Internet Explorer 11 is not supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

6 Books Public Employees and Managers Should Read

Entering a leadership role? Want a promotion? Need a better work-life balance? These six books (and one guide) might help.

If you’ve resolved to read more in 2014, we’ve compiled a list of the six books we think you should pick up this year. Not all of the books are public-sector focused, but we think they all have a little something to offer.

The First 90 Days in Government: Critical Success Strategies for New Public Managers at All Levels (Affiliate)

Thousands of public employees take on new management positions every year. While each leadership position presents its own challenges, it’s great to have a guide on how to avoid some common pitfalls. This book, by Peter H. Daly, a former director of a federal agency, and Michael Watkins, a leadership consultant, is an excellent primer on how to transition into a new role and make an immediate and lasting impact. The book focuses on key transition issues such as clarifying expectations with a new boss, gaining credibility through early successes, building a team, creating supportive relationships, and developing short- and long-term strategies. Watkins recently published an updated version of The First 90 Days, which, although not public-sector focused like the original, does offer some useful strategies for a smooth transition.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful (Affiliate)

If your first 90 days are a thing of the past, and you’d like something a little lighter, check this book out. It’s not public-sector focused, but Marshall Goldsmith, an award-winning author on leadership, describes habits that are hindering workplace growth that can apply to anyone. The comic strip format makes for a quick, funny read.

Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Affiliate)

Another book worth picking up this year is due out March 4. Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, two Harvard Law School professors, dive into the world of annual evaluations and unsolicited advice to teach people how to use the constant feedback to better themselves. This book teaches employees to stop dreading or disregarding what their boss or coworkers (or spouse or friends) are saying and instead grow from and value the advice.

Engaging Government Employees: Motivate and Inspire Your People to Achieve Superior Performance (Affiliate)

If you’re a public manager, you know the importance of motivating your employees to give you their best work every day. Bob Lavigna, a 2000 Governing Public Official of the Year, gives advice on how to do just that. The book focuses on how employee engagement can improve organizations and offers the tools to nurture and sustain a highly engaged workforce. This book, written specifically for the public sector, draws on Lavigna’s decades of experience working in public personnel in Wisconsin and rejects the idea that there is a one-size-fits-all approach to motivating employees. Engaging Government Employees will teach you why investing real time and effort into your team has invaluable results (and why the occasional donut Monday’s don’t work).

Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion (Affiliate)

Tired of listening to your colleague take all the credit while you quietly do all the work? Journalist and musician David Zweig takes a look at some of the world’s most successful people that we’ve never heard of; the book will be available May 15. Zweig carefully chose a variety of people—from United Nations interpreters to skyscraper engineers—who desire a fulfilling job over accolades. The subject matter will likely ring true with public employees who often receive little recognition for the services they deliver.

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time (Affiliate)

Need a break but can’t find the time? Washington Post reporter Brigid Schulte has a book coming out March 11 that asks two questions we all want answers to: Why are things the way they are? And how can they be different? Schulte takes the reader along on her journey to find out why our culture has become so obsessed with being busy and what it’s doing to us. Along the way, she shares insights from those who seem to have it all figured out—or are at least finding a greater work-life balance than the rest of us. Hopefully the book will help you find ways to carve out a little more leisure time in your life.

The GovLoop Guide to Workforce Planning in the Public Sector

GovLoop, an online community of federal, state and local government employees, puts out a number of topic-specific guides every year. A lot of their information is federally focused, but this particular guide draws on the experience of North Carolina's personnel department to offer strategies for workforce management like understanding current needs, developing and implementing a new workforce plan, and evaluating and managing that plan. This short (just 25 pages), free read can be downloaded on the GovLoop website.

For more book recommendations, go to

What else is on your reading list this year? Share with us in the comments below!

This appears in our free, monthly Public Workforce e-newsletter. Click to subscribe.

This post contains affiliate links, which means we receive payment if you make a purchase using these links.

Heather Kerrigan is a GOVERNING contributor. She pens the monthly Public Workforce column and contributes to the print magazine.
From Our Partners