The Way We Think About Work Is Broken

Barry Schwartz is an American psychologist. Schwartz is the Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College. He frequently publishes editorials in the New York Times applying his research in psychology to current events, and is the author/co-author of several books including Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing about topics such as decision making, creation of values, interaction of morality and self interest, work satisfaction, role of ideology in assessing psychological theories, and basic learning processes. Quite a hefty resume.


You don’t need a shrink to tell you that work/life balance is a necessity, and that too much work can take a toll on you. Or do you? Are you getting intangible benefits from your work other than a paycheck? Is it time to rethink the workplace? Are you changing the workforce with the way you act with your employees?


In this TED talk, Barry discusses work. Why do we work? Outside of making a living, some people have fulfilling careers that challenge the mind and the senses. Jobs that make an impact on the world at large. But what about most of the rest of the world? Why do we find work without meaning unsavory and, more importantly, why do we do it if it is unsavory? He talks about the history, science, and psychology behind the way our society has come to view work.


I think this is as relevant for those who own, manage, or run a small business as it is for people who are employed by others. It is important to understand the needs of your staff and the best way for them to grow and feel compensated mentally and emotionally, and even physically in their jobs. It is vital to the health of your business to be mindful of the health of your employees, even if that means changing the way that your business operates.


As an entrepreneur or someone who is self-employed, it is important to reevaluate what you have been taught about the workplace by participating in it for years. The cycle of perpetuation can end with you, and the structure of your business plan, or your day-to-day way of doing business for yourself can become much more fulfilling.