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At the recent Society for Human Resource Management convention, Alan Levins was pleased to have sold more than 200 copies of the new book he helped write: “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” It would make sense for his firm, Littler Mendelson, to plug the book at their convention table: It puts the firm’s name — done up in peach-colored letters — under the eyes of concerned managers who may turn to the book for guidance. Levins co-wrote the book with syndicated columnist Bob Rosner, whose “Working Wounded” column runs in the San Francisco Chronicle, and journalist Alan Halcrow. An employment lawyer at Littler since 1973, Levins says he joined the book project because he saw a need for a handbook that didn’t fall into the categories of being either “touchy-feely” management advice or a dry, droning legal guide. “There were no books out there that tell managers what to do with the issues they face every day, and which has a legal backbone,” said Levins, whose clients include American Airlines, Mrs. Fields Cookies and the California Hotel and Lodging Association. So it follows that “The Boss’s Survival Guide” is easy reading laden with cheeky humor — and that it has a “Stay Out of Jail” section in nearly every chapter. Levins joined the book project after being approached by Rosner, who had been planning the book with Halcrow and wanted to make sure that all of its content was legally prudent. A long-distance runner originally from Chicago, Levins went even further, insisting that there be sections on discipline, termination and performance evaluations. The finished book has sections with names like “Performance Reviews: How to Keep Employees on Track,” and “Constructive Terminations: How to Protect Yourself from Claims People Were Forced to Quit.” But Levins said he was motivated most of all by the goal of teaching bosses how to actually be liked by their employees. “It became really apparent to me that the immediate supervisor represents the company,” he said, in reference to his 28 years of involvement in employment disputes. “Often it was the supervisor that was the main problem with people wanting unions and with litigation.” And the two-child, post-baby-boom generation, he continues, means there will be a gross labor shortage in coming years, and companies need to gear their management approach toward retaining employees. He cites statistics which show that 40 percent of employees who don’t like their immediate supervisors will likely have left their jobs within the course of a year, while only 11 percent of those who like their bosses will move on. “It’s no longer ‘do unto employees as you’d want them to do unto you,’ ” he said. “ It’s ‘do unto employees as they’d have you do unto them!’ “ Levins said 10,000 copies of the book — released by McGraw-Hill this month — have already been printed. And his firm has been giving them away like candy, having bought more than 1,500 copies. “It shows our best face; it shows a very practical side,” said the firm’s managing director, Wendy Tice-Wallner. “Rather than speaking to clients in a very legalistic way that they don’t understand, it brings a sense of practicality and simplicity to everyday problems.” Levins affirms: “It’s not a legal book.”

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