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Dianne Bown-Wilson

in my prime

Chief Executive

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Book Review: Doing the right thing: The importance of wellbeing in the workplace


Although economists and psychologists have been fascinated by the relationship between productivity and wellbeing in the workplace for many years, the publication of this book by business consultant, Theo Theobald, and psychologist, Cary Cooper, is timely.

As its authors explain, it coincides with wellbeing’s “flavour of the month” status, emerging as it currently is as an antidote to decades of immediate personal gratification and increasing affluence at any cost.
To quote Oscar Wilde, as a result of these behaviours, we now “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.
Throughout our working lives, we have become accustomed to pursuing greater wealth, higher status and more desirable possessions, forming relationships based on selfishness and self-aggrandisement rather than mutual respect and support.
But alongside such activity have developed behaviour such as aggression, bullying, stress and, ultimately, a lack of satisfaction and happiness with who we are and what we do. In short, by focusing on the wrong things, we have reduced our wellbeing to a level that now urgently needs to attention.  
This book provides a valuable antidote to situation outlined above by showing us how we can recognise what is wrong in our work lives and start to put it right.
Individual responsibility
Covering a comprehensive range of topics from the relationship between happiness and wellbeing to identifying common sources of toxicity, it balances the problems with workable suggestions on how to introduce and maintain change.
A minor criticism of the work is that it does not become entirely clear who “you” – the reader – actually is until quite some way into the book. Apparently, it is aimed at managers although, in my opinion, this is unnecessarily limiting.
Although managers are potentially more able to change policies and practices, ultimately it is down to each of us as individuals to alter our own behaviour and attitudes if we are to overhaul our workplace culture and relationships.
Fortunately, this idea of taking responsibility for our own happiness and wellbeing is accentuated in the recommended action points at the end of the book.
Although comprehensive, a hugely important issue that the book overlooks, however, is the significance of wellbeing for the quality of later life and its implications for extended working lives.
As the majority of today’s employees are going to have to work for many years longer than in the past, it is essential that we protect our physical and mental health throughout and start to view working life as a marathon rather than a sprint.
Longevity is to be celebrated, but only if we can enjoy those extra years in good health, engaged in productive activity – and ensuring that outcome depends on our earlier actions and attitudes.
Reviewer’s rating
As with most books ‘Doing the right thing’ doesn’t tell you much that’s completely new – as it points out, we are all taught at our mother’s knee what “the right thing” is.
But what it will do is remind you in an interesting, clearly-argued, and compelling way of the key issues. It will also make some useful connections between these ideas and almost certainly motivate you to change things for the better.
As a busy manager or indeed any kind of worker, you may think that you don’t have time to read books. But you owe it to yourself to find the time to read this one. Buy a copy – and then lend it to your colleagues as well. It’s excellent.
  • Our reviewer this time was Dianne Bown-Wilson, age management and later-life careers expert.
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Dianne Bown-Wilson

Chief Executive

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