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Fake Work: Why People Are Working Harder than Ever but Accomplishing Less, and How to Fix the Problem Hardcover – January 6, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Peterson, cofounder of the Work Itself Group, and Nielson, cofounder of the Ascent Group, seek to answer why people spend so much time doing so little real work—what they term a fake work phenomenon that mires employees in redundant tasks that result in low morale, cost overruns and organizational stagnation. While the authors nimbly dissect the problem, they fail to provide a road map for what they say is the most basic ingredient to doing real work, which is strategy; they reiterate the importance of a organizational strategy and keeping priorities, but fail to provide any sort of blueprint for floundering organizations to develop that strategy. Instead, the authors cover a number of irrelevant topics—how to be a good listener, how to be a good manager and how to maneuver in corporate culture. This overambitious book wants to be all things to all people: advice to workers and tactics for managers, but after the tests and stories and steps, there is little analysis to uncover better practices and processes. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"'Synergy' means the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. These two authors have produced a superior, synergistic product on a subject of immense importance." -- Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

"Read this book and get real!" -- Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and The One Minute Entrepreneur™

"Fake Work powerfully diagnoses why most organizations and people are overworked and yet are underperforming, being trapped in the thick of thin things. It will forever change how you and your organization look at work -- and better yet, how real work is identified and done, and the results that follow." -- Stephen M. R. Covey, New York Times bestselling author of The Speed of Trust

"It is refreshing to be exposed to some new ideas with enormous practical relevance. Better yet, the authors propose actionable cures for this silent disease of fake work that most businesses don't recognize they have." -- Jack Zenger, CEO of Zenger Folkman and coauthor of the bestselling The Extraordinary Leader

"A must-read for anyone who works. The concepts within these pages will change your view of work and inspire you to focus on what's really important to the strategies of your company." -- Hyrum Smith, co-founder of FranklinCovey, CEO of Galileo

"The damage fake work does to our organizations is incalculable. Leaders who care passionately about both performance and people should pay close attention to this important book." -- Craig Swenson, president, Argosy University

"Fake Work masterfully helps you diagnose the symptoms and spot the root causes of fake work, and put your people on the path to work that really matters. An organization pays a heavy price when its bright, capable people quit and leave. But it's even more costly when bright, capable people quit and stay." -- Rodger Dean Duncan, author of ChangeSmarts: Engaging People's Heads, Hearts, and Hopes

"This remarkable book, backed by years of research, is a how-to-do-it road map leading to peak performance." -- Dr. Charles R. Hobbs, president, Unified Power, LLC

"Peterson and Nielson explore the depth and breadth of a subtle yet intriguing phenomenon that plagues contemporary work life. No one can afford to be without this book." -- R. Wayne Pace, Ph.D., founding president, Academy of Human Resource Development

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books; 1 edition (January 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416948244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416948247
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #238,274 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My Name is Tyler. I'm an actor, and a musician. At fist glance, a title like "Fake Work", immediately brings to mind the musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying."
As you delve into the book (further than 10 pages, Mr. Karten), you are immediately cast into a world of corporate nonsense, and Tom-Sawyer-foolery; where the things that seem so critical to being or SEEMING successful are placed under a microscope, and revealed to be a hindrance to oneself, or to whom one works for.
This book forces everyone to ask a Hamlet-esque question: Am I Doing Fake Work, or Real Work? As an Actor, I read this book without the focus of a corporate lens, and yet it still spoke to my profession as well. How many films have gone over-budget due to poor planning, or misguided alignment - the cogs in the proverbial machine not all turning at once? How many millions of dollars end up on the cutting room floor? How many of us - not just in our work, but in our lives - do things that don't serve our ultimate goals?
While reading this book, I conjured the metaphor of a beehive. In a beehive none of the worker bees are micro-managed. None of them spend time - or rather waste time - doing things that don't serve the hive. Every member on every level of the hive understands its strategic relevance to the success of the hive, and they all just do their job. (and they don't even get paid.)
I know full-well that a metaphor like this is missing the complex intricacies of any corporation or business, but the key message to me is: Understand your job, and how it helps your company thrive. From an extra to the producer of a film - everyone plays a critical role in telling a story successfully.
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Format: Hardcover
I was glad to come into a copy of this book "Fake Work". I am a supervisor at a computer support desk with student employees. Because of the stories and examples in this book, I have been able to teach better ways of thinking to my students. As they graduate and go on to jobs in all fields of work, I hope they take something with them to do real work and have time for family and to live life!

I love the examples throughout the book. The examples help me to find comparable situations in my work life as well as my home and family. I appreciate the time and experiences Mr. Nielson and Mr. Peterson have had and now share in this book.

Additionally, I love that each chapter has the "Road Map For Action" to summarize the learnings and give me a place to start asking questions.

I have told and retold the story about 'The Road To Nowhere' so many times. It has almost become a theme in my life.

I highly recommend this book not just for a manager to read, but for an entire organization to adopt the teachings of this book. Every member of the team can be a part of making a difference in their own way and collectively.
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Format: Hardcover
What a great book! A kind of anonymous whistle blow; yet another inconvenient truth about work-life. As a psychologist in solo private practice with zero necessity for "fake work," having read this book, I find myself feeling overwhelmingly fortunate with the opportunity to earn a living with minimum of pretense. "Fake work" - the phenomenon, not the book - is an existential calamity. Building roads into nowhere is what rotted Soviet style socialism from inside out (as they used to say in my country of origin, "they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work"). Sure, work that is not aligned with company's strategic goals is a tactical productivity loss. But, most importantly, "fake work" is a loss of morale and authenticity of the work life - and as such a productivity loss of strategic (long-term) significance. On a personal level, given that the lion share of our adult time (and progressively more so) is spent at work, "fake work" (work without meaning) is an existential suicide. Peterson and Nielson are calling on us to step away from the ledge of work-life meaninglessness.

As a book, "Fake Work" is the kind of book that could have sent the authors to Gulag if it had been written in the Soviet Union. Peterson and Nielson, with a mixture of compassion and straight-shooting mercilessness, strip away the layers of corporate pretense, delving deep into the administrative and psychological motivations behind "fake work." The authors go well beyond the statement of the problem: they offer both individual-level (bottom-up) and managerial-level (top-down) solutions for preventing and/or controlling the morale- and bottom-line-rusting effects of "fake work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is the first book I've read in a long while that changed the way I think about work.

This book tackles the biggest problems I find with my teams, my employees, and my job. I have found numerous ways to increase productivity, increase morale, and reduce workloads by killing the Fake Work in my business.
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Format: Hardcover
The project was long and involving, and pointed the organization in a new, refreshing direction, but its final report was rejected by the executive committee who wanted the firm to stay on its current path regardless of the consequences. These leaders discarded several similar projects before. Peterson and Nielson label such projects as Fake Work, the title of their recent book. These tasks take considerable time and effort, but lead nowhere for either the person or the organization. In contrast, real work moves a company forward. Real work is in line with the organization's goals and strategies.
Fake work is often difficult to differentiate from real work in an office; whereas, in a factory, one sees product going out the door. Fake work includes unused paperwork, meetings that go nowhere, unfocused training, and projects that have the hidden agenda of verifying the desires of upper management rather than being truly critical examinations of a problem.
Peterson and Nielson recommend using a 3 step audit to determine if work is real or fake:
1.Analyzing each task that is being done to determine its importance, alignment with company strategies, how it can be accomplished, and who should be doing it. The staff in a sales department did fake work when this step was skipped: their manager heard a rumour, failed to check on the rumour with the production department, and directed his staff to develop of a plan for selling a new product. The sales plan was thrown out when the new product was delayed and modified.
2.Emphasizing real work by determining if each person is doing the most important assigned tasks rather than wasting time with trivial, make-work items. One sales person failed on this point by entertaining big clients and ignoring smaller accounts.
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