The art of managing oneself

Managing Oneself by Peter F. Drucker

Summary of the editor’s description: “We live in an age of unprecedented opportunity: with ambition, drive, and talent, you can rise to the top of your chosen profession regardless of where you started out. But with opportunity comes responsibility. Companies today aren’t managing their knowledge workers careers. Instead, you must be your own chief executive officer. That means it’s up to you to carve out your place in the world and know when to change course. And it’s up to you to keep yourself engaged and productive during a career that may span some 50 years.”

My impression

In terms of easiness, the book can be read very quickly. The language is quite clear and straightforward. Now, my opinion on the content: first of all, yes, the more you know yourself and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, the better you will manage yourself and be able to seize opportunities in life. You will gain a lot from identifying how do you learn things: are you a reader or a listener? And you will definitely benefit from understanding how other people function in the workplace. That will give you the tools to adapt to a rapidly changing work environment and even labour market.

I do agree on all of this. However…

I feel like, according to this book, all the weight of what happens with your career falls on you and you only. Yes, you have the control over how do you react and adapt to life events. You can absolutely learn to manage yourself professionally. And yes, you decide where do you want to go in life, both personally and professionally. Sometimes though,  no matter what you do, there are external factors (for instance, if your coworkers or your boss simply don’t like you) that will affect your career or at least your job at some point. In this book though, it’s all about oneself. This of course make sense, again, you and only you can decide which way to go. And if you know yourself enough, you should get on the right path and build the career of your dreams.

But again, what happens when you get to work into a place where people simply have different ways to do things? If we follow this book, it’s up to you to adapt to your coworkers and bosses. So, if you learn by listening and not by reading, but your coworker is the opposite, you have to forget about yourself and make everything in your power to please this person. So, we are not talking about negotiating and getting a project done in a collaborative way. This is more of a power struggle in which you are submitted to other’s views, if you ask me. I wonder where is the beauty in that, or the benefit for the workplace or for the employees?

If you do like many people, and get things done your way, well, you may end up being fired. Things like these happen everyday to a lot of people. So, my question is, what would be the ideal situation? In which case we will be building better work environments where collaboration is encouraged instead of imposing a view on how to do things and get rid of those who don’t agree or just work differently? How can you use the tools given by this book to create a good workplace?

I don’t have an answer. And maybe that was the purpose of this book: to leave me here with more questions than answers. I still recommend it as it is a good baseline for those starting their careers and it has good advice for those who are thinking about a second one.