Why We Work (It’s Not Just For The Paycheck)

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Duration 01:05:25

UC Berkeley

Barry Schwartz is a Professor at the Haas School of Business, U.C. Berkeley and Emeritus Professor of Psychology at Swarthmore College. He has written several books about human behavior on topics like choice, wisdom, and motivation. He is also the recipient of the Class of 2016 Commencement Award.


For centuries it has been taken for granted that the reason people work is to get paid. If the pay is good, nothing else matters, and if the pay is bad, nothing else matters, so it’s all about the paycheck. This view, though prevalent, is false. People care about much more than their paychecks. They want work that is meaningful and engaging. They want work that gives them some autonomy and control over what they do. They want to be able to grow in their jobs. Yet, most of the work people do has none of these characteristics. As a result, most workers are either un-engaged and actively disengaged from their work. And they do worse work. This talk will explain how a kind of ideology about why people work has taken hold, leaving millions of less profitable companies, dissatisfied workers, and disappointed customers and clients in its wake. The pandemic’s celebration of front-line “heroes” may point the way out of this waste of human talent and potential.



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Dianna Lord

Good Reasons Lead to Good Work

Prof. Schwartz’s pleasant presentation style makes the information easy to listen to. His ideas about why people do great work can be a source of inspiration for individuals and organizations.

2 years ago
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