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Book: The Crisis of Authority - Workforce Tensions by Myrah Tshabalala

Book Review: The Crisis of Authority - Workforce Tensions by Myrah Tshabalala

categories: Book, Leadership, Management, Tensions and Conflicts, Poor Service Delivery, Protests, Racism, Victimisation, Oppression, Organisational Environment, Values and Ethics, Climate and Culture, Public Service


Myrah Tshabalala

Author Myrah Tshabalalaabout this book: • The heading
The title was influenced by the research findings that show what the workforce journeyed through years of ignorance, frustration, anger, despair and bitterness.

• Book title: The Crisis of Authority – Workforce Tensions
• Book subtitle: A Desperate Call for Intervention

• The cover
This alone represents this miserable journey with the workforce pleading and fawning to high and mighty know-all superiors.

• Theme
An operational manager takes on a courageous effort to unravel the origin of the dreadful service delivery and the appalling attitude of staff in the public sector

• The problem
The state of the public service is seen as "frightening" and is described as a "sector in turmoil". The truth is South Africa faces an enormous challenge in improving quality services not only to meet the citizens’ expectations of quality services but also to improve service delivery to ensure quality life for the nation. The key concern is how an institution as big as government, with a multigenerational and hierarchical workforce has difficulties in getting the best out of its employees. This disturbing observation has not only been expressed by the citizens but by the government and also the public servants. This then created an urgent need to establish what went wrong and how can the situation be turned around.

• Background
Through its relentless effort, the government has over many years invested in the development of management in the public service and the revelation in these efforts having minimal impact, has without doubt called for new and drastic measures to bring about the much – anticipated change for the better.

The struggle for the correct understanding of what management truly means causes a major problem that needs appropriate attention to better performance at workplaces. However, what is clear is that management is not so much in words as in thoughts, words, deeds, habits, attitudes, behaviors, and decisions sinse these are determining factors to success.

As much literature expose managers’ faults that bring them down, the book attempted to understand where they maybe coming from, reasons and burdens that may contribute to problematic thoughts, words, deeds, habits, attitudes, behaviors, and decisions in their day to day management. It also attempted to understand how demanding and complicating their jobs can be and plausible reasons for the unpleasant, less humane world of employment they create. As subordinates cannot surely be completely faultless, contribution by their silent anger to managers’ shortfalls consciously or not, is also addressed. However, the workforce is currently not in the right frame of mind, soul, spiritually and emotionally thus, making conscious, compassionate, and enhancing choices and efforts in the workplace difficult to impossible. A bitter workforce can never be loyal & or productive. It is in this realm that lies explanation for the much talked about rudeness, laziness & incompetence in those in touch with the people they serve.

The belief in this book is that there cannot be foreseeable success in any troubled environment, particularly a workplace where there is disconnection between authority and employees with many souls broken. There is a need to reconnect humans with their souls, acquaint themselves within, and focus completely on themselves, their problems, and their experiences. To have and maintain this connection, there need to be serenity where they shall not be combative or defensive in thoughts, words, habits, deeds, attitudes, behaviors, and decisions. The author intensely believes that the most crucial challenge currently facing the public sector is to first make it more humane, healthy, and safe to can be able to make it more efficiently and effectively; otherwise, legislation, policies, ethical codes of conduct and important efforts would continue to remain less effective. She also believes that unless the workplace is liberated from all the negativity, particularly tensions, fear, anger, and bitterness and unless the hearts and minds of the workforce are cleansed, changed, and healed, it remains hard to believe that trees will ever bear healthy and adequate fruit for the nation to benefit from.

These are the most troubling times that require authorities to look inward to find some answers for betterment of the public service. The workforce is undoubtedly under pressure to produce results, and this is one critical time wherein authority and employees need to accept that they have now reached a point where they have to all stand up and stand together more than ever.

• Motivation
This follows a culmination of several disturbing issues such as the growing concern that the performance of the public sector has not kept pace with the expectations by both the government and the public demand for quality services. Upsetting encounters and statements by both government and the citizens such as:
- The government conceding that it must be more effective in its actions and how it needed to understand and accept why it has too often not met its objectives in delivering quality services.
- The enormous challenge that the country faces in transforming its delivery of service not only to meet the citizens’ expectations of quality services but also to improve service delivery to ensure quality life for the nation
- The following particular two issues identified by the government: Management weaknesses and absence of a strong performance culture which are clearly a major public service problem
- The dire situation particularly wherein as public servants are least prepared and equipped to do their work (as described by the former Auditor General; Terence Nombembe).
- Concession that the public has been patient in the face of mediocre services for almost two decades (Former Deputy President; Kgalema Motlanthe).
- The fast-growing loss of credibility and respect for both government and public servants to provide quality
- The employees who seem less inspired and translated by the public as being lazy, etc.

I have found all these indicating a sector in turmoil, challenging and a call for everyone particularly leadership and management to step back and think of what could be their role in this equation. The situation creates an urgent need to establish what went wrong, how can the situation be turned around and who is responsible? As a manager in the public service, I felt challenged and persuaded to rise up to the challenge.

• The book
The book “The Crisis of Authority – Workforce Tensions: A Desperate Call for Intervention” is a call to awakening. It is the author’s humble contribution towards the betterment of the performance of the public service. It is relevant in today's society with poor service delivery being at the centre of their anger and bitterness which have a tendency to spring up every now and then.

This is one most courageous thing that anyone can do. It is something that rarely happens, if it ever happens and may be the first in the country; that such a book is written by an insider at management level and who is still operative. A book that tackles head on workplace issues that no one want to talk about. It also noted too that even the media is only skirting around them. The book is not an inference about leadership and management failures in the public service but an insider's expose. An eye-opener, new book that seeks to urge the authorities to address and improve working conditions to be able to improve South Africa’s service delivery to better meet citizen’s needs.

It is aimed to the authorities, the workforce as well as the public in South Africa. It aimed to renew the mindset, foster change of hearts and minds and deepen adherence to the constitution, labour laws and policies of the country. It speaks to the core responsibilities of Public Sector Managers, plight of the workforce and sets out to empower the less empowered and give voice to the voiceless.

Core responsibilities of public service managers are set out in clear and concise terms.The Senior Management Service (SMS) programme was developed out of the recognition of the critical role that management plays in the effective and efficient functioning of the Public Service.

It is unquestionably eye-opening and encouraging for it highlights the system's fundamental shortcomings. It isn’t about leadership and management theories but a true representation of realism in the public service. In short, the book looked deeper into the role of management in this equation and exposes alarming concerns, the horrendous and unacceptable management weaknesses, the untold sorrows victims endure that are coupled with a serious lack of the right attitude to victims and to address them - all of which has lead to workers sacrifice dignity for safe relationships with their managers and a compromise on performance and outcome.

It links management weaknesses, absence of a strong performance culture by the public servants and the alarmingly rising number of protests around the country. It exposes the deep rooted causes of the identified problems. Of critical importance, the turbulent relationship between public sector management and its workforce has contributed immensely to the unspeakable attitude in the public sector.

The book is not only a book that points out what’s wrong but also provides necessary suggestions to address the issues and attempts to improve the situation in the public sector. Of significance, it serves as a platform for everyone to make things right by joining the movement towards an improved service delivery system for the country.

The proposed solutions use the Pareto’s Principle or 80-20 Rule with focus on the 20% that matter for the 80% of the challenges. They include mechanisms or constructive traditions to try reverse the embedded bad habits, ensure success in healing the broken hearts and the damaged minds of the many public servants. The constructive traditions emphasize the need for all parties to self-reflect, introspect, self-interrogation and ultimately self-development. In an effort to bring about mindfulness in management, one of the mechanisms is about self-assessment and a tool (mirror) is provided for a deeper look at self. Herein is the video link - Manager Assessment Tool | Manage Your Manager

• Conclusion
This book is about deeper stuff, it is about soul searching, it appeals to human conscience, emotional, psychological, and spiritual point of reference, and it provides opportunity to seek remorse and regret. It is about the critical need to cleanse & heal the workplace. It leaves the reader with a call to action as it advocates for healing and encourages reflecting, introspecting, self-interrogation, and self-therapy, which is inner work and calls on everyone (managers and employees) to interrogate their contribution to the situation at the workplace. With reference to the Supreme Law of Nature—‘You Reap What You Sow.’ As leaders and managers in the public service, we are basically responsible for what we do in leadership and management and what work life brings to us, organisations and probably the public at large.

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 profoundly telling in its willingness to refuse the victim label to claim the victor label we are the "master of our own destiny"

the extent to which team members accept their shared goals and actively contribute to their team will become a direct output of the collective effort... ASKING THE HARD QUESTIONS that require asking for a firmer foundation for improving the experience for services giver and services user.

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Video 1: Myrah Mashigo Tshabalala - Interview by ANN7
Video 2: Manager Assessment Tool -

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