· 3 min read · News

Books: Starter kit to understanding the psychological contract

Published:

Many books on this subject are brain-numbingly dry, says Ali Peck, HR director, RNLI. But this one, looking at how people view all of their relationships, not just the work one, is a surprisingly easy read.

MANAGING THE PSYCHOLOGICAL CONTRACT
Author: Michael Wellin
Publisher: Gower
Price: 55.00
Rating: 4 OUT OF 5

The psychological contract is a subject that greatly interests me, andis one that I believe more organisations will have to understand. Atfirst glance Wellin's book is a daunting-looking, seemingly heavyweighttome, and many books covering this subject are overly complex andbrain-numbingly dry. I'm glad to say that my worries were unfounded.There is all the academic underpinning, but in this book it is explainedin a simple way that will make it appealing to a far broaderaudience.

Wellin's big statement - and it was an unusual angle that initially gotme excited - is that work is less about the psychological contract andmore about 'personal deal' - how people view all of their relationshipsaround them, not just their work one. He then goes on to explain howthis can help change human behaviour. Although the detail of the theorywas less revealing than I first thought it would be, I was stillimpressed by how well his arguments were posited. I particularly enjoyedchapter 7 - which compared three businesses in three different sectorson how the personal deals for each are different, and how they createddifferent problems. There were also great case studies with the likes ofPret A Manger and John Lewis, and even if you don't have time to readall of the chapters in great depth, there are useful summaries at theend.

Overall, I found this to be a great self-help book, as useful for the HRpractitioner as the ordinary employee. It is jargon-free, and althoughWellin never labels it as such, it is a thesis that also touches at theroots of employee engagement. The only sore point was an awkward chapterat the end, about transactional analysis that I thought was redundantand just too much of a bolt-on. If you're familiar with psychology youmay want to read something else with more weight. But as a way ofgetting someone familiar with the subject of the psychological contract,it's invaluable.

WHY NOT TRY ...

WALKING WITH TIGERS
Author: Frank Furness
Publisher: Piatkus Books
Price: 12.99
Rating: 4 OUT OF 5

This is a new year pick-me-up that won't disappoint. Motivationalspeaker Frank Furness has spent the past decade helping the leaders ofthe world's biggest companies, the brightest entrepreneurs (such as theboss of Cobra Beer), and NASA astronauts achieve more. 'Tigers,' hewrites, 'share the same traits, and mark them out from average Joes.'While this book does not aim to teach you how to be a tiger, it is awell-packaged collection of observations about the tiger traitsdemonstrated by real people. This is an amusing, often surprising newspin on well-known management theories (such as 'being seen' and'adopting the hero inside'), but not once does it come across as triteor patronising.

THE ANSWERS
Author: Lucy Kellaway
Publisher: Profile Books
Price: 8.99
Rating: 5 OUT OF 5

If this collection of goodies missed your Christmas stocking, make sureyou track it down. FT agony aunt Lucy Kellaway has compiled the best (orshould that be the worst?) work dilemmas she has had to advise on -everything from 'I slept with my office junior' to 'my boss is a bully'and 'how do I keep my brilliant number two?'. Not only are we on thereceiving end of Kellaway's own words of wisdom but we are treated tothe hilarious, highly un-PC, definitely non-HR best practice replies ofFT readers. Everything from 'I wish I had that problem' in response tothe amorous boss to 'Borrow some children ... an imaginary brood willallow you to go home early' in answer to 'I'm discriminated against atwork because I am childless.' Priceless.

MUST READ

Alan Thomas staff resourcing and development manager, Henkel on booksthat made their mark

Mind Your Manners: Managing Business Culture in a Global Europe by JohnMole was my introduction to international business culture. It was anessential aeroplane read during three weeks of visiting seniormanagement teams in 14 European capitals to gain their buy-in for aproject I was managing.

My second choice is Six Thinking Hats by Edward De Bono. Saving time inmeetings and better outcomes are such fundamental drivers of businesseffectiveness, it is a wonder Six Thinking Hats is not required readingfor managers.

Finally the first 'management' book I ever read was The Prince byNiccolo Machiavelli. All topics within modern management and leadershipare alluded to within this text. It can be a difficult read but is wellworth regular revisits.