Review

The New American Workplace

James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler III



In 1972-73, a survey was conducted to examine working conditions
throughout the United States. THE NEW AMERICAN WORKPLACE brings
that survey to the 21st century, examining all aspects of work and
the American worker in today's global economy. In many industries,
we were the international leader in the 1970s and 1980s, whereas
now there is serious competition from many European and Asian
countries.

In the era of human capital, employee involvement, along with
self-managing work teams, employee stock ownership, high
worker-satisfaction levels and job enrichment are concepts that now
drive many American businesses. "Americans today feel that they
have more freedom and opportunities to learn on the job, and to do
more meaningful work than they did in the 1970's." The work
Americans do now tends to be more "enriched, challenging, and
controlled by employees."

Broken into five parts --- the introduction, Changes in the
American Workplace, Consequences for the American Worker, Choices
and Future Directions, and Conclusions --- THE NEW AMERICAN
WORKPLACE examines the cultural, economic and global attitudes in
America's work environment today.

Employee benefit costs have risen to a staggering 42% of payroll
costs. The costs of jobs held by employees versus contract workers,
independent contractors, outsourced and temporary workers must be a
factor in the cost of a company's product or service. New
employment contracts and performance-based compensation with the
growth-in-knowledge work equals skill-based pay. Careers, work/life
balance, employment-based legislation (such as the Family and
Medical Leave Act of 1993), workplace health and safety, and stress
are examined in detail, as well as job and life satisfaction.

Performance pressures sometimes lead to ethical dilemmas at work.
"Given the changes in the nature of organizations, work, and reward
systems...it is hardly surprising that Americans feel they have to
work harder and faster." Union membership fell to 12% in the
American workforce, as team environments and total quality
initiatives gave workers more freedom, autonomy and voice in the
work they do. "If unions improve their products and more
effectively address the real concerns of workers in the future,
they might be able to regain some of their lost membership and the
strength of their voice, but to do so they will need to rethink
their positions and roles relating to such issues as education and
training the individualization of work relationships, and,
especially, cooperation, with regards to improving business
performance."

Other areas of concern include worker training as it relates to
transferable skills, the lack of equity between large corporation
CEOs and their minimum-wage workers, average executive compensation
versus the performance and profit of the company, a sense of
community in the workplace, the movement to understand and
communicate ethics in the workplace, the economic impact of
employee behavior on organizational performance, and public
policy.

This is an extremely thorough sociological study of the American
worker within the construct of the American workplace and the
pressures to excel globally, balanced against the American economy.
I urge anyone with a managerial role in business today not only to
read this important book but to live its message.

Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on January 12, 2011

The New American Workplace
James O'Toole and Edward E. Lawler III

  • Publication Date: June 27, 2006
  • Genres: Business, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan
  • ISBN-10: 1403969590
  • ISBN-13: 9781403969590