Productivity Lost chronicles how claims businesses make about valuing worker productivity only do so for their own benefit, holding those workers accountable in a system they have no interest in bettering.

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Recommended Reading

This project would not have been successful were it not for the work of those much more scholarly than myself. Their work is the foundation on which Productivity Lost has been built. As such, I wanted to share my reading recommendations for those desiring a deeper dive into some of the topics covered here. 

In addition to the books listed below, it’s necessary to acknowledge organizations like The Brookings Institute, Harvard Business Review, The Economic Policy Institute, ProPublica, Pew Research, Gallup and others, all of which I used liberally in my research. 

The New Jim Crow – Michelle Alexander: A thorough examination of how the racial discrimination that powered slavery centuries ago is alive and well in modern society, currently masquerading as “law and order.” 

Falling From Grace – Katherine S. Newman: The book is a bit older than some others, but captures much of the frustration and anger caused by a work environment that discards workers when it’s done wringing maximum value from them. 

The Great Risk Shift – Jacob Hacker: The quest to privatize everything is positioned as ideological, but it makes individuals who are already overburdened by work and family responsible for decisions they have little choice in and not much time to research thoroughly. 

Gigged – Sarah Kessler: Great stories on the pressure of “gig economy” workers who are just trying to make ends meet and how the companies hosting these gigs seem to be out to please investors at the expense of those workers. 

Tailspin – Steven Brill: While there are many great aspects to Brill’s book, his evisceration of the notion that American colleges or businesses operate as a true meritocracy is the most compelling, showing it’s simply cronyism with a new name. 

Dying For a Paycheck – Jeffrey Pfeffer: There are so many ways in which the modern work environment – both physical and emotional – is bad for the health and wellbeing of the average worker it’s mind-boggling. 

Flawed System / Flawed Self – Ofer Sharone: A key difference between American workers and those in other cultures – in this case Israel – is in how much of their own identity they wrap up in the work, which impacts how job openings are filled and how not getting a position is handled by the individual. 

The Efficiency Paradox – Edward Tenner: Making something run smoother or faster is often held to be the ultimate goal, but it doesn’t always lead to better results. Also, a reminder that “efficiency” and “productivity” are two very different things. 

Winners Take All – Anand Giridharadas: Plutocrats have created a system where they and they alone are set to benefit, making everyone else grist for that mill even while promising people they can make an impact. 

Automating Inequality – Virginia Eubanks: How algorithms and databases have taken over much of our society, especially when it comes to social services, is disturbing and new ventures along those lines should be greeted with skepticism. 

Range – David Epstein: Specialization has been a trend for decades, as companies look for people who have narrow sets of hyper-specific skills and experience, but those who have dabbled or come from unrelated backgrounds frequently prove the most useful to have around, especially when new problems emerge. 

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