Home' HR Monthly : July 2017 Contents July 2017 HRM magazine 37
Pain and resilience
Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg has written a heartfelt book about losing
her husband and finding the strength to go on.
BY SHERYL SANDBERG
AND ADAM GRANT
Option B is not the first
book in the self-help genre to deal with death.
Among the most famous are Kubler-Ross’ On
Death and Dying, from which came the now
well-known five stages of grief, and Ma n’s
Search For Meaning by Holocaust survivor
If those books don’t seem like self-help to
you that’s because when a self-help book is
insightful and/or beautiful enough, we think
of it as something more – often as a work of
psychology or philosophy. Option B is neither,
but it is a fine addition to the genre.
Written from the perspective of Sandberg,
the COO of Facebook and author of bestseller,
Lean In, the book’s catalysing event is the death
of her husband, Dave Goldberg. The grief she
went through is potent; you feel her sadness
and, even more powerfully, her anger. It is with
reference to this period, but also the anecdotes
of other people facing trauma, that she provides
a guide to “bouncing forward”.
This is a book about recovery, in quite a
broad sense. Early on there is reference made
to a theory that trauma separates people into
three groups. Those who suffer PTSD or are
generally crushed by it; those who face it and
attain an equilibrium something like what they
had before; and those who experience “post-
The book’s goal is to get you into that third
group but it doesn’t truly ref lect on anything
larger. A nd while it’s not fair to judge a book
for what it never tried to do, when it comes
to grief and trauma it is odd to see so little
discussion of their significance. Sandberg might
be one of the first authors to confront death,
and not think too long about its meaning.
One of the criticisms, so obvious that it is
pre-empted by the book, is that it’s all well and
good that Sandberg has recovered but she’s rich,
influential and very supported. When she faces
tragedy and wants to talk to world-renowned
psychologists about it, they take the call.
So the authors are careful to acknowledge her
privilege, and reference people who do and will
find it more difficult to recover from tragedy.
Option B’s finest quality is its endless
practicality. There are ideas on how to pay
attention to moments of joy, noting that it’s
important for recovery but also that it “takes
effort because we are wired to focus more on
the negatives more than the positives.”
Another chapter, ‘The Platinum Rule of
Friendship’, is a must-read for the advice it
gives those who’ve never suffered tragedy.
The authors thoughtfully explore what the
friends of the grieving are concerned about
and gives Sandberg’s perspective on what the
grieving want from their friends. A nd, the
chapter ‘Raising Resilient Kids’ is admirable
for its forthrightness and its attempt to impart
Sandberg’s own hard-won lessons to others.
The book maintains an immensely positive
outlook, a hallmark of the self-help genre
that’s tied to the need to universalise. The pain
expressed is real but it’s almost always used
as a prologue and given a few paragraphs, the
triumph over it is given pages.
Sandberg seems like a remarkable person,
to regrow her drive, verve and positivity in the
aftermath of an unpredictable tragedy, but
she isn’t great at imagining people who can’t
There is a different, less obvious explanation
for the book’s flaws. Written within two years
of her husband’s passing, perhaps we’re not
reading the words of a recovering person,
explaining how she’s managing, but rather
we’re reading an act of grief, a type that Kubler-
Ross would recognise. It’s altogether possible
that Option B is denial. •••
THE POWER OF
HOW THE BEST
BY YOSSI SHEFFI MIT PRESS,
Interdependencies within and
between national economies make global and
national systems increasingly susceptible to
disruption. Sheffi’s forward-looking overview
is good for risk managers – especially in large
firms – who are building the response capability
to deal effectively with disasters and disruption.
THE CONFIDENCE EFFECT:
EVERY WOMAN’S GUIDE
TO THE ATTITUDE THAT
BY GRACE KILLELEA AMACOM, 2016
Many talented women don’t receive
the promotions or raises they deserve
because they’re competent but not confident.
Consultant Grace Killelea speaks from experiences,
and from a position of relatable vulnerability. She
offers abundant lists, examples, anecdotal profiles
and chapter takeaways. getAbstract recommends her
encouraging advice to working women and men.
THAN 10,000 BOOKS
As an AHRI member, enjoy unlimited
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BY GIRARD DORNEY
22/6/17 4:24 pm
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