The Worth Ethic

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Kate Ludeman, whose qualifications allow her to be called “an engineer, psychologist, corporate executive, and management consultant,” describes the new worker as one whose psychological and social headquarters is no longer the family but the work place. She tells managers that if they recognize the new workers’ need to derive their sense of self-worth from their jobs, the resulting commitment and performance gained from the work force will be reflected in higher profits.

Ludeman advises managers to espouse impeccable corporate ethics, to create jobs with meaning, to give workers more control over their projects, to heap abundant praise on workers, to give intuition freer rein in the work place, to structure career ladders that stimulate breakthroughs, to be generous in developing compensation packages, and to structure the work environment to nurture good health habits and reduced psychological stress. She provides anecdotal evidence that such measures have enhanced the profitability of numerous companies, large and small.

Ludeman assumes that the reader is an old-line, work-ethic manager focused on getting the job done rather than making the worker happy. To change the work place from the inside out, she invites managers to follow what she calls the “CHANGING Process,” a type of psychotherapy self-applied. Each letter in the word “CHANGING” stands for a step in the process, such as “CREATE a concrete description of the desired change” and “HONESTLY examine your motivation to change.” She then outlines numerous other “phases” and “steps” for implementing the changes throughout the organization.

Though the basic theme of the book--humanizing the work place--is laudable, it is also trite. The “CHANGING Process” is contrived. The “phases” and “steps” for change reveal considerable human-resources-department myopia. And the presentation is embarrassingly replete with self-disclosure; the number of “I’s” and “my’s” in some paragraphs is truly remarkable. The “Worth Ethic” (an ill-sounding phrase in itself) is unlikely to become a corporate buzz word in the foreseeable future.