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Why We Work

Narrated by: Barry Schwartz
Length: 2 hrs and 48 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (177 ratings)

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Publisher's 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 members say

Average Customer Ratings

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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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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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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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.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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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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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.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael H
  • 04-29-19

Interesting examination of how to make work better

Perhaps a better title would be "How to develop a meaningful work life." I'm a huge fan of Barry Schwartz however this is a short book and I would have liked more depth. It is still worth reading though.