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Work and Employment

1. Work alone qualifies us for life.

Zoe Akins (1886-1958) U.S. poet and playwright. 1924. Attrib.


2. Work was like cats were supposed to be: if you disliked and feared it…it knew at once and sought you out and jumped on your lap and climbed all over you to show how much it loved you.

Kingsley Amis (1922-95) British novelist and poet. Take a Girl Like You (1960), ch. 5


3. Oh, why don’t you work

Like other men do?

How the hell can I work

When there’s no work to do?

Anonymous. Union song. “Hallelujah, I’m a Burn” (1907?)


4. Make the work you have to do here your means of inner spiritual rebirth.

Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950) Indian philosopher, mystic and nationalist. Quoted in Ethics in Management Vedantic Perspectives (S. K. Chakraborty; 1995)


5. There is nothing like employment, active, indispensable employment, for relieving sorrow.

Jane Austin (1775-1817) British novelist. Mansfield Park (1814), vol. 3, ch. 15


6. The real essence of work is concentrated energy…people who have that in a superior degree…are independent of the forms, habits and artifices by which…less active people are kept up to their labours.

Walter Bagehot (1826-77) British economist and journalist. Literary Studies (1879-95)


7. For workaholics, all the eggs of self-esteem are in the basket of work.

Judith M. Bardwick (b.1933) U.S. management consultant. The Plateauing Trap (1986)


8. It was the Chinese who invented the work ethic.

Julian Barnes (b.1946) British writer. Observer (London) (November 4, 1984)


9. Every man’s occupation should be beneficial to his fellow-man as well as profitable to himself. All else is vanity and folly.

  1. T. Barnum (1810-91) U.S. showman and circus entrepreneur. The Humbugs of the World (1866)


10. Nothing is really work unless you would rather be doing something else.

James Barrie (1860-1937) British novelist and playwright. Quoted in Woodbury Reports Archives (June 1997)


11. Retirement is an illusion. Not a reward but a mantrap. The bankrupt underside of success. A shortcut to death. Golf courses are too much like cemeteries.

Saul Bellow (b.1915) U.S. novelist. The Actuel (1997)


12. If the condition of the industrious were not better than the condition of the idle, there would be no reason for being industrious.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) British philosopher, economist and jurist. Principles of the Civil Code (1836), pt. 1, ch. 3


13. My formula for success is to be founded in three words-work-work-work.

Silvio Berlusconi (b.1936) Italian media entrepreneur and prime minister. Interview, Financial Times (London) (August 1, 1988)


14. What is work and what is not work is a question that perplexes the wisest of men.

Bhagavad Gita, Indian religious text. (1st century? B.C.) 4:16


15. Do thy duty, even if it be humble, rather than another’s, even if it be great. To die in one’s duty is life: to live another’s is death.

Bhagavad Gita, Indian religious text. (1st century? B.C.) 3:35


16. We spend most of our lives working. So why do so few people have a good time doing it?

Richard Branson (b.1950) British entrepreneur, business executive and founder of the Virgin Group. New York Times (February 28, 1993)


17. To turn $100 into $110 s work. To turn $100 million into $110 million is inevitable.

Edgar Bronfman, JR. (b.1955) Canadian C.E.O. of the Seagram Corporation. Newsweek (December 2, 1985)


18. Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies.

Albert Camus (1913-60) French novelist and essayist. Quoted in Good Work (E. F. Schumacher; 1979)


19. The shock of unemployment becomes a pathology in its own right.

Robert Farrar Capon (b.1925) U.S. theologian and novelist. “Being Let Go,” New York Times (August 5, 1984)


20. Work is the gran cure of all the maladies and miseries that ever beset mankind.

Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) British historian and essayist. Speech, Edinburgh, Scotland (April 2, 1866)


21. Having entered upon work, continue in that line of work. Fight it out on that line (except in extreme cases), for it matters little what avenue a young man finds first. Success can be attained in any branch of human labor. There is always room at the top in every pursuit.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) U.S. industrialist and philanthropist. The Third of his rules of business success (the first two don’t drink and don’t smoke). “From Oakland: How to Succeed in Life,” The Pittsburgh Bulletin (December 19, 1903)


22. Work is…a means of liberation from the stifling grip of egocentric individualism to the unlimited freedom of working in tune, in yoga with the Universal Consciousness.

  1. K. Chakraborty (b.1957) Indian academic. Ethics in Management: Vedantic Perspectives (1995)


23. There’s a terrific thunder-cloud advancing upon us, a mighty storm is coming to freshen us up…It’s going to blow away all this idleness and indifference and prejudice against work.

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) Russian playwright and short-story writer. The Three Sisters (1901), Act 1


24. This great urge to work, heavens, how well I understand it. I’ve never done a hand’s turn all my life.

Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) Russian playwright and short-story writer. The Three Sisters (1901), Act 1


25. I don’t like work-no man does-but I like what is in work-the chance to find yourself. Your own reality-for yourself, not for others-what no other man can ever know.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) British novelist and seaman. Heart of Darkness (1902)


26. You really have to wonder why we ever bother to get up in the morning. I mean, really: Why work? Simply to buy more stuff?

Douglas Coupland (b.1961) Canadian writer. Generation X (1991)


27. Work is much more fun than fun.

Noel Coward (1899-1973) British dramatist, actor, producer and composer. Quoted in “Sayings of the Week,” Observer (London) (June 21, 1963)


28. Absence of occupation is not rest,

A mind quite vacant is a mind distressed.

William Cowper (1731-1800) British poet. “Retirement,” Poems (1782)


29. They talk about the inalienable right of a man to work; he has no such right…(he) can only work if there is a job; he can only work for a man who wants some man to work for him.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) U.S. lawyer. Testimony before the U.S. Senates Commission on Industrial Relations (1915)


30. Nothing is more humiliating than to have to beg for work, and a system in which any man has to beg for work stands condemned. No man can defend it.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) U.S. politician and labor union leader. Speech given at the founding of the Federal Council of Churches in  Girard, Kansas. “The Issue” (May 23, 1908)


31. It is when you have done your work honestly, when you have contributed your share to the common fund that you begin to live.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) U.S. politician and labor union leader. Speech given at the founding of the Federal Council of Churches in  Girard, Kansas. “The Issue” (May 23, 1908)


32. Industry is the soul of business and the keystone of prosperity.

Charles Dickens (1812-70) British novelist. Barnaby Rudge (1841)


33. Business was his aversion; pleasure was his business.

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849) British writer. The Contrast (1801)


34. I have nothing against work, particularly when performed, quietly and unobtrusively, by someone else. I just don’t happen to think it’s an appropriate subject for an “ethic.”

Barbara Ehrenreich (b.1941) U.S. writer, sociologist and feminist. “Goodbye to the Work Ethic,” The Worst Years of Our Lives (1991)


35. The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) U.S. physicist. Ideas and Opinions (1954)


36. Every man’s work, pursued steadily, tends to become an end in itself and so to bridge over the loveless chasms of his life.

George Eliot (1819-80) British novelist. Silas Marner (1861), ch. 2


37. One of the saddest things is that the only thing a man can do for eight hours a day, day after day, is work. You can’t eat…nor make love for eight hours.

William Faulkner (1897-1962) U.S. novelist. Interview, Writers at Work (first series) (Malcolm Cowley, ed.;1958)


38. If people really liked to work, we’d still be plowing the ground with sticks and transporting goods on our backs.

Vic Feather (1908-76) British labor leader. Quoted in Woodbury Reports Archives (December 1994)


39. The idea that to make a man work you’ve got to put gold in front of his eyes is a growth not an axiom. We’ve done it for so long we’ve forgotten there’s any other way.

  1. Scott Fitzgerald (1896-1940) U.S. writer. This side of Paradise (1920), bk. 2, ch. 5


40. Business cannot eliminate unemployment, but each business can do its competitive best to expand its own sales and employment.

Henry Ford (1919-87) U.S. automobile manufacturer and C.E.O. of Ford Motor Company. Speech, U.S. News & World Report (January 1967)


41. The world is full of willing people: some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.

Robert Frost (1874-1963) U.S. poet. Attrib.


42. The best-kept secret in America today is that people would rather work hard for something they believe in than enjoy a pampered idleness.

John W. Gardner (1912-77) U.S. educator and social activist. Quoted in Woodbury Reports Archives (December 1994)


43. If you keep working, you’ll last longer and I just want to keep vertical. I’d hate to spend the rest of my life trying to outwit an 18-inch fish.

Harold S. Geneen (1910-97) U.S. telecommunications entrepreneur and C.E.O. of ITT. New York Times (November 23, 1997)


44. People desperately felt the need for connection, for empathy for open communication. In the new, stripped-down, every-job-counts business climate, these human realities will matter more than ever.

Daniel Goleman (b.1946) U.S. behavioral scientist, journalist and author. Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998)


45. The rules for work are changing. We’re being judged by a new yardstick: not just by how smart we are, or by our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other,

Daniel Goleman (b.1946) U.S. behavioral scientist, journalist and author. Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998)


46. When work is a pleasure, life is a joy! When work is a duty, life is slavery.

Maksim Gorky (1868-1936) Soviet novelist and playwright. The Lower Depths (1902)


47. The ethics of work should be less of a duty to produce than an invitation to excel.

Damian Grace (b.1950) academic. Australian Problems and Cases (1995)


48. One less welcome byproduct of rapid economic and technological change…is the evident insecurity felt by many workers despite the tightest labor markets in decades. This anxiety stems, I suspect, from a fear of job skill obsolescence, and one very tangible measure of it is the pressure on our education and training systems to prepare and adapt workers to effectively run the new technologies.

Alan Greenspan (b.1926) U.S. economist and chairman of U.S. Federal Reserve Board. Speech to the National Governors’ Association 92nd Annual Meeting, State College, Pennsylvania. “Structural Change in the New Economy” (July 11, 2000)


49. There’s a certain really quite unimaginable intellectual interest that one gets from working in the context where you have to put broad theoretical and fairly complex conceptual issues to a test in the marketplace.

Alan Greenspan (b.1926) U.S. economist and chairman of U.S. Federal Reserve Board. Referring to why he agreed to accept a fourth term as U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman. Speech, Washington, D.C. (January 4, 2000)


50. My batting average has been good, so people ask how much luck is involved. I tell them when I work 14 hours a day, 7 days a week, I get lucky.

Armand Hammer (1898-1990) U.S. industrialist, philanthropist, founder and C.E.O. of Occidental Petroleum. International Management (June 1966)


51. The information age is one in which workers give way to professionals and managers are replaced by coaches.

Michael Hammer (b.1948) U.S. author and academic. “Reversing the Industrial Revolution,” Forbes (February 12, 1996)


52. I don’t think that work ever really destroyed anybody. I think that lack of work destroys them a hell of a lot more.

Katharine Hepburn (b.1909?) U.S. actor. Me (1991)


53. The workplace is undergoing rapid change. So are American workers. Technology, globalization and new demographics are constantly redefining what work is.

Alexis M. Herman (b.1947) U.S. politician. Labor Day message (September 3, 1999)


54. Work must always be about more than just a paycheck. Work is central to who we are and how we define our society.

Alexis M. Herman (b.1947) U.S. politician. Labor Day message (September 3, 1999)


55. The race is over, but the work is never is done while the power to work remains.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, JR. (1841-1935) U.S. jurist. Radio address on his ninetieth birthday (March 8, 1931)


56. It is very grand to “die in harness” but it is very pleasant to have the strap unbuckled and the heavy collar lifted from the neck and shoulders.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, JR. (1841-1935) U.S. jurist. Over the Teacups (1891)


57. Every thing in the world is purchased by labour; and our passions are the only causes of labour.

David Hume (1711-76) Scottish philosopher and historian. 1752. “Of Commerce,” Essays, Moral, Political and Literary (1754), pt. 2, essay. 1


58. I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me; the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927) British humorist and writer. Three Men in a Boat (1889)


59. Who first invented work, and bound the free

And holyday-rejoicing spirit down

…To that dry drudgery at the desk’s dead wood?

Charles Lamb (1775-1834) British essayist. “Work” (1818)


60. Why should I let the toad work

Squat on my life?

…Six days of the week it soils

With its sickening poison-

Just for paying a few bills!

That’s out of proportion.

Philip Larkin (1922-85) British poet, critic, essayist and librarian. March 16, 1954. “Toads,” The Less Deceived (1955), II. 1-2; 5-8


61. Ah, were I courageous enough

To shout Stuff your pension!

But I know, all too well, that’s the stuff

That dreams are made on.

Philip Larkin (1922-85) British poet, critic, essayist and librarian. March 16, 1954. “Toads,” The Less Deceived (1955), v.6, II. 21-24


62. The bond between a man and his profession is similar to that which ties him to his country; it is just as complex, often ambivalent, and it is understood completely only when it is broken.

Primo Levi (1919-87) Italian novelist, essayist and chemist. Other People’s Trades (1989)


63. Term, holidays, term, holidays, till we leave school, and then work, work, work till we die.

C.S. Lewis (1898-1963) British scholar, critic and novelist. Surprised by Joy (1955)


64. Love the little trade which you have learned, and be content with it.

Marcus Aurelius (121-180) Roman emperor. Meditations (2nd century A.D.), bk. 4, sect. 31


65. In the morning, when you are sluggish about getting up, let this thought be present: “I am rising to a man’s work.”

Marcus Aurelius (121-180) Roman emperor. Meditations (2nd century A.D.), bk. 5, sect. 1


66. Labor is work that leaves no trace behind it when it is finished.

Mary McCarthy (1912-89) U.S. author and critic. “The Vita Activa,” New Yorker (October 18, 1958)


67. For many wage earners work is perceived as a form of punishment which is the price to be paid for various kinds of satisfactions away from the job.

Douglas McGregor (1906-64) U.S. academic, educator and management theorist. The Human Side of Enterprise (1960), ch. 3


68. I don’t know any executive who ever thought about stress, although a lot of other people do. No one ever dies of hard work. But a lot of people die once they retire from an active job.

Ian McGregor (1912-98) British chairman of the National Coal Board. Daily Mail (London) (November 19, 1980)


69. I suspect that American workers have come to lack a work ethic. They do not lie by the sweat of their brow.

Kiichi Miyazawa (b.1919) Japanese former prime minister. Quoted in Daily Telegraph (London) (February 5, 1992)


70. Whether we consider the manual industry of the poor, or the intellectual exertions of the superior classes, we shall find that diligent occupation, if not criminally perverted from its purposes, is at once the instrument of virtue and the secret of happiness.

Hannah More (1745-1833) British playwright and religious writer. Christian Morals (1813)


71. I would live my life in nonchalance and insouciance

Were it not for making a living, which is really rather a nouciance.

Ogden Nash (1902-71) U.S. humorist and writer. “Introspective Reflection,” Hard Lines (1931)


72. No torporer drowsy, no comatose slother

Will make a good banker, nor even an author.

…Torpor is harrowing, sloth it is irksome-

Everyone ready? Let’s go out and worksome.

Ogden Nash (1902-71) U.S. humorist and writer. “Procrastination Is All of the Time,” The Face Is Familiar (1940)


73. Flextime is the essence of respect for and trust in people.

David Packard (1912-96) U.S. entrepreneur and cofounder of Hewlett-Packard. The HP Way (1995)


74. Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

  1. Northcote Parkinson (1909-93) British political scientist and author. This observation has become widely known as “Parkinson’s Law.” Parkinson’s Law: The Pursuit of Progress (1958)


75. Work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.

Laurence J. Peter (1919-90) Canadian academic and writer. The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong (co-written with Raymond Hull; 1969)


76. Work is necessary for man. Man invented the alarm clock.

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) Spanish artist and sculptor. Attrib.


77. If you like what you do, it’s not work.

Maria Fiorini Ramirez (b.1948) U.S. business executive. Quoted in Women of the Street (Sue Herera; 1997)


78. It’s true hard work never killed anyone but I figure why take the chance?

Ronald Reagan (b.1911) U.S. former president and actor. Speaking My Mind (1990)


79. I think I have been talking about retiring since I was 12.

Gerry Robinson (b.1948) Irish chairman of Granada Television and chairman of the Arts Council of England. Management Today (April 1999)


80. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) U.S. president. Speech, Hamilton Club, Chicago, Illinois. “The Doctrine of the Strenuous Life (April 10, 1899)


81. The ongoing military-industrial drive toward rationalizing, disciplining and ultimately dehumanizing the workplace is among the foundation stones of information technology.

Theodore Roszak (1933-81) U.S. historian, writer and editor. The Cult of Information (1994)


82. The habit of labor renders idleness tiresome.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78) French philosopher and writer. 1767. “An Epistle from J.J. Rousseau to Mr. d’Alembert,” The Portable Age of Reason Reader (Crane Brinton, ed.; 1956)


83. I believe in hard work. It keeps the wrinkles out of the mind and spirit.

Helena Rubinstein (1870-1965) U.S. entrepreneur, cosmetics manufacture and philanthropist. My Life for Beauty (1965)


84. Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid, the second is pleasant and highly paid.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) British philosopher and writer. In praise of idleness (1932)


85. One of the first things to be noted in business life is its imperialism. Business is exacting, engrossing, and inelastic.

Margaret Sangster (1838-1912) U.S. poet and writer. Winsome Womanhood (1900)


86. Work, worry, toil and trouble are indeed the lot of almost all men their whole life long. And yet if every desire were satisfied as soon as it arose how would men occupy their lives, how would they pass the time?

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) German philosopher. “On the Suffering of the World,” The World as Will and Idea (1819)


87. If all the year were playing holidays,

To sport would be as tedious as to work.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) English poet and playwright. Henry IV, Part One (1597), Act 1, Scene 2


88. A man who has no office to go to-I don’t care who he is-is a trial of which you can have no conception.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish writer and critic. The Irrational Knot (1950)


89. Today, gone is craft, replaced by career. Instead of workers on our feet, we’ve become sedentary professionals, entering data into computers.

Clifford Stoll (b.1950) U.S. astrophysicist, computer security expert and writer. Silicon Snake Oil: Second Thoughts on the Information Highway (1995)


90. Everyone confesses in the abstract that exertion…is the best thing for us all, but practically most people do all they can to get rid of it.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-96) U.S. writer. “The Lady Who Does Her Own Work,” Atlantic Monthly (1864)


91. At Amstrad the staff start early and finish late…It’s all action and the atmosphere is amazing, and the esprit de corps is terrific. Working hard is fun.

Alan Sugar (b.1947) British entrepreneur, founder and chairman of Amstrad electronics company. Speech, City University Business School, London (April 1987)


92. Japanese salarymen know that for pure relaxation, nothing beats a good long day in the office.

Peter Tasker, British business author. Inside Japan (1987)


93. Perhaps it is this specter that most haunts working men and women: the planned obsolescence of people that is of a piece with the planned obsolescence of the things they make. Or sell.

Studs Terkel (b.1912) U.S. writer and radio commentator. Working (1972), Introduction


94. If you wanted an easy job, you could be a grave digger or run a graveyard.

Ted Turner (b.1938) U.S. founder of Turner Broadcasting Systems. Broadcasting (March 1986)


95. Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. writer. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), ch. 2


96. Work keeps us from three great evils: boredom, vice and poverty.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer, philosopher and reformer. Candide (1759)


97. Humanity cannot exist without an infinity of useful men who possess nothing at all…a man who is well off will not leave his own land to come to till yours.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer, philosopher and reformer. Dictionnaire Philosophique (1764)


98. I yield to no one in my admiration for the office as a social centre, but it’s no place actually to get any work done.

Katharine Whitehorn (b.1926) British journalist.Attrib.


99. If I were a medical man, I should prescribe a holiday to any patient who considered his work important.

Edward O. Wilson (b.1929) U.S. biologist. Autobiography (1967)


100. The greatest testimony to the human spirit that I’m witnessing now is the fact that people still come back to work, after all that has been done to them. They are still willing to participate for a more positive future if they would be sincerely invited.

Walter Wriston (b.1919) U.S. banker. Interview with Scott London, U.S. National Public Radio (November 1996)


101. The Japanese do not consider work a form of economic activity. Rather, believing that there can be no work which is not a form of religious devotion, they approach everything as a discipline akin to the practice of Zen.

Schichihei Yamamoto (b.1921) Japanese economics commentator. Quoted in Inside Japan (Peter Tasker; 1987)