The Book Corner - Review

From Difficult to Disturbed: Understanding and Managing Dysfunctional Employees by Laurence Miller, PhD

From Difficult to Disturbed: Understanding and Managing Dysfunctional Employees

By Laurence Miller, PhD
AMACOM, 2007

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Reading Difficult to Disturbed is a little like reading a book on how to make a bomb: interesting, but could be very dangerous. In the foreword, author Laurence Miller explains that the book is a how-to on the different personality types managers may encounter in the workplace. Such assertions can lead to stereotyping that may be inaccurate at best and damaging at worst, in my opinion. The most important quote in the book is on page 103 and should really be placed at the beginning in large print:

In the most severe cases, your direct role in dealing with these workers will cede to that of mental health clinicians and your most important contributions will be to refer your employee to proper professional help.

The real lesson is that when dealing with a potentially disturbed employee, be sure to get the company’s human resources department involved. If your company does not have an HR department, find a way to standardize the procedures for working with such employees and to ensure that they are followed. It is important to note that sometimes people who behave in certain ways are not necessarily “bad”&-they may just suffer from one of the traits mentioned in the book. It should also be noted that not very many people suffer from the mental diseases that are outlined in the book.

With the above caveats, I would recommend Difficult to Disturbed to anyone who deals with people as a manager or supervisor. Dr. Miller covers all types of mental disorders, using insightful vignettes to explain them and to provide advice to both the person with the disorder and the employer&-essential information for managers and supervisors. The final chapter addresses how leaders should act in crises involving dysfunctional employees. In summary, with the right kind of mindset, one can read this book and keep as a useful reference should there be any kind of episode at work.

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