Workplace civilizerHarry Levinson

(Reading Time: < 1 minute)

A psychologist, Levinson was interested in work. “Psychoanalytic theory and whatever usefulness it might have for managing people was just unknown in industry,” Levinson said later, so he went to work to change that. It was he, in the 1950s, who came up with what we now think of as a natural notion: that there is a link between job conditions and a worker’s emotional health. And with those insights came new ideas to make employees happier on the job, which not only was good for them, but made them more productive. A paycheck wasn’t a good enough reward for creative, productive employees: the workplace should be a “learning environment” where bosses were teachers, giving meaning to work. The more meaningful the mission, the more fulfilling and dedicated employees became — if they felt they were making a contribution. Conversely, employers who violated the “contract” they had with employees found a demoralized workforce who suffered productivity losses. Indeed, Levinson argued, companies have their own personalities — corporate cultures — which had a profound impact on how well the company did at getting its work done. He spent the bulk of his career teaching these ideas at Harvard and MIT, and in 16 books and countless articles. Dr. Levinson retired to Florida in 1997, and died June 26, at 90.

From This is True for 1 July 2012