Just Work book review

Culture is an essential part of any business, but there are innumerable pitfalls and mistakes that get in the way of creating a welcoming and fair work environment. In her 2021 book, Just Work: How to Root Out Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying to Build a Kick-Ass Culture of Inclusivity, author and consultant Kim Scott tackles how to do just this.

The primary focus of the book is on the issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The obstacles that stand in the way of embodying these values are bias, prejudice, and bullying. Scott is probably most well known as the author of Radical Candor, a book that emphasized the importance of listening, honesty, and emotional intelligence for effective leadership. Just Work shares a lot of the same basic assumptions and techniques with Radical Candor, but it applies them in a more specific context.

Scott tries to be very hands on with what are certainly hot-button and sensitive issues. It is very easy for such moral and ethical conversations to take place on a purely abstract level without really engaging with the real world at all. But Just Work does not do this by and large. Scott defines her terms and makes the dynamics of workplace discrimination very clear. The book is at its strongest when she is offering practical solutions and procedures to tackling implicit bias.

The book takes a deliberately autobiographical approach. This has its pros and cons. On the one hand, it is very personal and real. At times, her anecdotes are horrifying and truly difficult to read, especially those pertaining to workplace sexual misconduct. On the other hand, while she certainly does incorporate relevant literature from social science, the autobiographical approach can sometimes lead the book to giving some anecdotal incidents undue weight.

It should be noted that there are always going to be bigger socio-political assumptions baked into any discussion of these topics. But even if you disagree with some of her presuppositions, the book still has helpful insights for how to be a more inclusive, ethical, and emotionally intelligent leader.

Just Work by Kim Scott is available for purchase here.

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