Bardwick’s purpose is to examine what she characterizes as “a widespread sense of vulnerability in the American workplace…After many decades of being fat, dumb, and happy, American businesses and American workers have been forced into a change. In a relatively short time, fat has morphed into thin and happy into frightened. Prolonged fear does not bode well for future success.” Throughout her rigorous and lively narrative, she examines the causes, effects, and implications of what she characterizes as “the psychological recession that’s alienating employees and hurting American business.”
In a study of 50,000 employees at 59 global companies conducted by the Corporate Executive Board, one of its most significant revelations is that “emotional factors were four times more effective in increasing employee engagement rather than rational ones.” Some of the most valuable material in Bardwick’s book is provided in Chapter 6 (“Commitment and Engagement – Not Morale or Satisfaction”) because without full engagement by everyone involved in the given enterprise, it will be difficult (if not impossible) to achieve its objectives, whatever they may be. She stresses the importance of asking the right questions, hiring and then retaining the right people, and measuring the right attributes; otherwise, employee “morale” and “satisfaction” are meaningless terms.
She also provides a wealth of information and counsel that explains how to formulate and then implement initiatives that will help any organization to avoid or recover from the current “psychological recession.” I wholeheartedly agree with Judith Bardwick that we need “to regain our traditional spirit of optimism and fierce [but principled] competitiveness that makes us internally as well as externally competitive” because organizations “cannot flourish and fulfill their possibilities when their leaders and their labor force are chronically scared. Fear destroys energy, trust, teamwork, innovation, and courage.
That is why Bardwick and I both believe, and why Helen Keller once so passionately affirmed, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”