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A Great Place To Work… And Live?


I trusted friend of mine suggested I read one of his favorite books on the workplace, A Great Place to Work: What Makes Some Employers So Good–And Most So Bad by Robert Levering.  So, naturally, I got my copy from Amazon and gave it the once over.

What I found most intriguing wasn’t the history of the American workplace or management styles but the parallels between what is happening in the American economy today and what was occurring in the mid 1980s when the book was written.

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience. — George Bernard Shaw

The book itself is a well written account of the evolution of the American workplace.  It begins by defining, or at least attempting to define, what a great workplace is.  Through examples we see how the principles of Taylor, Mayo, Drucker and Peters shaped the workplace in their own image.  They each “knew” what was wrong with the worker and how to “fix” them.  Was the American worker “broken?”  You’ll have to read the book to find out.

What does make a company one of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America?”  What can a manager or business owner do to bring the best out of his or her workforce?

It all comes down to trust.  Building trust in our relationships whether the relationship is between a manager and employee, husband and wife, parent and child, educator and student, co-workers, schoolmates, Wall Street investor and board of directors, or politician and constituent, trust is what binds us and allows us to thrive.  Violate that trust and those relationships fall apart.  Nurture the bond of trust and those relationship become stronger, more giving, even… great.

So, just what does this have to do with history repeating itself?  The book was written nearly 25 years ago.  It was birth of the entrepreneurial workplace, leveraged buy out, and golden parachutes.  Larger than life characters, both real and fictional such as Michael Milken, Leona Helmsley and Gordon Gekko made headlines.  The violations in trust perpetrated on the American worker and the American economy are strikingly similar to what is occurring today.

The names of the characters may have changed… Bernie Madoff, Dennis Kozlowski, Angelo Mozilo… just to name a few but the basic tenets that led to the economic and societal ills of the 1980s appear to be flourishing.

Is today’s economic debacle rooted in violations of trust?  Has corporate America once again violated our trust as they did in the 1980s?  Can that violated trust be restored so we may once again live and work in great times?  Only time will tell.

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~ by Marc Hedish on February 6, 2010.

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