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Rob Evans


Senior Client Manager

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Book Review: The high engagement work culture – Balancing me and we


I read the sleeve notes of this book with interest:

“The financial Crash of 2008 was not just about government regulation or lack thereof; the low tide of the Crash also revealed just how vulnerable our societies are to those organizations which focus so much on their own self-serving goals, that they ignore the damage they can do outside their walls.
“To counter this, the authors ask whether there is a better way to run this capitalist system of ours, instead of being tempted to throw it out and replace it with something much worse.
“Their prescription is to create the high engagement work culture in our organizations through a greater balance between the urges of ‘me’ and the desires and needs of ‘we’; a work culture which brings real benefits to all stakeholders, not just the few, and drives the performance of our organizations to new heights.
“This is not ‘pie in the sky’: it is being lived by those companies featured in detail in these pages, such as Whole Foods Market and BMW “.
The reason that I include this summary here is that I don’t honestly think I could articulate the premise of the book otherwise. It took me back 20 years to my dissertation when I saw that the 160 comprehensive pages were backed by 20 pages of reference notes and index.
And to be fair, the book does read more like an academic study, which is unsurprising when you check the authors’ credentials (Dr David Bowles and Distinguished Professor Cary Cooper who has organisational psychology expertise).
Almost catastrophic crash
The notion that the worlds of business and economics have become different places since 2008 is probably (painfully) well known to us all.
There are few examples among friends and family that don’t suggest that employers, budgets, recruitment, training and disposable income have not been severely challenged – and will perhaps continue to be so into the foreseeable future.
While this scenario may be introduction enough for some of us, for those who prefer the empirical – and surprising – evidence of how catastrophic the 2008 crash and its fallout almost was, the first half of the book goes to great lengths in outlining what led to it and what followed thereafter.
It forms a substantial foundation of context and provoking thought to act as the basis for reading ‘Part II: What Can We Do to Change?’ The second half is no less substantiated or studied than the first but, perhaps due to its subject matter and higher personal relevance, I found it to be a more enjoyable read.
The section provides the reader with a clear and well-structured proposition and brought to life for me the reason that I picked the book up in the first place. For instance, it goes into what constitutes a ‘high engagement culture’ – or not as the case may be.
It likewise posits that companies and leaders should reconsider what sustainable and ethical values ought to be embedded into their corporate cultures in order to build an organisation with engaged employees that works and rewards the many, not the few (the we and me).
The fact that the authors have lived, worked and studied in the UK, US and Germany, also results in real world case studies including Whole Food Market and BMW, which in itself makes the second half of the book compelling.  
Reviewer’s rating
How many of us have shelves of management and self-help books that we’ve never read? So I’m aware that I have a responsibility and that reviews can play an important role in helping us to spend our time and money wisely.
But I’m torn with this contribution. In the first half, it is so academic in its writing style that I genuinely struggled to retain the huge amount of information provided and had to revisit various pages whenever I put it down.
If, on the other hand, this is why the book is on your reading list in the first place, it will certainly provide you with useful evidence that will only aid your own research.
As someone that was most interested in the second half of the work, however, I couldn’t help but question if such extensive background information was necessary or whether it even detracted from the overall work.
I understand that such an opinion could appear flippant or dismissive and may divide opinion as one could legitimately ask how Part II could be relevant or credible without the necessary Part I foundations and context being in place?
I’ve gone round in circles to conclude that probably it wouldn’t as both elements are integral to the book. But I’d be cautious in giving it a four or five star recommendation, even though it’s well-researched, well-written and provides some compelling arguments that are worthy of attention and reading time.
  • This book was reviewed for us by Rob Evans, a senior client manager at Homeserve, which provides emergency home insurance cover and repairs.
  • If you’d like to see a film, TV or book review of your own in print, please either send it to the editor at [email protected] or post it directly to our blogs section at based on the format above.
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Rob Evans

Senior Client Manager

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