other person and ourselves to encourage and guide us in developing straight-talk relationships at work.

Working in sales and marketing, I was drawn to the "active questioning" section to help gain insight into the motivations of others.

If you find "Beyond Bullsh*t: Straight-Talk at Work" insightful and empowering you may also enjoy other Sam Culbert piece's like "Mind-Set Management" and "Don't Kill the Bosses!." It was through these pieces that I started to the journey to understand the psychology of what drives behavior in action in the workplace. Culbert provides models that help you "stage others for success" by taking into consideration their own self-interested motives and biased view of work events. Before you can effectively manage or interact effectively you will find that taking the time to understand what drives the other person or group is the way in. If I can be straight with you - by understanding other peoples' self-interests I hope to grow and move ahead myself!
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on April 30, 2013
Hope every manager will read it. It tells you how important the straight talking and how it can improve the efficiency of the company.
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on April 24, 2008
Culbert cuts through the confusion of organizaitonal politics and offers a remarkably clear perspective on how one can empower oneself unilaterlally, and thereby exercise significant positive influence, regardless of what the "other guys" are doing. This book is a welcome breath of fresh air for managers and leaders navigating the complexities of organizational life.
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on June 29, 2010
This book was truely wonderful & easy to read. Dr. Culbert writes in a way that is clear and, if you have spent much time in the corporate world, accurate! Pick up a copy just to get a different perspective and feel comfortable with straight talk.
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