Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches

Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches

Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches

Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches


From dealing with underperformers to fighting off lawsuits, employee problems are the bane of a manager's existence. So what do most do? Ignore them!

And that's a recipe for more problems. Written by a seasoned HR expert and employment attorney, Hard-Won Wisdom takes you inside the messy reality of situations gone wrong, including:

  • A joking comment taken as a command
  • An email exchange that escalates ridiculously out of control
  • A request for confidentiality that backfires in a big way
  • The right employee...fired the wrong way
  • The wrong employee...hired the right way

These sometimes funny, always cautionary tales reinforce crucial lessons for managers. From failing to give feedback and withholding key information to exercising poor judgment and making faulty assumptions, every story highlights the role management plays in exacerbating (or easing) trouble.

And each story suggests simple strategies to turn the situation around. The memorable lessons help managers motivate underachievers, defuse angry employees, discipline without inviting legal action--and handle every tricky-people issue they simply can't avoid.


To build a collection of workplace stories for managers to learn from, I can’t think of a better way than a career in employment law. You get a ringside seat for just about every form of workplace behavior you could ever imagine (or would prefer not to imagine.)

My professional experience began in 1980 as a first-year law student at the University of Chicago. I got a full-time summer job working in the employment-discrimination section of a legal aid clinic. the job continued during school years on a part-time basis. My clients were women and minorities who brought harassment, discrimination, and retaliation claims against their employers.

I vividly recall my very first client. Tall, handsome, and athletically built, he showed up at the clinic claiming he’d been fired as a hospital orderly due to national origin discrimination.

“What reason did the hospital give you?” I asked.

“They said I was fondling female patients.”

“Were you?” I asked.

“It depends what you mean by ‘fondling.’”

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