To my knowledge, this book is the first thorough look at the subject of office politics. As such it will surely stand as the foundation of all work in this field for many years to come.
The book obliquely alludes to the secret fraternity handshakes that men use to identify each other as "brothers" and often help to accelerate the formation of relationships. Instead, Professor Reardon refers to "The Secret Handshake" as "the acknowledgment one in-group insider gives another . . . ." which is the broader form of this phenomenon.
Those who like to work the political side of any situation hardly need any more tips. The downside of this book is that the moderately adept influencers will become more skillful in their apple polishing. The upside of the book is that those who are getting creamed by office politics will have a better idea of how to defend themselves by finding environments where they can prosper. This appropriateness of this book will be as controversial as Machiavelli's Prince has been. In my view, this book has both great potential for harm and for good. It all depends on who uses it . . . and for what purpose. Unfortunately, the author has framed the book in terms of personal career advancement. That will increase the likelihood of misuse. She is aware of the issue and addresses it in the book, but I think her good intentions exceeded her effectiveness in implementing those intentions.
Basically, this book is all about ways to overcome the communications stall. There is much fine work in here on that subject, which is why I graded the book at five stars. If I were grading the book for its likely impact on the effectiveness of organizations, I would rate it vastly lower. So if you see this book starting to show up in your office, beware!
The best parts of the book come in two quizzes you can take to determine your own leadership and negotiating styles. These quizzes are very well designed, and I found the results very valuable for me. In particular, it helped me to understand how my own style differs from those of others I see by articulating the alternative styles in good depth. Then, Professor Reardon provided good information on what types of organizations would make best use of your or my style. She also points out ways that we can shift our styles slightly to make them better fit the circumstances we are in. At that point in reading this book, you would be well advised to read NLP Business Masterclass for specific ideas for shifting your effectiveness.
Your understanding of the psychological bases for the points she makes would be greatly expanded by reading Robert Cialdini's classic book on this area, Influence. When you read that book, you will be much impressed by how he handles the ethical dimensions of helping people to be more persuasive.
A great strength of this book is also to be found in the examples. Professor Reardon conducted hundreds of interviews and discussions as background for this book. Unlike most books about working, this one has as many examples from women leaders as from men. As a result, female readers will find much of relevance for their specific situations of how to exercise influence in environments where most other leaders are men. Male readers will benefit from hearing about the special problems that women face.
A valuable contribution to sociological research comes in the ways that Professor Reardon has characterized working environments by their degree of politicization. She astutely points out that each degree of politicization can exist inside the very same organization, in different places.
The book does not do enough to help the reader understand how to reduce the politicization of an organization, or to shift it into more productive paths. I hope that Professor Reardon's future work will focus more on improving organizational effectiveness, and less on career management for the individual. The former task is a far more important one for leaders than the latter one.
Reading this book should cause you as a leader to think about what sort of working environment is optimal for what you want to accomplish. How can you identify the elements that need to be changed in your environment? How can you make it appealing to everyone to make the needed changes to enhance group and personal effectiveness and career progress?
Basically, the challenge is to overcome the problem that the optimization of one person's career is usually the sabotaging of the organization's opportunities and thus everyone's progress. For example, Professor Reardon tells the story of one executive who artificially created problems that he could solve as a way to get promoted every 18 months. That's just horrible!!!
Communicate the need to cooperate for building more . . . in improved ways!