New American Workplace


Thirty years ago, the bestselling "letter to the government" Work in America published to national acclaim, including front-page coverage in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. It sounded an alarm about worker dissatisfaction and the effects on the nation as a whole. Now, based on thirty years of research, this new book sheds light on what has changed—and what hasn't. This groundbreaking work will illuminate the new critical issues—from worker demands to the new ethical rules to the ...

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Thirty years ago, the bestselling "letter to the government" Work in America published to national acclaim, including front-page coverage in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post. It sounded an alarm about worker dissatisfaction and the effects on the nation as a whole. Now, based on thirty years of research, this new book sheds light on what has changed—and what hasn't. This groundbreaking work will illuminate the new critical issues—from worker demands to the new ethical rules to the revolution in culture at work.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Offers a persuasive argument for high-wage, self-managed employment. . . . Employees confronting the changed world of work will be better off for reading it."—BusinessWeek


"This comprehensive and authoritative volume presents the latest information on trends and conditions in the U.S. workplace with clarity and tangible detail."—Library Journal


". . . an optimistic updating . . . also reckons with technological forces and a global economy that are radically and rapidly disrupting business organizations."—Fast Company


"James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler definitely tackle 'must-address' topics in their examination of the American workplace, including outsourcing, immigration, compensation, public policy, and work/life issues."—IndustryWeek


"This book makes a compelling argument about where the workplace has been, where it is now, and where it is going . . . it raises questions and provides insight about what the US and organizational managers need to do to remain competitive."—Human Resource Planning 


"It would be impossible to understand the 21st-century workplace without this book. Certainly the management book of the year; probably of this decade."—Warren Bennis, author of On Becoming a Leader

"A thoroughly researched inquiry into the dramatic transformation of work in America, The New American Workplace challenges everyone—employers, workers and elected officials—to act now to keep our country competitive in the 21st century."—U.S. Representative Tom Allen

"The New American Workplace provides a compelling account of the pressures for change in the workplace and how they are playing out for employers and employees."—Peter Cappelli, Editor of The Academy of Management Executive and Director of the Center for Human Resources, The Wharton School

"In this revealing work, O'Toole and Lawler highlight the growing sophistication required of all interested parties and the increasing interdependencies that each must exhibit if the United States is to survive and thrive in the years ahead. The insights they offer are both intimidating and exhilarating and lay out the challenges that all of us will have to take on in the years to come."—Dave Pace, Executive Vice-President, Partner Resources, Starbucks Coffee Company

"Filled with both information and insight, the book provides a fantastic overview of the contemporary world of work and what that picture says about public policy imperatives."—Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First, Professor, Stanford Business School

Publishers Weekly
Several decades after USC professor O'Toole contributed to a Department of Health, Education and Welfare task force report called "Work in America," he and coauthor Lawler, another USC professor, commissioned 16 papers reviewing its conclusions, which are summarized here in workmanlike style. The 1973 study described workers trapped in dehumanizing jobs, which damaged economic productivity and workers' health and happiness; it prescribed job enrichment, improved education (especially technical and mid-career training) and government-funded research. However, the original study missed the three major forces that were transforming the workplace: "globalization, technology and the nature of equity ownership." Tracing the effect of these changes through the early 1990s, the new study concludes that they have eased but not eliminated the older problems, while introducing new ones. Another gap in the first study was to focus solely on solutions from governments and employers, while it was changes by workers that drove much of the progress. Arguing that the old recommendations still apply, the authors also propose new ones, including support for entrepreneurs, eased immigration, reduced employment-based taxes and resurrection of a Nixon-era plan for government-subsidized private health insurance. The number of contributors and the long time period under consideration give weight to the conclusions, but the layers of summary, from the original data, academic papers and commissioned papers, in addition to time lags from publishing delays, dull the message and reduce topicality. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This comprehensive and authoritative volume presents the latest information on trends and conditions in the U.S. workplace with clarity and tangible detail. Drawing on commissioned papers by leading experts in their fields and on decades of research, O'Toole (Creating the Good Life) and Lawler (Treat People Right!), both of the Center for Effective Organizations at the University of Southern California, have compiled a valuable information source. Their landmark 1972 report, Work in America, addressed the effects of adverse employment conditions on individuals. This new collaboration follows up on the earlier volume and describes the myriad changes over the last 34 years. The authors consider nearly every issue relevant to the workplace, including public policy, global economics, technology, job and life satisfaction, compensation, benefits, unions, education and training, health and safety, and the nature of organizations. They call for the creation of more work that would meet the financial, psychological, and social needs of employees along with changes in industrial practices and government policy (especially improved healthcare and education) to create a more productive and competitive national economy and a more just society. Recommended for all public and academic libraries.-Donna L. Davey, NYU Lib. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries

The U.S. government’s Work in America report received national acclaim and front-page coverage in media across the United States when it was published 30 years ago. In this summary of The New American Workplace, the long-awaited follow-up to the bestselling Work in America, authors James O’Toole and Edward E. Lawler III provide a comprehensive, authoritative picture of the state of the workplace today.

Work in America
It is now widely recognized that a new global economy is emerging. It is characterized by the transnational flow of capital, goods, services and labor; by greater national specialization and increased competition across borders; and by the use of new technologies that radically disrupt traditional ways of doing business.

In seeking competitive advantage, the United States has targeted a niche for itself at the top of the world economy: It has opted to use the highest technology, to have the most capital- and knowledge-intensive industries, and to produce the highest-quality and highest-value-added goods and services. To maintain its prosperity, the U.S. economy must be in a state of constant change, driven by a process of "creative destruction." Inefficient products, companies, and entire industries continually need to be replaced by new ones employing ever-more complex processes.

What Do Workers Want?
Decades of research establish the fact that three major human needs can be satisfied by gainful employment:

  1. The need for the basic economic resources and security essential to lead good lives.
  2. The need to do meaningful work and the opportunity to grow and develop as a person.
  3. The need for supportive relationships.

It is critical to keep in mind the distinctions among these three types of employment needs - the extrinsic tangible rewards, the work itself, and social relationships - and to understand that jobs satisfying the requirements of one, or even two, of these needs may not satisfy them all.

The Nature of Workplaces Today
There are three emerging management models that are becoming dominant in the economy.

  1. Low-Cost Operators.
  2. Global Competitor Corporations.
  3. High-Involvement Companies.

Changes in the American Workplace
The emergence of a global economy has had a transformational impact on American corporations, forcing many to reinvent themselves to meet increasing competition from overseas. To continually improve their performance, large American businesses now organize with an eye toward being able to change products and strategies rapidly. In many cases, U.S. companies have established operations around the globe.

Global Competitor Organizations
The quintessential manifestation of this new global economic order is the emergence of the Global Competitor organization, the corporate model built to change. This new mode of structuring and managing organizations has enormous consequences for the people who work in them. In creating GC organizations, executives are reconfiguring the American workplace. As a result, employees are working longer and harder, and expectations about their performance have increased.

The Work Itself
The routine and repetitive jobs prevalent in the early 1970s were symbolized - not necessarily accurately - in the popular press by work on assembly lines.

Over the next quarter century, multiple forces conspired to transform American manufacturing, the most profound of which was automation. In addition, three waves of domestic workplace reform - employee involvement, total quality management (TQM), and reengineering - were introduced at about the same time as manufacturing jobs that couldn’t be automated or reformed were being exported.

Reengineering and Offshoring
Offshoring, when coupled with the effects of information technology, is having a profound effect on the nature of work being done by Americans. And when those effects are added to the cumulative impact of employee involvement, TQM and reengineering, the result is a reshaping of many, if not most, domestic jobs. There is some evidence that the combined effect of these changes has been to improve the nature of work in America.

Consequences for the American Worker
As the workplace has been transformed over the last three decades, the consequences for American workers have been as mixed as the nation’s work force is diverse.

Many workers are reporting greater satisfaction with their work, more rewarding careers, and increased opportunities for mobility; at the same time, many others are experiencing greater on-the-job stress, increased tensions between work and family responsibilities, and a loss of meaning and community in the workplace.

Training and Development
Particularly in the last decade, an observable convergence of trends has heightened the need for more, and better, job training: the increasing speed of technology change, the increasing sophistication of foreign competitors, the export of manufacturing jobs, downsizing due to pressures to increase productivity, shortcomings in the quality of formal education, and the aging of the work force. Those trends amount to an almost perfect storm, creating an ever-increasing need for workers to update their skills regularly and, often, to develop entirely new ones.

Choices and Future Directions
Realistically, not all workers have the same opportunity to choose from among the diverse array of employment options available in the workplace. The numbers and kinds of alternatives individuals have are determined by a variety of factors, including their education, skills and work history, and those, in turn, are influenced by the resources available to them and their families and by the personal choices they make early in their lives.

Future of the American Workplace
If the United States is to succeed as the global leader in technology and high value-added goods and services, more corporations must adopt the High-Involvement approach to structuring jobs and employment, individual employees must plan their lives and careers more effectively, and the government must develop new policies, especially with regard to health and education.

The Burden of Change
How much of the burden of change is the responsibility of employers, how much is the responsibility of individuals, and how much is the responsibility of government? Objectively grounding policy analysis in data is an important step in finding the answer to that question. Copyright © 2006 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
—Soundview Summary

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781403984913
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 8/7/2007
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 853,850
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

James O'Toole was chairman of the task force that created Work in America. He is a Research Professor in the Center for Effective Organizations at USC. Formerly Executive VP of the Aspen Institute, he has published thirteen books and over seventy articles. He lives in San Francisco and Malibu. Edward E. Lawler III is founder and Director of the Center for Effective Organizations and Distinguished Professor in the Marshall School of Business, both at USC. He is author or co-author of over thirty-five books and more than three hundred articles. Business Week proclaimed Lawler one of the top six gurus in the field of management, and Human Resource Executive called him one of HR's most influential people. He lives in Los Angeles.

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Table of Contents

1 Work in America 3
2 The nature of organizations 25
3 The work itself 39
4 The employment relationship 61
5 Careers 83
6 Work/life balance 93
7 Health and safety 101
8 Job and life satisfaction 107
9 Performance pressure 111
10 Compensation 115
11 Employee "voice" 121
12 Training and development 127
13 Community and commitment 133
14 Winners and losers 139
15 Organizations and competitiveness 151
16 Public policy 185
17 Individuals 215
18 Future of the American workplace 233
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