“Why are we so unhappy in our work and our jobs?”
That is the question to which Karger and Aldrine offer answers, to include the early-inculcated western fascination with money, making our work not an end, but a means to an end – more money and the stuff it can buy. “In America,” Karger observes, “we talk of ‘growing up to be what you want to be,’ but what we really mean is ‘growing up to have what you want to have.’ Having, not being, is the American Dream, and work is the cost of our ticket.”
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Because money, not happiness, is the goal of work for most employees in the American workplace, it is hardly surprising that most jobs have not been designed to bring meaning and joy but are designed with efficiency as the sole goal. Via the scientific method, division of labor, the time clock and the computer, work has been sliced into smaller functions, each performed in less time, each seemingly having little relationship to the whole.
Our “mistaken belief that more money will make us happier and that more will one day become enough has kept most workers in harness in meaningless, repetitive jobs,” say Karger and Aldrine, even in the face of “overwhelming evidence shows that beyond the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and education -- money and happiness are disconnected.”
Based on analyses of dozens of studies and their substantial anecdotal perspective, the authors suggest that the individual relationships between managers and the employees they supervise is most important to positive workplace morale. What kind of relationships? Meaningful, empathetic relationships – relationships that require greater knowledge on the part of managers about the lives, beliefs, and goals of their employees.
“The post-modern manager must be the mother, father, brother, sister, pastor, and psychiatrist for all of her employees,” Karger argues, and in the second half of Why Work Isn’t Working Anymore, he describes a simple 3-tool system used successfully by thousands of managers today to create healthy, happy relationships in their workplaces, and thereby make their workplaces better places.
Unlike many business tomes, the authors do not attempt to “convince managers that they are right, but rather introduce a simple system that requires modification of management behavior, which when successful, modifies managers’ beliefs.” Each tool requires the user to engage in empathy-producing behavior and document it, to include, learning important facts about employees, palpable use of that knowledge in their service, and introspection. Powerful to be sure, yet the entire system requires an expenditure of no more than 15 minutes a day.
In the final chapter of Why Work Isn’t Working Anymore, the authors challenge corporate America to open itself to fundamental structural change via establishment of employee happiness as a primary goal, and the embracement of meaningful, healthy relationships between managers and the employees for whom they are responsible as the way to achieve that goal. These are relationships based on a foundation of more than mutual economic dependency, but in genuine care, compassion, and concern.
“Endemic change in the ethos of what work is, what work can become, and how our jobs should fit into our lives is essential if half of the American workforce, currently dissatisfied and discouraged with work, is to salvage any joy and satisfaction from their waking hours. Only by understanding why we are not happy at work can we grasp the futility of continuing to do the same old things in the same old ways, and understand that by relegating the entire work experience to economics we will continue to view work as being something we give up in order to have the very things that, in the end, will not make us happy or satisfied.”
The three tools introduced in Why Work Isn’t Working Anymore are the functional beginning of this effort and have proven highly effective in a myriad of workplaces to modify managerial behaviors, work environments, and subsequently, beliefs about what work should provide each of us.
This book is a significant step toward the creation of the post-modern workplace, a workplace in which managing and caring not only coexist but are dependent upon one another.