I truly have no idea why I bought This Could Hurt by Jillian Medoff. Maybe it’s because I miss the hustle and bustle of working in an office? Maybe it’s because my good friend Mrs P is a freelance human resources whizz? More likely it’s because I remember those early office based novels, centering around emails, that seemed to be in all the bookshops at the turn of the millenium and were so fun and unusual to read. Whatever the reason, I’m ever so glad I picked this book up.
This Could Hurt tells the story of an HR department, within a consumer research company, around the time of the 2010 downturn. Yes, you might be thinking that Nutshell is overstepping the mark here and that this story sounds as dull as dishwater, but please bear with me. I’m hazarding a guess that most readers have, at one point or another, worked in an office environment and what Medoff is writing about here is not so much the workings of HR, but rather the dynamics of office life. I myself worked in public relations for six years at three small companies and each company was profoundly different, but there are some universal truths. We all make friends and have people we dislike in any corporate environment. There are projects that we have put on a backburner and perhaps deliberately dodged all together. We all knew who the office gossip was, who was sleeping with who and often, who we would allow into our lives beyond the day to day grind of working life. This forms who we are as people and the basis of Medoff’s novel.
Rosa Guerrero is a widowed, sixty-something, head of HR. She is much loved and admired by her co-workers who in turn seek her approval, her admiration and in some cases, her job. When Rosa takes ill, her team rallies around her, protecting her job and their own during the downturn. In the course of the novel you become acquainted not only with Rosa, but with four of her team members, all very different in personality and all of whom have entirely relatable career aspirations and domestic issues. What works so well is that This Could Hurt is engaging, compelling and dare I say, funny at points. Somehow Medoff manages to pull off a corporate novel that reads with realism and utilizes no gimmicks in order to engage her audience.
For Mrs P I would imagine that such a read might just be a busman’s holiday, but for the rest of us, it’s a good time. Well worth it.