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Other reviews by Byron Belitsos
Publications Book Reviews
Restoring Trust in Business and Bringing Meaning to Our Work
Reviewed by Byron Belitsos on June 1, 2005
This short, well-organized, and ambitious book is designed for anyone who has wandered through the corridors of American business in a largely futile search for work that is meaningful, less than stressful, and consistent with one’s personal values—that is, most everyone who works and has a conscience. Among its many strengths, The Workplace Revolution offers an edifying survey of the entire waterfront of current corporate behavior, from its lowest points (Enron and WorldCom, for example) to the emergence of the “corporate integrity” and “conscious business” movements, and provides a lucid description of the predicaments facing workers in today’s disenchanted workplace. The author draws us in with a conversational and sometimes self-revelatory style, leading us along through an adept and encyclopedic summary of the relevant business literature in passages laced with useful, balanced insights—and, thankfully, practical spiritual wisdom.
At the same time, reading this book is a sobering experience. Gilbert clearly lays out the narrow range of choices workers must often live within a world of increasingly
dangerous centralization of corporate power. I found myself longing for a more collective solution to the dilemma he describes—a new social theory or political manifesto that could ignite a true workplace revolution—for Gilbert’s answer is largely a matter of engaging in a deeply personal shift in consciousness in the face of a system that seems nonreformable by other means. In other words, this is not a handbook for labor unions or social justice activists who might be drawn in by talk of “revolution”; it is a guide for the sane among us who recognize and accept today’s realpolitik of American business securely in charge, where the only control we really have at work is our inner state—or the practice of changing jobs until we can find a company that acts against the grain with commitments toward “social responsibility.” And yet those companies do exist, as Gilbert makes clear, and they can be as successful as their more traditional profit-hungry competitors.
While heroically arguing for “strong medicine for corporate change,” Gilbert’s abiding realism leads him to temper our hope for social change in many passages. Perhaps Gilbert’s chapter titled “Work from the Inside Out” is the key: The poignant truth may well be that the workplace revolution must await the spiritualization of both workers and executives—as most other options are closed for business.