Tag Archives: Writing

Be Careful What You Write (and Say)—Don’t You Wish Everyone Learned This Lesson?

laptop-1149412_960_720This post concerns a pet peeve of mine. I really don’t understand some people. And by “some people” I mean everyone from Hillary Clinton to Colin Powell to the latest Afghani-American terrorist. They write things down that they never intended to become public.

Don’t they understand that in today’s world, nothing can be guaranteed to stay private? We may not like that aspect of our society, but it is the truth. A secret server won’t do it. Sending your inartfully drafted emails only to friends won’t do it. Not even a personal journal will stay private if there’s a reason to raid your home.

The lack of privacy isn’t limited to written words—even when the words are written only in the ether. Giving speeches to like-minded friends and followers is no guarantee that what we say will stay private, as Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney have learned to their chagrin. Whispering things to a friend in the airport security line can get you into trouble. Making comments when a dash cam is on can lead to criminal charges.

Whatever we say or write can come back to haunt us.

The sooner each of us learns that lesson, the better. And then, perhaps, we will be careful in what we say and write.

As I said, we may not like this aspect of our smart-phone always connected world, but we can’t change it. We should all show a little common courtesy and respect when talking about our enemies as well as our friends. We should all remember the old adage that if you can’t say (or write) something nice about someone, then don’t say (or write) it.

It is far better to be safe than sorry, to have refrained from speaking (or writing) than to be called on the carpet or embarrassed when our words return to bite us.

I can’t say I’m perfect in this regard. I’ve been embarrassed on occasion, more often by what I’ve said than by what I’ve written. I was trained early on that documents can be discovered. It’s only been a small step to recognize that now oral words can easily be made public as well.

As an attorney and an HR professional, I have always advised my clients and colleagues that if they didn’t want their mothers, the CEO or the media to hear or see their words, they shouldn’t use them.

Too bad so many people never learned this lesson.

When have you suffered because of something ill-advised you said or wrote?

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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Philosophy, Politics, Workplace

How Realistic Do You Want Your Fiction To Be?

I don’t post much about my novel, Playing the Game, but I thought it would make a nice Labor Day diversion.

Recently I was asked whether the book is true to life. My answer: Yes and no.

Playing the Game is fiction. None of the events in the book happened—at least not the way they are depicted. The facts and faces have been changed to protect the innocent. But the plot is realistic. It deals with issues that many corporate executives face, such as managing budgets and people, planning new product lines, deciding who will succeed departing key personnel, and integrating work and family time. And, of course, dealing with the personal peccadilloes of the colleagues we encounter in the hallways every day.

But the plot is realistic. It deals with issues that many corporate executives face, such as managing budgets and people, planning new product lines, deciding who will succeed departing key personnel, and integrating work and family time. And, of course, dealing with the personal peccadilloes of the colleagues we encounter in the hallways every day.

One reader told me after reading the book, “I know these people.” This reader and I have never worked together, and we have only a few common acquaintances. In other words, the characters are like co-workers we have all known, with common foibles and insecurities.

I market Playing the Game as a thriller, but it isn’t a thriller like Dan Brown’s or Brad Thor’s novels. It is a thriller in the same way that Arthur Hailey’s books such as Hotel or Airport were thrillers. The business is going through a make-or-break time, and the question is whether it can be saved. There are criminal activities in the book, but the thrill is not from solving the crime but from the highs and lows of living through difficult circumstances.

Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park and other far-out thrillers also wrote Disclosure, which dealt with sexual harassment in the workplace in a very realistic setting. While I enjoyed Jurassic Park and his other fantasies, I was captivated by Disclosure, because “I knew those people.” I had dealt with similar situations in my job. That’s the kind of fiction I aspired to write in Playing the Game.

So, as a writer, my question to readers is:

How realistic do you like your fiction? Do you want to read books that deal with things you know, or do you want to explore worlds of fantasy to escape your daily routine?

Happy Labor Day


Filed under Playing the Game, Writing


What does it mean to play the game? Winston Churchill said:

“Play the game for more than you can afford to lose . . . only then will you learn the game.”

That is the theme of my novel, Playing the Game. Which of the characters play the game to Churchill’s standard, and which do not?

I have been focused on other work in recent months and have not posted about my writing. So today I am putting in a shameless plug for Playing the Game, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both paperback and ebook formats.

Here are quotes from some of my favorite reviews of the book:

On Amazon: “This is a fascinating, fast-paced novel about the issues facing the modern corporation . . . . The characters are sharply drawn and the plot is full of interesting twists; I lost a few hours of evening sleep reading this one, as I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended!”

On Barnes & Noble: “I loved this book from beginning to end . . . . It captures the nuance of corporate shenanigans and gives unexpected insight into the closed boardroom, a place where there really are no winners. Sara Rickover is impressive in her understanding and portrayal of the company.”

On Amazon: “Just finished Playing the Game. As an HR person, I think the book really nailed it. For those interested in an insiders view of life in human resources, it is a great read!”

On Amazon: “As other reviewers noted, this book is fast-paced, entertaining, and wonderfully written! . . . . fully fleshed out characters with psychological traits and flaws . . . . If you don’t know anything about the details of how organizations and HR operates and you don’t want to pick up a dry textbook, pick up Playing the Game . . . .”

On Goodreads: “A wonderfully written novel. Although it deals with a corporate crisis and chaos, it reads like a thriller. It kept me up nights to find out how the Playland team would manage through all the problems that surface. Rickover obviously understands the corporate world.”

PTG Rickover coverPlaying the Game would make a great gift for corporate managers and professionals you know, and would also be a fun discussion or training tool for a Human Resources or management staff.

I encourage anyone with an interest in a fast-paced story of corporate intrigue to take a look at Playing the Game. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble provide the first few chapters for free. So check it out!

Thank you for your consideration.


P.S. Playing the Game will be featured in an upcoming anthology, Murder U.S.A., to be published by Murder Lab Press.

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Filed under Playing the Game, Writing

Summer Price Reduction on Playing the Game

I’ve reduced the price of the ebook version of my novel, Playing the Game, to $2.99. Take advantage of this limited time offer and download the book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Playing the Game was the #1 financial thriller in the Kindle store last summer. One Amazon reviewer said:

Playing the Game is a page-turner from page one. The characters are clever, scheming, even diabolical—but also real, and vividly drawn. Rickover does a masterful job of keeping all the corporate balls in the air and keeping her readers guessing about how things will turn out.

Don’t keep yourself guessing—pick up a copy to enjoy this summer.

And Happy Memorial Day!

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Responding to High-Conflict People During Disputes

On April 15, 2015, the Wall Street Journal ran an article by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan entitled “Mind Your Email Manners.”  In this article, Ms. Tan recommended more formality in emails than many of us use, as well as brevity in what we say. A workshop I attended later that week on Approaches for High Conflict Disputes, offered by Bill Eddy of the High Conflict Institute, reinforced that message for me. Part of Mr. Eddy’s presentation dealt with how to send BIFF responses—Brief, Informative, Friendly, Firm responses—to persons who are difficult to deal with.

I think I generally follow these principles in my written communications. As an attorney, I learned early to be direct and accurate in my communications. In dealing with corporate leaders in a variety of contexts, I learned to be brief and to ask directly for what I needed from them. In all communications I strove to be courteous and respectful.

But as I lauded myself on my strong communications skills, I remembered the many first drafts I wrote to opposing counsel, in which I lambasted them for their stupidity in opposing my client’s position. I used to type these drafts so furiously my fingers hurt when I was finished. My later drafts usually sounded more reasonable, but I cannot say that I didn’t leave some caustic phrases in the final versions of these letters that got mailed.

I can still dash off an angry letter, which I have to edit before sending. Clearly, BIFF responses are not my default style, no matter how much I tell myself otherwise.

gmail iconIn today’s world, with communications flying back and forth in seconds, it is even more important that we step back before sending our initial drafts of correspondence, particularly when we are dealing with difficult people—whom we might define as anyone with whom we have a conflict. I have found that it is useful to draft my email responses in a Word document, and only past the final version into the email program before I push the “send” button. Another approach is to delete all the recipients’ names from the reply until I am satisfied with the message I want to send.

Although the workshop I attended was focused on “high conflict” individuals—who are often people with personality disorders or other psychological problems—it occurred to me during the workshop that all of us can at times become “high conflict.” All of us have times when we are emotionally involved in a problem and our flight/fight/freeze instincts take over our brains. Some people live in this state more than others, but we all go there at times.

So it is always important to keep all of our communications as rationally based as possible. We should be Brief, Information, Friendly and Firm in our letters and emails, regardless of the circumstances, to minimize the likelihood that we will escalate the situation rather than defuse it.

9781936268726_frontcover__50452.1419805581.500.659Mr. Eddy also recommends that we not Admonish, Advise, or Apologize in our responses to difficult people. While there might be times when apologies or advice are appropriate in normal business communications, his theories are worth considering when we are in the middle of a dispute, as I was in my communications with opposing counsel I mentioned.

The bottom line is a question that Mr. Eddy recommends we ask about our initial drafts—how is the receiving party likely to react? That question applies to any situation. We should reflect on what impact our communications are having while we still have a chance to change them. Seek advice from a good coach or colleague if you have doubts about what to say or how to say it.

For more on Bill Eddy’s BIFF responses techniques, see the High Conflict Institute website, which offers many free resources for mediators and other professionals engaged in dispute resolution. He has a book entitled BIFF: Quick Responses to High-Conflict People, which also provides more information.

When have you encountered a problem because of a communication you sent?

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Filed under Human Resources, Management, Mediation

A Good Gift Book: Playing the Game

If you need a gift for someone on your year-end list, don’t forget my novel, Playing the Game. The book has many five star reviews on Amazon, and was ranked the #1 financial thriller this summer in the Kindle store.

Here are a few of my favorite reviews of the book from Amazon:

  • [Playing the Game] has all the trappings of a great tale of corporate fiction, but throw murder into the mix and you have a thriller. The story was so well written, I sailed through it in just one day. A brilliant story wrapped around reality, with believable characters and a plausible plot makes this novel one of the best choices of 2014.
  • If you don’t know anything about the details of how organizations and HR operate and you don’t want to pick up a dry textbook, pick up Playing the Game because, I can assure you, I would have been bored out of my mind if this information wasn’t presented in such an entertaining way. Playing the Game epitomizes information fiction at its best!
  • Rickover’s brilliant prose had to be somewhat anecdotal because the reader is “right there” in those offices, dealing with one crisis after another. This is definitely a fertile story for a movie.
  • This is a fascinating, fast-paced novel about the issues facing the modern corporation: corporate succession, office politics, financing, unionization, and so forth. The characters are sharply drawn and the plot is full of interesting twists; I lost a few hours of evening sleep reading this one, as I couldn’t put it down. Highly recommended!

Thank you for considering Playing the Game!

P.S. Also available in paperback and epub formats on Barnes & Noble.

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Filed under Playing the Game, Writing

A Novel Approach to Training and Development

As the end of the year approaches, managers and HR professionals responsible for training activities might want something unusual for their development programs and opportunities. Might I suggest using a novel to provoke workplace discussions about management and leadership issues?

This isn’t a unique idea—the Navy used the movie, Twelve O’Clock High, in its well-regarded Command Excellence training program. Business school classes and diversity programs use vignettes and case studies to raise issues all the time. A book simply creates a more complex world for discussion.

My novel, Playing the Game, is set in a corporate world familiar to most employees. If you are an HR professional developing curriculum for new or middle managers, if you are an executive coach needing to launch a discussion with a client, or if you are a manager wanting to get your employees talking about workplace issues, take a look at my book and see if it might help.

Other professionals who might find uses for the novel are

  • lawyers and estate planners initiating conversations about family succession planning in small businesses
  • in-house counsel wanting to talk to managers about legal topics such as reductions in force, employment discrimination, and copyright
  • managers and HR professionals trying to improve work group communications and conflict management

You can find the questions from the discussion guide in the back of the book here. But you can also create questions more suited to your particular needs. If you’d like to chat about the book before using it in a training program, please contact me at SaraLRickover (at) gmail.com.

I’m also available for group conversations via teleconference or Skype with any work groups or book clubs discussing Playing the Game.

My novel is available in both paperback and ebook formats on Amazon (Kindle) and Barnes & Noble (Nook).

What other novels would be good for leadership and corporate training programs?

PTG Rickover cover

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Filed under Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Playing the Game, Workplace, Writing