Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach To Fun on the Job

Rate this book
Imagine a company where people love coming to work and are highly productive on a daily basis. Imagine a company whose top executives, in a quest to create the most "fun" workplace ever, obliterate labor-management divisions and push decision-making responsibility down to the plant floor. Could such a company compete in today's bottom-line corporate world? Could it even turn a profit? Well, imagine no more.

In Joy at Work , Dennis W. Bakke tells the true story of this extraordinary company--and how, as its co-founder and longtime CEO, he challenged the business establishment with revolutionary ideas that could remake America's organizations. It is the story of AES, whose business model and operating ethos -"let's have fun"-were conceived during a 90-minute car ride from Annapolis, Maryland, to Washington, D.C. In the next two decades, it became a worldwide energy giant with 40,000 employees in 31 countries and revenues of $8.6 billion. It's a remarkable tale told by a remarkable Bakke, a farm boy who was shaped by his religious faith, his years at Harvard Business School, and his experience working for the Federal Energy Administration. He rejects workplace drudgery as a noxious remnant of the Industrial Revolution. He believes work should be fun, and at AES he set out to prove it could be. Bakke sought not the empty "fun" of the Friday beer blast but the joy of a workplace where every person, from custodian to CEO, has the power to use his or her God-given talents free of needless corporate bureaucracy.

In Joy at Work , Bakke tells how he helped create a company where every decision made at the top was lamented as a lost chance to delegate responsibility--and where all employees were encouraged to take the "game-winning shot," even when it wasn't a slam-dunk. Perhaps Bakke's most radical stand was his struggle to break the stranglehold of "creating shareholder value" on the corporate mind-set and replace it with more timeless  integrity, fairness, social responsibility, and a sense of fun.

314 pages, Paperback

First published March 1, 2005

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Dennis W. Bakke

8 books7 followers
DENNIS W. BAKKE was raised in the foothills of Mount Baker in rural Washington State. He graduated from the University of Puget Sound, Harvard Business School, and the National War College.

Bakke co-founded The AES Corporation in 1981 and served as its president and CEO from 1994 to 2002. He helped build AES into a Fortune 200 global power company with 27,000 people in 27 countries. He is now president and CEO of Imagine Schools, a non-profit charter school network that operates schools in 12 states and the District of Columbia.

Prior to 1981, Bakke worked in the Federal Energy Administration and was deputy director of the Energy Productivity Center at Carnegie-Mellon University.

Bakke is the author of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, Joy at Work: A Revolutionary Approach to Fun on the Job. The book is about two of Bakke’s passions: To create the most fun workplace in human history, and to teach the world the real purpose of organizations, including businesses. Bakke has discovered that it is when we are given the chance to use our ability to reason, to make decisions, and to take responsibility for our actions, we experience joy at work.

In The Decision Maker: Unlock the Potential of Everyone in Your Organization, One Decision at a Time, a leadership fable loosely based on Bakke’s experience, Bakke shows us how giving decisions to the people closest to the action can transform any organization.

He lives with his wife, Eileen Harvey Bakke, in Arlington, VA.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
104 (24%)
4 stars
154 (36%)
3 stars
105 (24%)
2 stars
48 (11%)
1 star
11 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews
Profile Image for Bernd Schiffer.
105 reviews41 followers
June 14, 2018
Phew, tricky review. On the one hand, I don't like the author's Christian belief being interwoven into the narrative. For example, AES organisational structure and leadership model is based on values that are based on Christianity. The author explains several times that these values are not driven by economic thinking, but by what he thinks is the right way (ie his belief). That doesn't work for me as an atheist and it also doesn't work for me because I see an organisation, in general, as an economic means to an end.

It was especially painful in the last chapter where the author reflects upon the nature of work itself through exegesis. I don't think it should matter what God thinks about decentralised organisations. It might be interesting from a religious point of view, but science is basically absent from the book.

However, the author did take action. He applied decentralised decision-making a la Semco to an organisation, and it worked very well for over a decade. He shares his observations and gives a lot of anecdotes and examples of different aspects of organisational development. If I turn a blind eye to what motivates the author, and when I focus on what he actually did, then I find this book valuable. But boy did I find it hard to ignore the religious references.
Profile Image for Philippe.
619 reviews507 followers
January 24, 2016
"A special workplace has many ingredients. The feeling that you are part of a team, a sense of community, the knowledge that what you do has real purpose—all these things help make work fun. But by far the most important factor is whether people are able to use their individual talents and skills to do something useful, significant, and worthwhile."

This is the extraordinary story of a guy who left his government job to set up a successful energy company that for decades pioneered a innovative workplace culture based on radical empowerment. More than thirty years later, the company still ranks amongst the Fortune 200 but Dennis Bakke has disappeared from its management and its organizational model has been reshaped along more conventional lines.

The story of empowerment in large organizations has been told a few times, but not very often and as far as I know not at this scale. Not even Ricardo Semler's Semco has every operated at the scale of Bakke's energy giant. Another key difference is the fact that Bakke ran this radical experiment in a publicly traded company. This also became his personal undoing. When the stock market collapsed in the wake of the Enron scandal, company shares plunged to fraction of their peak value and Bakke was taken to task by his board for the debacle. Soon after he left the company to pursue other goals. It is a cautionary tale that reflects the true face of capitalism and explains why, as a rule, working conditions in large organizations today are no more exciting, rewarding, or fun than they were 250 years ago.

Joy at Work tells a subtle and profound story about forging community in a business context. The book is free from the hyperbole that mars most management literature. The author's voice sounds authentically humble. He is unwaveringly loyal to his belief in people's potential to take responsibility and be mindful of the interests of every stakeholder. But he is not afraid to suspend judgment and question some of his decisions. "Where there is success, let there be humility."
Profile Image for Bill Pence.
Author 1 book1,031 followers
May 31, 2017
The author, who was CEO of AES, an energy company, writes that his passion is to make work exciting, rewarding, stimulating, and enjoyable. He states that this is a book for people who want more from their jobs than a paycheck and a benefits package. He believes that the workplace should be fun and fulfilling. He writes that joy at work gives people the freedom to use their talents and skills for the benefit of society, without being crushed or controlled by autocratic supervisors or staff offices.
The author strongly believes that people should be able to bring many of their basic beliefs about life into an organization. He believes that there is a transcendent truth behind principles like integrity and justice that does not and should not change over time and should certainly not be adjusted because of economic setbacks. While our understanding of the values may change with time, the values and principles themselves are timeless.
He writes that there is little disagreement that the corporate values at AES arose out of the personal values of the co-founders. He discusses how the transformation of personal values to organizational values is accomplished with the word “shared.” Shared implies that members of an organization agree on the definition and importance of a value.
He states that the values articulated by many companies have only a minimal effect on how they conduct their businesses. But values and principles mean something only when they affect everything we do, every day of the week. He believes that we should attempt to live according to a set of unchanging shared ethical principles, because it is the right way to live.
He believes that for the most part, we have made the workplace a frustrating and joyless place where people do what they’re told and have few ways to participate in decisions or fully use their talents. He, and I agree, states that the label “human resources” has a dehumanizing connotation. We have financial resources, fuel resources, and human resources.
He states that in his experience, most people don’t believe that fun and work can coexist. But he writes that the key to joy at work is the personal freedom to take actions and make decisions using individual skills and talents. The author tells us that a special workplace has many ingredients, with the most important factor being when people are able to use their individual talents and skills to do something useful, significant, and worthwhile.
He shares some of the practices he followed at AES in an effort to make it a more fun place to work, beginning with the belief that joy at work starts with individual initiative and individual control. They attempted to design a workplace where the maximum number of individuals have an opportunity to make important decisions, undertake actions of importance to the success of the organization, and assume responsibility for the results.
AES was organized around multi-skilled, self-managed teams. The primary factor in determining whether people experience joy or drudgery in the workplace is the degree to which they control their work. By “control,” he means making decisions and taking responsibility for them. The amount of fun in an organization is largely a function of the number of individuals allowed to make decisions.
The author believed in decentralization, limiting the number of people in the home office, central staff, and senior executive offices. He believed that every decision made at headquarters takes away responsibility from people elsewhere in the organization and reduces the number of people who feel they are making an effective contribution to the organization.
He believes that moral leaders serve an organization rather than control it, with their goal being to create a community that encourages individuals to take the initiative, practice self-discipline, make decisions, and assume responsibility for their actions.
He writes that one of the most difficult lessons he had to learn is that leadership is not about managing people. He writes that a leader’s character is far more important than their skills. He states that the most important character traits of a leader who embraces the principles and values championed in the book are humility; the willingness to give up power; courage; integrity; and love and passion for the people, values, and mission of the organization. He states that humility is at the core of a leader’s heart. He states that the most important aspect of this leadership style is letting others make important decisions. When that happens, leaders dignify and honor their subordinates.
He writes about love in the workplace. He states that love pushes us to do whatever it takes to help others succeed, and that leaders who create dynamic, rewarding, enjoyable workplaces love people. He believes that love is the final and crucial ingredient in a joy-filled workplace.
He states that being passionate about your people and what they do is a key characteristic of a leader who can make work a joyful experience, and that the key to a great workplace is the freedom to make important decisions and take responsibility for the results.
He writes that most AES board members loved his approach primarily because they believed it pushed the stock price up, not because it was the “right” way to operate an organization. Throughout the book, the author is open about mistakes he made as the leader of AES.
He writes about the importance of our work, stating that the idea that daily secular work is spiritually inferior comes to its ultimate destruction in the person of Jesus of Nazareth—the Carpenter. He indicates that nearly every kind of work is significant, if it is consistent with the person’s calling and the person is working to glorify and worship God.
He writes that Biblical leadership requires those in authority to serve the people they lead. Leaders do whatever it takes to allow followers to use their talents effectively. Good leaders delegate decisions and create an environment in which others can manage God’s world.
He writes that he can recall only two or three visits to his place of work by one of his pastors in 30 years, and doubts he is an exception. He writes that if our daily work is a sacred calling from God, pastors and priests should come to the workplace often.
You may not agree with how the author defines joy at work, but I believe you would benefit from reading this book.
Profile Image for Sewy Bay.
2 reviews2 followers
March 21, 2019
- Focus beyond profits, cost and efficiency; instead, integrity, ethics and transparency should be bottom-line considerations.
- Employees first, customers second, shareholders third. The effects would trickle downstream.
- Each job should be meaningful, and employees should find individual and collective purpose.
- Applied Energy Services Corporation (AES) wanted their employees to experience joy at work, feel empowered and take charge; enable them to feel responsible for and proud of the company’s achievements.
- The honeycomb system of self-managed teams was used, instead of the traditional hierarchy commonly seen. Everything was centered on freedom and trust.
Profile Image for Kristen.
148 reviews10 followers
January 9, 2008
An interesting read, if a little rah-rah and self-righteous. Excellent book for a manager. Knowing how successful his company was, and understanding how he built it and tinkered with the "traditional models", you become really impressed with his ability to stick to his guns and to think outside the box.
Profile Image for Scott Hayden.
633 reviews81 followers
July 20, 2012
Bakke represents a integrated individual. He doesn't compartmentalize his beliefs, but lets them infiltrate his whole life. Though he does not overtly proclaim his faith in the main text, his faith is evident throughout. If you can't see that, read the appendix then go back and look for the quiet weave of worldview.
Profile Image for Ruthanna.
4 reviews
August 8, 2008
This was a good book, very motivational and I really subscribe to the idea that empowering employees makes them happier and more successful. But it was short on concrete ideas and about 100 pages too long.
36 reviews
August 17, 2015
Another book with the theme of empowering the employee. Treat employees as partners, give them autonomoy, and provide them support, this will provide the employee with Joy at work.

This title pairs well with Baake's other book, the Decision Maker, and Ricardo Semler's The Seven-Day Weekend.
Profile Image for Devin Partlow.
326 reviews4 followers
September 15, 2014
I mean its an interesting philosophy but did it even work? Sounds like ultimately it different, then the author goes off on a tangent still trying to bring merit to the philosophy.

2.5 stars
Profile Image for Ray.
252 reviews
July 31, 2020
My professors gave me this book as a graduation present in 2018. I've been lugging it around since then but never really got up the energy to read it (I had read the other book they gave me though).

Finally, before I move to Hawaii I decided I would read it and then decide if I wanted to keep it.

Well I would say the book isn't too bad. It's not your average business book but it's not too far off (at least not in 2020).

Overall, I really liked some of the ideas and implementations and the underlying message of "hey lets make money a lesser priority." He's able to do this because he thinks of his company as serving God and that allows him to focus on the joy of his employees (and other stakeholders) over just raw profits.

The more controversial things were against minimum wage, against unions, against employee benefits. But only against them because his company says they will already give generous packages.

Here are my chapter by chapter notes:

"The point of view is really a view from a point"
In the book and I'm still trying to really understand what that means.

They define fun as getting to enjoy using your skills and having autonomy in how you do work.

The author believes that values should be actually good for employees not just good for employees in a way that makes them work harder so the company gets more money

The author and started an energy company and put a very heavy focus on values as the things that are right for employees. Rather than the things that will make employees work hardest. When they decided to public the SEC said that the values were a liability.

Chapter 2 is basically about why workplaces are miserable. It explains that before the industrial revolution most people worked for small organizations or for themselves. The main exception were servants or people in militaries. However many people are now viewed as commodities and treated that way because they are in large organizations that view people as just another variable in a formula of production.

People become passive under the control of bosses. Don't treat them like kids, let them make decisions and take ownership.

The story of how the board and investors wanted to stop the values. Adam and Eve worked and so working is how we can honor our creator. Stress enhances and experience but doesn't necessarily make it worse, look at people playing sports. a ton of examples of people having autonomy.

"Work week" a week when execs go do "real" work. Started by USPS.
Creating detailed rules and policies shows you don't trust employee judgement.
Honeycomb workplace was all about individual responsibility and less manager. (Similar to Zappos but in the 1990s.)
There is a Stanford Business School case on AES titled: "Human Resources: The Case of the Missing Department"
Task forces help people see work as a voluntary act
Organizations like this don't work well for folks who aren't creative and responsible.

Annual reviews suck. employees and supervisors should be more like partners. The CEO read every single comment from annual surveys.
This guy seems to be against minimum wage.
90% of their 40,000 employees are paid salary and they like it.
He is also against employee benefits (which often aren't taxed) because it takes control away from employees lol

He doesn't want superhero leaders. He wants servant leaders.
Author believes that leaders have three main roles: interpreting the organizations shared values and principles, being senior advisors to everyone in the organization, and pushing the organization to reach its goals and live up to its ideals.

Stakeholders not just shareholders. Advocate for private everything

He worked with unions by respecting them but also treating Union and nonunion equally well. Eventually many Union members decided not to be part of the Union. The performance of an individual is more a function of environment then hiring process.
AES had a loan program available to former employees so they could start their own businesses or other things.

The story of AES taking a crap and Dennis Bakke getting pushed out.
Profile Image for Kaan Akşit.
69 reviews2 followers
May 7, 2017
The book introduces a new way on a biggest part of our lives: "Work", in which you will find an interesting inspirational point of view. It simply questions starting from virtues such as "honesty" and "culture", extend the definition to a point by highlighting every job is or should be in a constant state of change. The audience that this book targets is simply everyone and everybody... You may ask why giving 3 rather than 5 starts; It is quite simple, please please please remove the religious parts from this book --oh the last chapter!--- and accept the fact that virtues are not the monopolies of a certain belief system --simply cut the crap of my religion is awesome--. I would like to summarize lessons that I learned as in below:

- Leadership is about humility and serving others,
- If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings-nor lose the common touch, If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much,
- Corporate values are worthless unless they are: (i) shared by the majority of people in the organization, (2) lived with some consistency by leaders, (3) considered at least equal to economic criteria in all major decisions of the organization, (4) taught to employees by senior leaders at every opportunity, and (5) constantly communicated to people and stakeholders outside the organization, including shareholders,
- A person with a servant's heart is dedicated to serving others and bringing out the best in them,
- Methods are many, principles are few. Methods change often, principles never do,
- Because our central values and principles were derived from mainstream values practiced by billions of people around the world, we hoped that most of our people could bring the key elements of their personal philosophies into the workplace,

This example was a summary of every fault in human history:
- At age 10, I learned that when the river flooded at a 100-year level, it didn't matter how well our house was constructed. It didn't matter whether I did my homework or whether our family values were strong or whether my father was home or working in Alaska. It didn't matter whether I was smart or whether my little brother was a good athlete. If the house was anywhere near the river, it was going to be damaged by the rushing water.

My findings and lessons that I learned from it not limited to this one. I recommend to read this book if you can withstand religious parts, and want to understand the new face of multicultural workplaces.
Profile Image for Areski.
77 reviews10 followers
October 18, 2018
- 4 stars for the message/idea
- 1,5 stars for the delivery

At first I wanted to give it 3 stars. Neutral book, good ideas but nothing too revolutionary I found. Especially because my boss read the book himself and incorporated the ideas in our business a while ago:
- have strong core values and always go by them (eg. in the book: have the work be fun, serve society, be financially stable or something along those lines)
- empower each person in the business to be part of the business and not "only" an employee (by taking decisions, seeking for advice but having the freedom to be creative and try things out and have a say in many – if not all – decisions made in the company, by having as few hierarchy as possible...)

But it's the typical problem of people feeling strongly about their message: they go on for a while, even though they could be a lot more succinct.

So anyway, 3 stars. Then there were moments in the books where I even thought of giving it 4 stars: the author is good at storytelling and is very inspirational and sometimes that worked and I was like "yeah, this is cool!". But the last chapter (50min in my audiobook version) only talks about God, which A) is not my thing anyway and B) in a way that was just annoying. As a non-believer, I felt excluded and had to roll my eyes quite a bit.

I recommend reading a good summary rather than the book. A few examples in the book are nice to listen to, but that's it.
Profile Image for Nick George.
9 reviews
April 13, 2020
Dennis Bakke gives a great take on how to transform your old industrial-age business to a modern, decentralized, employee-driven one where people actually fun (yes, FUN!) at work. His account of how he created and transformed his business in the energy industry with his company AES is very informative. If you work in the software industry then you will probably draw a lot of parallels to how your business and teams are ran and how he was trying to do this back in the 1980s.

Ultimately, what you should take from this book as a business leader is that you want to stop the "manager-employee" relationship and instead step back and let your employees make all of the tough decisions. It's not easy! You have to give up power, you have to be more transparent and actually give the employees the tools they need to make those decisions. It's a crazy thought for some, but if you do this, more often than not, you'll create your business' next generation of leaders as well as making people love your company and the work they do.

Some reviewers have noted that Bakke is a religious man. This is true and he does make some mentions of it, but it's not suffocating. You can respect that a lot of his decisions in life and this book were driven from the morals he gained from his religion and then you can move past it.
Profile Image for Patrik Gustafsson.
142 reviews5 followers
January 2, 2021
This is a clear inspirational book. What should we give to our workplace, can we accept less than expected less than have a greater purpose for our work. I think the core tenant of having joy at work is something many companies are missing and Bakke clarifies that it is possible and necessary.

If you are an atheist like me you can skip the last chapter, and get a book with few references to faith, I do find it surprising that so many of these great ideas come from people's faith. And after reading the rest of the book I found it valuable to hear how he connected faith to his work.
Profile Image for Brittany J..
Author 1 book5 followers
January 18, 2018
This was an incredible read. Great for anyone who struggles with the idea of how they can serve God while working in a secular world. Provides great insight into leading and practicing business while maintaining closely held values and morals. Bakke’s work is not only educational but also uplifting and encouraging. Highly recommend.
Profile Image for EmprezScarlet .
4 reviews4 followers
June 22, 2021
Integrity, fairness, social responsibility and fun; values that can be applied across the board whether it be the family institution, church, school or working sector. I agree with the author when he said "we should consider the other connotations for employees and not put them on the same platform as assets."
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
63 reviews
November 19, 2016
This book describes the journey toward creating a work environment where people are more energized the longer they work there. Rather than causing me frustration that I don't work in a place like that, I felt healed as I read it.
Profile Image for Vlad.
773 reviews33 followers
April 18, 2020
The religious content hurts this book’s importance and relevance to secular corporate life. Still — the author crafted a very unique and powerful work culture and that part of the story is five stars.
Profile Image for Barry Davis.
277 reviews7 followers
December 23, 2016
Subtitled “a revolutionary approach to fun on the job”, Bakke tells of his eary life in Washington state, learning of the world of work, how the age-old boss-worker demarcation is still alive and well, despite the fact that it squanders most of the potential contribution of the worker. He is concerned that the focus on leaders has lost sight of the fact that everyone can and should contribute to the organization. Bakke had been a capitalist as a child, raising steers, spent some time in government as well. Seeing the primary goal of any organization to be one of stewardship, giving back to the community and society (he is not that convinced that this mission should belong only to “not for profits”), he founded an energy company, AES, that had four abiding principles: fun, fairness, integrity and social responsibility. This book has exceptional detail on how the company was structured. Using what he calls the “honeycomb” structure -- decentralized, where the CEO is no more than 3-5 levels from anyone in the company, Bakke and his associates sought to drive the decision-making (performance reviews, budgets, planning, etc.) as far down in the organization as possible. In some cases he was even able to remove the exempt/nonexempt delineation, making everyone salaried (this required some machinations to ensure compliance with government regulations. They even met with President Clinton and others to discuss changes in employment law, which never happened). This structure was introduced in other countries and cultures as well.

Bakke is quite honest in telling the tale, sharing his failures as well as his successes. Indeed, the company has gone through some significant struggles, losing stock value (he argues that using stock value as the measure of success is a poor yardstick, much more important to focus on his four themes of fun, fairness, integrity and social responsibility), causing some board members to suggest that aes “back off” a bit on their values and commitment to fun. Bakke resolutely refused. A deeply spiritual man (although very careful not to impose his beliefs on others), he says that companies that use these principles merely to make more money are doing a disservice to all involved. Following these principles is a reward in itself, says Bakke. According to him, the primary function of profit should be to keep the business going to provide affordable power to more and more people. As a result of the company’s foundering stock, he was eventually convinced to “retire’ (he has a foundation, a graduate school, etc.) and write this book.

As an evangelical Christian, Bakke ends the book with an exceptional postscript, “Enter into the Master’s joy”, that uses Jesus’ parable of the talents as well as the stories of Joseph, Daniel and others to challenge the sacred/secular distinction that the church and business seem to promote. According to Bakke, if Joseph was in a modern-day church, he would have been encouraged to quit his “job” as #2 man in Egypt to become a full time Christian leader, something he already was, with more impact that if he had left! Bakke talks of the language used now to describe work as ministry, including lifestyle evangelism, marketplace ministry, and others, challenging them (although not damning them) as not really demonstrating what the Scriptures really teaches about work.

This extraordinary book ends with a basic timeline of the AES story, as well as an extensive comparison of the conventional approach vs. the joy at work approach (side by side comparisons and contrasts of treatment of employees, purpose/mission/goals, leaders, etc.) He also provides an extensive bibliography and some some other study guides and resources from “Joy at WorK’ as well as other books.
Profile Image for Ron.
226 reviews24 followers
July 9, 2021
A great (true) story of the struggle for a corporation to live its values and to humanize work.

I’m not sure that I agree with the value of fun. Not that I’m against fun, I think it should be encouraged, but the term I would prefer is joy or fulfillment. Life is not always fun, but it can be always be fulfilling when seen in a larger context. I give parenting as an example. Not always fun, but deeply rewarding and fulfilling. A job should be the same. We look to make it as joyous as possible, and, first and foremost we do what needs to be done out of a sense of responsibility granted through ownership. This parenting analogy is a good one for another reason – it highlights that adults know how to do the right thing, make decisions, and be self-directed in a parenting setting outside of work. Treat your people like the adults that they are outside of work to reap those same benefits inside work. It’s a win win formula that makes work fulfilling for individuals and the company reaps higher productivity and creativity. It’s called the adult/adult relationship instead of the adult/child relationship that is still dominant in most of our organizations today.

I read the book because it is the source of the Advice Process. I wanted to hear what it was like at a company that used it, instead of the fictional company that Bakke used in The Decision Maker book.

I admire how he built his company on values and stayed true to them over and above profit. It highlights Purpose over Profit.

The final chapter goes into the author's religious views and you can see many of his personal values expressed in his business. While I'm OK with living by values, I will disagree with the author that we should be teaching theology outside church. Let your values speak for themselves. You don't need to go brainwashing kids or forcing religious beliefs on others. That is infringement and why we have separation of church and state.
18 reviews14 followers
August 30, 2007
This is an incredible story of leadership and how values shape an organization, business, school, church, mission or government. This book will help people who want to know how decentralized organizations like YWAM are successful and why young people are so attracted. Dennis is a Christian with a biblical based view of the world, a Harvard Business graduate that put this into practice with his work in government services, an energy company and now one of the largest chartered school systems in the USA.

He shows how work is one of the ways we honor God. Work is worship. God set the example in Creation by working for six days, then resting for one day. He gave us a model to steward resources and meet other people's needs. Any work, even the least creative and inspiring job, that is accomplished for God, meets a need in society, honors God. "The key to joy at work is the personal freedom to take actions and make decisions using individual skills and talents." Thus, the key to good organizational leadership is restraint in making decisions of importance. A radical idea.

From the preface: This book is for you if you are,
stuck in a miserable job, but motivated to do something about it.
a student in management or leadership program not yet intoxicated by power over people.
a high school or college student who wants to earn a living and have fun at the same time.
a mid-level manager, who feels trapped by top-down, highly centralized organization.
a government, business, nonprofit or educational leader,
a president, director or CEO
a scholar, researcher or writer,
a priest, pastor, imam or rabbi who is looking for a better way to understand and explain faith and work.
Profile Image for Michael.
2 reviews
April 4, 2008
Good book for a perspective on the differences that exist for people who have joy in their work vs. people who feel opposite of joy in their work. It is geared more toward managers or those who may have more control over their work environment than those who work for the man. If you work for the man, it makes you wish you didn't.

The premise of the book is that people who are given authority/responsibility to make important decisions in their area of expertise and then in turn are held accountable for those decisions find much more joy in their work. This is even more valuable than salary, perks or any other compensation people get from their work. Micro-management is a philosophy from the industrial age that makes people feel like an asset instead of an able, reasonable and skilled human. Bakke advises that phrases like "our most valuable asset is our people" perpetuate the notion that people are no different than expensive equipment. You've got to allow people to do important things and see the true joy of their labors. Bakke is a religious man and also includes some religious examples that are interesting. His principles can be applied to managing any kind of organization...church, sports, etc. Anyway, I'm not going to rewrite the whole book.

It was very helpful for me to use in identifying the things I dislike about my work and why and also helped me put my finger on those aspects of work I enjoy and why. My approach to lots of things has improved.

Oh, by the way, Harry dies at the end.
Profile Image for Donitello.
38 reviews9 followers
April 17, 2008
There are “fun at work” books, and there are “inspirational leadership” books. But I’ve never read a book like this. Maybe there isn’t one.

In 1982, author Dennis W. Bakke founded AES Corporation, a global energy company with revenues reaching $8.6 billion. Just your typical energy giant, but with one little difference: Their goal was to create the most fun workplace ever known!

This book is in the same category as BEN & JERRY'S: THE INSIDE SCOOP and NUTS: SOUTHWEST AIRLINES' CRAZY RECIPE FOR BUSINESS AND PERSONAL SUCCESS. The two things that make it unique are: 1) Bakke’s thoughtful analysis of the conditions contributing to a joyful workplace (and the obstacles to creating these conditions) and 2) the fascinating fact that AES was (and is) a GLOBAL corporation.

Many people have observed that “humor doesn’t cross boundaries.” This is in fact true. But laughter, joy, and fun are another matter! As Bakke says: “‘Cultural diversity,’ it would seem, tends to melt away when it comes to basic human traits.” In other words, you cannot fail by creating a positive workplace, no matter where on the globe you do it!

A must-read for anyone questioning the conventional wisdom of 21st-century corporate success.
Profile Image for Jon Mertz.
Author 4 books167 followers
March 1, 2015
"Joy at Work" was on Joel Gascoigne's reading list. Joel leads a company called Buffer and is leading with clear principles, setting a great example for many leaders. As I was reading "Joy at Work," I could see why this book was on Joel's reading list.

Dennis Bakke is a trailblazing leader as well. Using the principle of what it takes to bring joy to work drove the growth of his business. Part of the conclusion he reached is that bringing joy means people want to make decisions and be held accountable for them. Being held accountable means learning from mistakes and not making them again. With clarity of principle, Dennis led the organization to decentralize as much as possible.

This is a real story with real challenges. When the economy tanked, the Board and markets were calling for centralization. How Dennis navigated this is inspiring and frustrating. Inspiring in how he kept to his principles and frustrating in how he could not really break through the mindsets.

Read this book to see how a principle of joy can change your leadership ways. Read to learn from the challenges and successes encountered.
Profile Image for Michael.
40 reviews
October 18, 2012
"Same Sh#t, different day"

Hear people say that? Maybe said it yourself?

What a sad way to live!

Bakke explores the meaning and purpose for work through his own leadership of AES (ranked #151 on Fortune 500, ahead of Duke Energy). Though many find their jobs a drudgery, there are some that love their jobs and are empowered by their work. What makes the difference? And are their principles that can be applied to any company to make work a place of challenge and fulfillment vs. real life Dilbert?

Yes. Dennis Bakke helped found AES on the principles of responsibility (letting employees take ownership and key decision making choices), integrity and honesty, and yes - fun and joy at work. When employees actually make decisions and have their choices and opinions *really* matter in daily operations, it builds engagement far more than tired incentive programs.

Definitely challenged my own perspective, prompting me to think further how I can encourage and grow my own team at work.
Profile Image for Mario Sailer.
78 reviews9 followers
January 23, 2016
An interesting book about what Dennis Bakke had in mind when founding and leading AES. Most of the time it is more of a personal story, but sometimes there are these jewels giving more insight on how AES worked at that time and what the concepts were, what worked and what didn't.

Dennis Bakke writes for example that he wanted that everyone in his organization has "Joy at work". Therefore responsibilities and decision making was shifted downwards to the experts with the appropriate knowledge. A lot of people liked that, it motivated them and so they had more "Joy at work". But he also mentioned that there were people who could not cope with that (something which is often neglected in books about self-organizing teams and empowering employees) and which did not fit into the concept of AES.
Profile Image for Tommy.
234 reviews29 followers
Shelved as 'read_me_piles'
February 2, 2008
PVG must have printed so many of these books that at one point Amazon had the title discounted to about 90% off, AND if you bought one you got one free. I've never seen them do that ever. I picture gigantic boxes of Joy At Work clogging the efficient process walkways at Amazon.com, causing workplace injuries as staff trip over piles of books stashed everywhere. Or maybe it's an anti-capitalist manifesto that was spreading through Amazon like the plague.

In any case, I bought a whole bunch for my office for about $12. No one has been hurt yet. Not sure if anyone has read it yet. I haven't.
Profile Image for Clare.
1,460 reviews306 followers
October 28, 2013
By helping people at all professional levels find purpose, Bakke aspires to a world of work which values each person and the unique contribution they can make. Based on solid principles of leadership and values-based character development, he shows how treat people as people, encourage workers to form goals and set out to achieve them, and to deal with the crises which form part of every functioning workplace. As he says in the introduction, this is a book for workers, students, managers, leaders, presidents, directors, scholars and writers, and all who realise the importance of the occupation in which one spends so much of one's time.
456 reviews34 followers
May 20, 2014
Great story, truly affirms the importance of work and work-faith integration. Takes a helpful core insight - that joy at work comes being treated as a partner, not an employee, knowing that your work and contributions really matter, and having autonomy to make your own decisions, with advice but not necessarily permission from others. Detailed expression is really specific: encourage high ownership of all workers, treat them as partners, have 80% of people's jobs be on their specific jobs and 20% on broad work that benefits the whole company, make pay transparent, eliminate HR, etc. Interesting thoughts, but may not all be universal.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 49 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.