Employee Engagement: What I Learned from Why We Work

Why We Work by Barry Schwartz

Suggested reading time = One minute and eleven seconds

Why We Work Barry Schwartz

Over the Christmas holidays I read Barry Schwartz’s book on Why We Work.  I have decided to tightly focus my next 4 years on teaching about work and employee engagement. Having taught Educational Psychology at the University of Manitoba for twenty-five years, I think a vital quality of a good teacher is to be a good learner. To this end, I am studying rather than just reading a variety of book and I am also taking a number of courses on Coursera. I believe a good teacher should always stay in touch with what it feels like to be a learner.

I have appreciated Barry’s writing since his book on The Paradox of Choice. His new book, Why We Work, is a pithy 90 page TEDBooks examining meaning and work. I appreciate how Schwartz debunked the role of pay and incentives as the only reason we work and how incentives can interfere with our why of work. He does a fine job of outlining Amy Wrzesniewski’s work on job, career, calling, and job crafting through the case of Luke, a hospital custodian. I liked the section about when we ask people what they do they don’t usually tell us their job description, they offer us a story.

I did not learn anything new from the book but I received a valuable reminder of the power of meaning, autonomy, choice, and engagement in making work meaningful.

Learning often entails relearning what we already knew but have lost sight of. Learning is often more about having good questions rather than ready made answers. So here is my question for you:

Why do you work?

David Zinger is an employee engagement educator, expert, and speaker.

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