Guardian's Best Non-Fiction, 2019
The Tablet's Highlights of 2019
Personality tests. Team-building exercises. Forced Fun. Desktop surveillance. Open-plan offices. Acronyms. Diminishing job security. Hot desking. Pointless perks. Hackathons.
If any of the above sound familiar, welcome to the modern economy. In this hilarious, but deadly serious book, bestselling author Dan Lyons looks at how the world of work has slowly morphed from one of unions and steady career progression to a dystopia made of bean bags and unpaid internships. And that's the 'good' jobs...
With the same wit that made Disrupted an international bestseller, Lyons shows how the hypocrisy of Silicon Valley has now been exported globally to a job near you. Even low-grade employees are now expected to view their jobs with a cult-like fervour, despite diminishing prospects of promotion. From the gig economy to the new digital oligarchs, Lyons deliciously roasts the new work climate, while asking what can be done to recoup some sanity and dignity for the expanding class of middle-class serfs.
In this darkly funny journalistic look at the contemporary workplace, Lyons (Disrupted), a former journalist at Newsweek and writer for HBO's Silicon Valley, reveals how the culture fostered by tech firms has created toxic environments in which workers are dehumanized, wages are low, stressors are constant, and job security is nonexistent. Behind the typical tech start-up trappings, such as ping-pong tables and free snacks, lies a drastically reengineered social contract between employers and employees, one in which notions of contributing to social good have been replaced with profiting at any cost. Lyons traces the emergence of this new corporate style to valley titans such as Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Netflix CEO and chairman Reed Hastings, whose companies reap billions while their workers get an ever-dwindling share of the pie, and further back, to the erosion of the social safety net in the 1980s. Writing scathingly about management fads such as Agile and Lego Serious Play, Lyons shows that much of the hype around the "lean" start-up model is an illusion, premised on inflated stock values and angel investors. He finds hope in companies such as Basecamp, Patagonia, and Kapor Capital, "zebras" that are playing by more human-friendly rules and still turning profits. By turns sardonic and impassioned, this is an insightful and frequently entertaining guide to the increasingly bizarre world of Silicon Valley and the trends it spawns.