The core truth of a book such as Thalma Lobel’s Whatever Works: The Small Cues that Make a Surprising Difference in Our Success at Work – and How to Create a Happier Office is that the success or failure of commercial endeavors rests on the people involved. Several other factors can play a serious role, without question, but at its basest level, success comes from bringing the right people together around a common goal. Lobel has not stumbled across some new insights into how to get the best out of your workplace environment and those working at your side, but she proves adept at reframing them in a way that encourages you to view them from a fresh angle. Her straight-ahead method of looking at the physical environment you work in, what you can do to help those who work at your side, and what you can do to benefit yourself is ideal for the subject matter.


Her academic credentials and considerable experience with the subject matter never warps her personality. She comes off every bit as human as her readers and exudes a genuine aura of investment in people making the most of her methods and prescriptions. It’s a hallmark of the most effective books of this type – an altruistic need to share what they’ve learned with the widest possible audience. She “speaks” to readers with a practical voice, honest yet warm, and viewing the world through a prism of possibility.

It doesn’t mean the book has an unrealistic rosy demeanor, but it does maintain an upbeat tone through its three parts and concluding epilogue. She breaks her vision of what a modern office can be into three halves – the physical surroundings, those you work with, and yourself. Presenting her point of view in such a way eliminates the possibility of digression for the most part and keeps the reader’s focus narrow throughout the course of the book. It is, I am sure, unsurprising that these three aspects of the office experience are closely related despite their separation for the sake of clarity.


A healthy amount of research is evident throughout the book. Lobel supports her own ideas with those of other respected individuals and they buttress her conclusions. It is true that, often, individuals such Lobel and other contemporaries addressing similar issues are not all that remarkable per se. They are identifying what we are often too close to see for ourselves, workable solutions to long-standing issues curbing our success, but their advice isn’t ground-breaking. Their gift comes, instead, with being able to see and hear above the detritus and chaos what the problem is and have a clear vision for fixing it.

She closes the book on an inspiring note. Thalma Lobel’s Whatever Works: The Small Cues that Make a Surprising Difference in Our Success at Work – and How to Create a Happier Office is one of the easiest to digest books of its type published in recent history and deserves at least a single perusal from those in workplace leadership situations.

Garth Thomas