Just work: Get s*it done, fast and fair

Review by Sophie Jackson, Knowledge, Resources and Information Manager

Scott, Kim. (2021). St. Martin's Press.

‘Just Work’ is a simple and empathetic guide to creating respectful, collaborative workplaces. This is a very hopeful book so as well as offering practical advice, it may provide comfort to anyone who has experienced bullying or harassment at work. In particular, the personal anecdotes that Scott shares from her long and impressive business career are striking, as she owns up to some of her own mistakes and highlights what she or others could have done to change the situation for the better. The book leaves you with a lot of clear advice, and the comfort of knowing you are not alone.   

Whether or not you've experienced harm in the workplace yourself, this book is for you. Chapters are divided into sections that offer advice to leaders, employees, people who’ve experienced harm and people who’ve done harm. As well as personal anecdotes, each section features visual ‘cheat sheets’ that summarise the key problems and solutions from that section. No matter what your role in the workplace, there are actions you can take to start building a better workplace culture. Anyone can become an ‘upstander’ and challenge bias, prejudice, harassment and bullying wherever you notice it. For those who have done harm, this may be a confronting read. Scott does not demonise anyone who has done harm – she admits to times when she has done so herself – but she does call upon you to take responsibility and make active changes to your behaviour. She also acknowledges that you may have been harmed and done harm as well, and that your experience of these will be different if you are a leader or an employee. Whichever of these roles you may hold, you can be a starting point for positive change. Of course, the more people who commit to the principles of ‘Just Work’ - particularly leaders – the more quickly and easily a workplace might transform for the better.   

'Just Work’ is primarily focused on sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic harm. Scott believes that these discriminatory beliefs are embedded in the culture of many workplaces, and that it’s only by addressing these directly that we can make space for all kinds of difference in the workplace, and ultimately become more inclusive and collaborative. There is one chapter specifically focused on creating a culture of consent and preventing sexual harassment or assault in the workplace. Anyone who is affected by this topic may want to skip the chapter, as it details negative experiences that Scott and women she knows have had while working. For workplace leaders, the chapter gives very clear advice about creating an effective code of conduct and handling reports of sexual misconduct fairly.   

This book is not only a guide to more ‘just’ work. It’s also a collection of stories about workplace harm which may shock people who haven’t experienced it, and may comfort those who have, to know that they aren’t alone and that there is something that can be done about it. No matter who you are, if you work, you could benefit from reading Kim Scott’s ‘Just Work’.  

The Mental Health Foundation’s Information Service brings you reviews this Pink Shirt Day on books with bullying prevention theme

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“Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora – Speak Up, Stand Together, Stop Bullying!”