Book Review: Surviving the Toxic Workplace


Surviving the toxic workplace : protect yourself against coworkers, bosses, and work environments that poison your day
Linnda Durré
HF5548.8 Dur 2010 Hon Sui Sen Memorial Library

Surviving the Toxic Workplace by Linda Durré (Ph.D.) is one of many books available in the library that gives advice on how to deal with people and environments that “poison your day”. The book is cut into bite-sized pieces, each chapter seldom exceeding 6 pages in length. While necessarily quite shallow in its analysis of each personality type, behavioural type and methods of communication (it is only 250 pages in length, including acknowledgements and bibliography), there is a broad enough spectrum for the reader to identify at least a few “toxic” people and situations that they might find themselves dealing with.

My favourite parts of the book are the chapters on communication styles and techniques. Active listening is probably not emphasised enough in our daily lives; most of us listen to the other speaker with the intent of responding to their words, but we don’t actively listen out for the subtext and emotional content in what they are saying. According to the book, “[a]ctive listening includes paraphrasing what you hear someone saying to you to clarify the meaning, build rapport and understanding, and discuss what is not being said”. [italics original] The short chapter on active listening makes it sound rather simple, but it is not. However, active listening is a worthwhile skill to possess, especially when dealing with people who may be confrontational.

In all, the book is useful as a brief runthrough of “toxic” people and situations, and a springboard to more in-depth reading on specific subjects pertaining to workplace environments and relationships – there is a bibliography at the end of the book for different subtopics such as “Anger Management” and “Body Language”. It does seem to make problems (and people!) very two-dimensional, due to the short lengths of the chapters, and also make solutions sound too easy. However, as a quick reference for someone who has just entered or about to enter the complex and sometimes scary world of the working adult, it has the advantage of brevity and ease of reference.

To look for more books on surviving in the workplace, try these searches in LINC+ or LINC: Keyword search “corporate culture” for books such as The Corporate Culture Survival Guide ; “social skills” for books such as Social Skills At Work; and “interpersonal conflict” for books such as Developing your conflict competence: a hands-on guide for leaders, managers, facilitators and teams. You may have to scroll through several results before locating a suitable self-help book, as there are several academic textbooks and case studies in the library on such topics.

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