Monday 25 September 2023

Book Review: Toxic at Work by David Gillespie (Non-Fiction)

Title: Toxic at Work
Author: David Gillespie
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Publication Date: 26 September 2023
Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: ARC from Publisher

Most bullies are psychopaths, but not all psychopaths look like bullies. Many blind us with their charm and dazzle us with their success. But they all share a common trait that makes them highly dangerous: they don't have empathy.

Research tells us that one in twenty people have no empathy. Empathy is the human ingredient that enables trust, forges bonds and allows teams to work and workplaces to thrive. It is why we are able to build cities and play football. The psychopath is not interested in cooperative effort but in individual power and glory - and they will stomp on anyone who gets in their way, destroying careers, teams and, sometimes, organisations.

Using research and stories drawn from history, politics, sports and business, Gillespie explains how workplace psychopaths - from bosses to clients, colleagues and customers - see the world, and highlights their devastating impact on workplaces. He shows empaths how to self-protect and organisations how to use trust, transparency and teamwork to insulate against the corrosive impact.

Unflinching in its analysis of the problem and clear-sighted in suggesting solutions, this is an essential guide for spotting, managing and ejecting the workplace psycho, once and for all.


In my current workplace I work with a wonderful group of people and get on fine with all of them. However, I know people for whom that is not the case, and from hearing about some of their recent troubles, I was interested to read this text to see if there was insight I could then share to help them. Upon finishing the book, my feelings were mixed. Many aspects of it were interesting, and I learned about some historical incidents I hadn't heard of before. However, I also had my reservations in regards to the way the author frequently seemed to imply that lack of empathy automatically meant psychopathy. That idea came up numerous times, and while I am sure it is often true, I don't think we can say it's always true. There would be a lot of other factors also at play and I think it's dangerous to engage in such blanket labelling. Would this book benefit those dealing with difficult colleagues? Possibly. It certainly does suggest some useful strategies for protecting yourself in terms of how to engage with those people and how to create a record of facts to prove your innocence if things turn sour. It tells some insightful stories and makes some interesting points, but I personally would not want to take everything held within its pages as gospel. I am giving it 3.5 stars.

I received this book as a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

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