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Summary

An eye-opening, groundbreaking tour of the purpose of work in our lives, showing how work operates in our culture and how you can find your own path to happiness in the workplace.

Why do we work? The question seems so simple. But Professor Barry Schwartz proves that the answer is surprising, complex, and urgent.

We've long been taught that the reason we work is primarily for a paycheck. In fact we've shaped much of the infrastructure of our society to accommodate this belief. Then why are so many people dissatisfied with their work, despite healthy compensation? And why do so many people find immense fulfillment and satisfaction through "menial" jobs? Schwartz explores why so many believe that the goal of working should be to earn money, how we arrived to believe that paying workers more leads to better work, and why this has made our society confused and unhappy and has established a dangerously misguided system.

Through fascinating studies and compelling anecdotes, this book dispels this myth. Schwartz takes us through hospitals and hair salons, auto plants and boardrooms, showing workers in all walks of life, showcasing the trends and patterns that lead to happiness in the workplace. Ultimately Schwartz proves that the root of what drives us to do good work can rarely be incentivized and that the cause of bad work is often an attempt to do just that. How did we get to this tangled place? How do we change the way we work? With great insight and wisdom, Schwartz shows us how to take our first steps toward understanding and empowering us all to find great work.

©2015 Barry Schwartz. All rights reserved. (P)2015 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.

What listeners say about Why We Work

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A subject in the hands of an expert teacher

I've come across ideas around good work needing meaning and purpose before. However the author takes it to the next level by linking it to ideology, the incomplete nature of individuals, and self fulfilling prophecies.

The writing lacks any flab, or complex terminology. Key ideas and examples are explained well, and they are repeated appropriately, without becoming repetitive; and there are no fillers or unconvincing detours.

I believe I've learnt something which I will apply when considering life in general, and work in particular.

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LM 101

The concept and historical references are compelling reasons for root and branch change for the mechanics of labour division.

All leaders and line managers will improve their ability to manage change in a manner that will improve working conditions for their employees as well as increasing drive and desire or the workforce to engage in the work.

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  • Mark Hampson
  • 24-10-15

All corporate execs should get this message

This concise presentation of the human nature of what incentivized people to perform their best in the workplace, or any task for that matter, encourages managers and business leaders to look beyond financial incentives to improve their business performance. Great connections are made between the actions of real employees, working for real companies, and the theories presented.
Particularly at large industrial companies, we need to consider that the company does more than just make profits for its investors. Ultimate efficiency, where employee engagement is reduced to doing exactly and precisely the instructed task leads to disengaged employees who have no vested interest in improvement of their condition which in turn leads to reduced innovation and higher worker turnover. Mr. Schwartz's suggestions to develop committed employees would benefit all businesses.

I rated the performance 3 stars because the audio levels varied considerably and made it distracting to have to adjust the volume frequently to accommodate.

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  • Sherrie Smith
  • 27-08-18

No gimics. Lots of depth. Read when all else fails

I picked up this book hoping to revitalize myself and sick of motivational quotes. I was pleasantly suprised and refreshed by the relatable examples.

This took what I learned in business school and updated it based on decades of study, and a real look at what keeps us going. It helped me remember why I aspired for a career in the first place.

I appreciated that this book is written for everyone employed, regardless of rank, pay, or tenure.

I will be placing this prominently on my bookshelf to recommend to others.

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  • Connie
  • 16-12-16

Good book for those interested in learning social sciences

I probably was not the target audience. I studied psychology and am an organizational psychology professional. The book was nice but I did not hear anything new that I was unfamiliar with. It is presented in a good way for those unfamiliar with the topic, as I suppose most ted talks and the like one. Interesting work and good presentation of it though

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  • Nader Vossoughian
  • 02-03-21

better as it goes on....

this is an excellent book that gets much better in the second half. the basic thesis, that work should be meaningful and that most forms of work are capable of providing meaning, is simple. what is far more interesting is the argument that the author offers against sticks and carrots based approaches to workplace design. the sticks and carrots approach, he argues, suffers from the fact that it often becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. if you treat people like commodities, they will behave like commodities, doing as little as they need to to satisfy contractual obligations. if you allow people space to derive meaning from work, establishing autonomy and an environment where a growth mindset can take root, they will thrive. this applies to janitors and not just lawyers or teachers. the best discussion concerns the author's application of marx's notion of ideology to incentive based workplace mechanisms.

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  • G.M.
  • 26-06-16

groundbreakingly subversive

this expresses and deepens how I've felt forever about motivations, incentives and social assumptions, while thinking very free shared my vision. it draws from psychology, management, economics and philosophy to provide valuable insights and an alternative view of labour . great work

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  • bob
  • 01-06-18

plattitudes and fluff

I hate academics, they don't know much : ( fluff and useless plattitudes. Academics don't seems to have as real work understanding or are able to communicate in an efficient way.

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  • Arasu
  • 15-10-15

New believes give new hopes for modern generations

this books put forth new ideas about why we work. at least summarizes new ideas. but to influence the mainstream believes, and practices these ideas have to be proved with data and evidences.