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In Brief: Risky Businesses

Sunday, April 24, 2005; Page BW13

The recent barrage of revelations about the travels and tortuous financial dealings of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has divided the experts. Some say that in defending himself he should disclose all; others, including former President Clinton, contend that withholding information can be a prudent tactic. In Winning (HarperBusiness, $27.95), written with his wife, Suzy, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch comes down firmly on the side of divulgence. "There are no secrets in the world," he writes, "and everyone will eventually find out everything." Not only that, but "information you try to shut down will eventually get out, and as it travels, it will certainly morph, twist, and darken." His chapter on mergers and acquisitions lists so many pitfalls -- seven in all -- that negotiating them seems daunting enough to justify sullenness and ranting. But restrain yourself. As Welch notes, "You and your bad attitude can be replaced -- and you will be if you don't learn to love the deal like the acquirers do."

In keeping with his title, Welch reckons that employees of winning companies are satisfied workers. In Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job (PVG, $24.95), Dennis W. Bakke says it's not that easy. The current president of Imagine Schools, Bakke believes that by and large the American workplace is "a frustrating and joyless place where people do what they're told and have few ways to participate in decisions or fully use their talents." Bosses must make a special effort to overcome workplace drudgery, Bakke argues, by such means as spending time with employees, not treating them like children, affording them as much initiative and control as possible and trying to capture the joy that a team feels while playing its sport. Among Bakke's guidelines: "People should spend 80 percent of their time on their primary roles and devote the other 20 percent to participating on task forces, giving advice, learning new skills, and working on special projects." Sounds like a good 20 percent solution.

-- Dennis Drabelle

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