Psychological Safety: Practice Matters

Psychological Safety: Practice Matters

The term “psychological safety” may be buzzy, but it’s no buzzword. Collaborative, inclusive and productive organizational cultures require psychological safety. But building and maintaining true psychological safety takes both time and practice.

Psychological safety is the “shared belief’ that a team or a group is “safe for interpersonal risk taking.” Reintroduced (although coined years earlier) in the academic literature by Harvard professor Amy Edmondson, psychological safety enables candor, trust and mutual respect, and invites the full power of human ability to tackle workplace challenges. In psychologically safe environments, we give each other the benefit of the doubt and we are fully able to learn together – from each other and from our mistakes.

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Can We Talk About Race at Work? ZZ Packer’s “Brownies” Shows Us How

Can We Talk About Race at Work? ZZ Packer’s “Brownies” Shows Us How

At Books@Work, we look for books and stories with multiple “handles,” or angles to address. We love narratives that provoke tough questions and stir debate, that kindle memories and foster connection. Sometimes a story may defy the reader’s expectations and assumptions. And sometimes a story may seem like it’s “about” one thing – but a well-facilitated conversation exposes deeper thematic layers.

In ZZ Packer’s “Brownies,” the most popular members of an all-black girl scout troop convince their fellow Brownies to confront an all-white troop for using a racial slur. To avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that the confrontation does not go as planned – and the girls realize they have spectacularly misjudged the situation.

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Revisiting the Classics: Literature’s Power to Humanize the Workplace

Revisiting the Classics: Literature’s Power to Humanize the Workplace

At Books@Work, we constantly read and evaluate new texts – short stories and books – for interesting opportunities to trigger engaging and timeless discussion among colleagues. We look for new perspectives, especially from writers whose work is “outside” the traditional canon of Western literature.  Whether a powerful portrait of immigrant experience from Edwidge Danticat, or a fascinating take on #metoo from Jamel Brinkley, we take pride in introducing new voices to our participants. But I’ve recently had a chance to revisit the power of a few classic short stories.

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The Learning Legacy of MLK

The Learning Legacy of MLK

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that education and learning are “tools for shaping the future and not devices of privilege for an exclusive few.” Learning – and in particular, social learning – is an equalizer. What we learn from each other is broader than anything we can learn alone.

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Through Other Eyes: The Collective Impact of Reading Together

Through Other Eyes: The Collective Impact of Reading Together

There’s reading, and there’s reading. Sometimes we read opportunistically, with the sole objective to take something we need from the text. It might be a manual, it might be a technical article or it might be an article highlighting the news of the day.

But sometimes (less frequently, I fear) we read for the sheer pleasure of immersing ourselves in a story, of taking ourselves to a far-off land, solving a mystery or stepping into the shoes of a character. It might be a novel or a piece of narrative nonfiction, but we relish the words and “live” the experience rather than taking away lessons.

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The Best Books and Short Stories to Spur Conversation in 2018

The Best Books and Short Stories to Spur Conversation in 2018

The end of 2018 brings with it a wave of “Best Books” round-ups – and we at Books@Work are no exception. But instead of naming favorites in 2018, our list highlights the books and short stories that spurred the most profound, perplexing and thought-provoking discussions for Books@Work participants this year.

We believe that meaningful conversation kindles social connection in the workplace and beyond. These ten diverse narratives represent the essential “ingredients” for good conversation, from dynamic characters and ethical dilemmas to energetic plots and unfamiliar worlds.

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Reading Hidden Figures: Race and Gender in the Workplace

Reading Hidden Figures: Race and Gender in the Workplace

Some of the best Books@Work books spur conversations about what it means to be human. These books shed light on universal issues: family, work, identity, relationships and more. But sometimes, a good Books@Work book resonates with a group because it seems to exist specifically and solely for them. One such book is Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures.

Hidden Figures tells the nonfiction story of three African-American female mathematicians who operates as “human computers” at NASA during the Space Race. The women endured racial discrimination and gender barriers, often receiving little or no credit for their extraordinary contributions. These themes prompt discussions about a variety of unique issues facing Books@Work participants in the workplace.

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Reading James McBride’s The Color of Water with Books@Work

Reading James McBride’s The Color of Water with Books@Work

At Books@Work, we find books and short stories that generate meaningful discussion and encourage colleagues to share more of themselves. As one participant shared, a good book “makes it easier to break down people’s issues and have difficult conversations, because it’s hidden behind the cloak of the material.”

For many groups, a “good book” is a novel with dynamic characters and ethical dilemmas. For others, it might be a nonfiction narrative like Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, which often resonates with engineers and manufacturing employees. But some books, like James McBride’s memoir The Color of Water, find success and provoke powerful discussions with groups across the board.

What is the book about?

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A Books@Work Favorite: Chinua Achebe’s “Dead Men’s Path”

A Books@Work Favorite: Chinua Achebe’s “Dead Men’s Path”

What do Books@Work participants read? The short answer: books, short stories, plays and more. Rich narratives – from literary fiction to memoirs – introduce us to new ideas, build genuine connections and foster more inclusive workplaces and communities. Before each program begins, we survey participants for their preferences, consult with professors and draw upon the knowledge and experience of Books@Work staff to choose the readings.

While some groups prefer books, others stick to one short story per session. Over time, we’ve found that certain short stories succeed with a wide variety of groups – executive leadership teams, police officers, healthcare workers and veterans alike.

One particularly successful Books@Work story is Chinua Achebe’s “Dead Men’s Path,” the tale of young, energetic Michael Obi, who takes a new role as headmaster of a Nigerian school in 1949.

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