update from the reader whose boss started a mandatory book club

Remember the letter-writer last month whose boss had started a mandatory company book club, and she was annoyed? I told her to keep an open mind about it, as long as the book related to her work in some way. Well, I was wrong. Here’s her update:

I am the poster whose boss started a mandatory book club, and I wanted to write back with an update about how it’s been going. We have each been assigned a chapter for which we are in charge of leading a group book discussion during our company meetings. The first week belonged to my coworker, who tried to facilitate a discussion, but since nobody could easily apply the lessons in the first chapter to what we do at work, our boss monopolized the rest of the book discussion talking about his personal life experiences as they related to the book.

Last week’s chapter was my responsibility. I put forth a sincere attempt to steer the discussion towards the topic of how we could apply the chapter’s principles to the operations of our company. After some encouragement, I was able to eke out two good ideas from the group. Then, my boss said, “We don’t have to relate the book to what we do here at work; I really just want you guys to read this book for your own personal development because I enjoyed it and I think you will too. I didn’t remember how long it was though! Sorry about the 50 page chapters, guys. Great job!”

(That was actually the first clear directive we had received as to why we were reading the book.)

So it quickly became very clear that we are just having the mandatory book club because the boss remembered liking this book, and he thought our personal everyday lives would be enriched through it. He doesn’t seem to care if we can’t apply it to our jobs.

When all is said and done, he means well. But I think a better option would have been for him to offer an optional “lunch & learn book club” for anyone who sincerely wanted to participate in this kind of self-growth opportunity.

I appreciate your advice and that of all the posters.

{ 28 comments… read them below }

      1. twentymilehike*

        How funny … I had to read that book in college about ten years ago. I still have it because the bookstore wouldn’t buy it back; a fried of mine borrowed it not that long ago and said that she found it useful. Maybe I should re-read it …

        Should we start an AAM book club? Mandatory for all commenters.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        (late to the discussion, sorry)

        It sounds like the manager in question is doing a lousy job of running the meetings, and I was thinking of snarky comments until I saw that the book in question is Cialdini’s Influence, which brought me up short. I was thinking the manager was forcing something like The Celestine Prophecy down everyone’s throats. There are a lot of crappy books out there, but Influence isn’t one of them. His execution may suck, but I think his heart is in the right place.

  1. Amouse*

    A book about psychology and persuasion in general hmm….you would think that would be super easy to relate to dealing with people at work, customers, the general way you carry yourself at work, body language etc. I would go to town on that if asked to do that exercise. But then I like that sort of thing.

        1. Anon2*

          When I daydream about cool jobs in cool industries, I think about working for a publishing house. Then I remember Twilight and 50 Shades.

            1. Esra*

              And now that they’ve made the cut, think of all those poor publishing house workers who have to read mountains of fan fiction to find the next hit.

              1. Colleen*

                Thank you. I feel so much better about doing the task I need to do that I am putting off. I think I’ll stop reading and get right on that. And when it starts to get to boring, I’ll remember that I could have the job of reading all the stuff that doesn’t get published.

                Those people deserve a medal.

  2. Jamie*

    ” But I think a better option would have been for him to offer an optional “lunch & learn book club” for anyone who sincerely wanted to participate in this kind of self-growth opportunity”

    Is anyone else reminded of the finer things club from The Office?

  3. Meaghan*

    Oh man, while looking for ideas for a team-building exercise (yup, I’ve been tasked with planning one… shudder), I came across the website that your boss clearly used to plan this book club:

    “Hold work book clubs: Employees across the company or in a single department volunteer to read and discuss a particular book in a work book club. The company purchases the books for the employees who meet weekly to discuss a chapter or two. In the best book clubs, employees take turns leading the discussion about the chapter. A second employee leads the discussion about the implications of what they are reading for the company”

    1. Artemesia*

      Sounds like you nailed it. I actually don’t see a problem with this if the book has some relevance to the workplace AND can be read on the clock and the meetings are held on the clock.

  4. Jeb-Ray Gumpeater*

    Having read the book, one would think the boss would have been able to persuade everyone to join the book club voluntarily :-/

  5. NewReader*

    I am betting there will not be a second book for this club.

    I am not a tax person- but maybe the cost of the book for work is deductible?

    1. Another Emily*

      If there is another book in this book club, check the new book out of your local library and renew as needed. (I assume you already bought this one.) If it’s feasible.

      1. Artemesia*

        I belong to several book groups and between downloading ebooks from the library and checking others out from the library, I only end up purchasing a few books each year. And with the lit study group, I took the list to a used book store and got most of the books we needed (my husband and I are in this one group together). With two of us reading we wanted to have hard copies of the book.

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