Lab Rats: How Silicon Valley
Made Work Miserable for the Rest of Us
At a time of soaring corporate profits and plenty of HR lip service about “wellness,” millions of workers—in virtually every industry—are deeply unhappy. Why did work become so miserable? Who is responsible? And does any company have a model for doing it right? For two years, Lyons ventured in search of answers. From the innovation-crazed headquarters of the Ford Motor Company in Detroit, to a cult-like “Holocracy” workshop in San Francisco, and to corporate trainers who specialize in … Legos, Lyons immersed himself in the often half-baked and frequently lucrative world of what passes for management science today. He shows how new tools, workplace practices, and business models championed by tech’s empathy-impaired power brokers have shattered the social contract that once existed between companies and their employees. These dystopian beliefs—often masked by pithy slogans like “We’re a Team, Not a Family”—have dire consequences: millions of workers who are subject to constant change, dehumanizing technologies—even health risks. A few companies, however, get it right. With Lab Rats, Lyons makes a passionate plea for business leaders to understand this dangerous transformation, showing how profit and happy employees can indeed coexist.
This is a more important business book than most people realize. In its pages, Dan Lyons take apart the conventional wisdom of Milton Friedman’s “burn out and churn out” style of shareholder-based business and shows why the model is completely non-sustainable.
If you’ve wondered why you’re feeling less valued at work, it’s because you are. When human beings are treated like copy paper (human “resources”), it’s easy to pretend we don’t matter. Yet, we provide the work that turns the wheels of business and, in turn, profits to shareholders.
The book’s not all bad news; Lyons also profiles some businesses, including some venture capitalists, who are more interested in stakeholders than shareholders and, as a result, setting Friedman’s style on its ear. Businesses based on a social enterprise model do well for themselves, their employees and, ultimately, their shareholders.
This is all accomplished in a lively, entertaining and, at times, maddening little book that will open your eyes and make you rethink how you treat your staff. It’s past time for HR to become Personnel again … focused on treating each employee as a person instead of a “resource,” and Lyons shows the way.