In the Land of Difficult People


AMACOM’s new book, In the Land of Difficult People: 24 Timeless Tales Reveal How to Tame Beasts at Work, takes the folktale back to the future with a very practical end–each of the featured tales are accompanied by advice on how to fend off every imaginable ill in the workplace, from overly critical bosses to lazy co-workers.

Authors Terrence L. Gargiulo and Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D., contend that “folktales are an entertaining way to deal with the everyday issues that people face….Although the tales may be couched in stories about animals and peasants, the types of human characters and behaviors described are universal.”

The stories included are traditional tales from every corner of the globe: Persia, Denmark, Russia, China, Morocco, Mexico, and more. They are separated into eight sections, with each section featuring a major type of commonly encountered workplace beast.

For instance, the section entitled Lions and Other Power-Hungry Beasts includes 3 tales that focus on aggressive, abusive, and controlling co-workers and employers. Following the folk-tale, the authors briefly discuss how the characters in the tale might manifest themselves at your office, then list practical ideas on how workers can defang the offending party.

Just about every grating workplace behavior is addressed and most people will easily be able to recognize problem co-workers in various tales. While some of the solutions offered by Gargiulo and Scott might hurl the entire situation out of the frying pan and into the fire (they suggest dealing with an overly aggressive boss or co-worker by “accidentally” forwarding the offending person’s insulting emails to the rest of the office–probably not a wise move unless you’ve got an updated resume on hand), they are careful to advise readers to “choose and adapt whatever works best in your own work situation.”

In the Land of Difficult People would certainly serve as an entertaining and enlightening office read: if employers distributed copies to all employees attending office meetings, then opened each meeting by reading and discussing one of the tales, they might find that the office beasts just might be shamed into submission. However, whether In the Land of Difficult People read in a group or individually, manages to provide some answers to modern problems with the help of age-old wisdom.

AMACOM; 169 pages