Why We Work Book Summary - Why We Work Book explained in key points
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Why We Work summary

Barry Schwartz

Hint: it's not for money

3.9 (69 ratings)
12 mins

What is Why We Work about?

Why We Work (2015) exposes the flawed assumptions that govern the modern working world. These blinks walk you through the reasons why current management strategies backfire, and show you some far more effective alternatives. In addition, case studies based on company success stories illustrate just how powerful engaged and fulfilled employees can be.

Table of Contents

    Why We Work
    summarized in 5 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 5

    The most fulfilling work allows us to make a difference in the lives of others.

    Do you know what your work means to you? Whether you know exactly how and why your work matters, or have never really thought about it, your answer is a key indicator of your experience of work.

    People tend to see work from three different standpoints. For some of us, work might be nothing more than a job. We do it to pay the bills, buy groceries and have some spending money. Work is necessary, but going beyond a job’s required tasks is pushing it.

    Others perceive their work as a career; in other words, a period that is hopefully characterized by progress and growth. Career-minded people work for promotions, raises and increased responsibilities. They certainly expect more fulfillment from their positions than those for whom work is merely a job.

    Still others believe their work to be a calling. For these people, the work they do creates positive change in the world. Their work becomes not only a vital part of life, but a source of happiness too.

    You probably know people that fit into each of these categories. Perhaps you’ve found yourself in all three of them at different stages in your life. But why do these differing attitudes exist in the first place?

    Well, that’s a question that one American psychologist was determined to answer. Amy Wrzesniewski and her team conducted interviews and studies with individuals across different fields and industries in order to find out what made their work a calling and not just a job.

    Hospital custodians cited interactions with patients as the most fulfilling aspect of their work, while administrative assistants said they felt most satisfied when supporting their faculty in providing education to tomorrow's leaders. In both cases, employees felt their work was a calling when witnessing the positive changes they made in the lives of others.

    How can you make your employees feel like their work is a calling? Find out in the following blinks.

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    Best quote from Why We Work

    The difference between the good and the bad had less to do with actual duties than it did with the context in which my duties were embedded.

    —Barry Schwartz
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    About the Author

    Barry Schwartz is an American psychologist and Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. He has authored more than ten books and published well over 100 papers in scientific journals. He also writes for leading newspapers, is a regular guest on radio programs and has even given two TED talks.

    Who should read Why We Work?

    • Human resources professionals interested in the key principles of employee well-being
    • Employers grappling with a demotivated team
    • Entry-level employees interested in the real landscape of the working world

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