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Ideal Workplace in “The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work” Book Essay

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Updated: May 26th, 2020


Work is the essential part of our life. The book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton tells us about the two sides of any work: the benefits, which we gain from it, and the losses, which it causes us to suffer, including our free time, calmness and others. The author of the book uncovers such pleasures of work as the job satisfaction, personal development, and the opportunity for communication. At the same time, he mentions that the loss of the free time, the emotional and physical overload, and the risk of failure are some of the sorrows of the work. The book gives us an idea that there is no ideal workplace and we must find the job, which provides more pleasures than the sorrows.

Brief Summary

Actually, we spend the most part of our time at work. Labor is necessary for an individual to be self-sufficient personality and to be happy. However, the work creates not only the pleasures. It is also connected with a lot of disappointments, stressful situations, conflicts, overtimes and many other painful things, which almost everyone faces at work.

The aim of this essay is to explain three pleasures and sorrows of work in context of their interpretation by Alain de Botton.

The Pleasures of Work

It is suggested starting with the positive side of the work because, ultimately, despite all the obstacles and challenges which it creates, its value in people’s life is clearly significant. The personal satisfaction which we gain from work is one of its most important pleasures. It should be stressed that it is not only the question of doing what you like but also of doing something with quality. However, it is obvious that, when you like what you do, you will try to do it better and will, ultimately, achieve the quality of your work. The example of a person who dedicated his life to his work and his hobby is Stephen Taylor, the artist from East England, who spends the most of his time drawing.

“Past and future disappear as he is consumed by the tasks of mixing paint, checking its colour against the world and settling it into its assigned place in a grid” (De Botton 113). Taylor expresses his feelings and emotions in his work. He has found the way to combine harmonically his life with his work. Undoubtedly, Taylor is already happy personality regardless how much money he earns and which social benefits his work provides to him. He spends the majority of his time with pleasure.

Another pleasure, which the work provides to us is the personal development. It motivates us to be better and to achieve more. The work explains many of our goals and directs us towards their achievement. We realize that without efforts and self-development we barely get what we want. In addition, the competition between the colleagues stimulates an employee to move further and not to stagnate in his personal development process.

The author of The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work touches upon the problem of motivation in many of the parts of his book. A particular attention to this problem has been paid by him in the chapter Career Counseling. “One might be doomed not by a lack of talent, but by a species of pessimistic pride” (De Botton 85). I should admit that my work provided me with the opportunities for personal development. The HR department encouraged the employees’ participation in the professional seminars and trainings.

I also started to think about the entrepreneurs who put much more at risk than I did. Certainly, the job of the employee working for the firm also had its risks. However, they were miserable in comparison with the risks of the business ventures. Except of money, the entrepreneurs might spend their efforts in vain and, undoubtedly, it was much more painful to lose your own business than just be fired by the company, which you did not own. Our company organized the conferences and discussions devoted to the problem of risk-management.

Finally, our job gives us an excellent opportunity to meet new people. Communication is one of the vital aspects of any work. Even if the cooperation with others is not the primarily characteristic of your work, you should communicate with your management or clients anyway. People are social beings. In spite of their attitude towards communication or regardless of whether they are introverts or extroverts, the opportunity to be engaged socially is, undoubtedly, the benefit, which we gain from our job. Alain de Botton mentions the efforts of the employers to facilitate the communication. In particular, he describes the situation when one of the airplanes construction companies organized the party for the guests of the aviation fair.

“Here was my chance to meet in the fresh people whom I had over the previous few days been able only to imagine” (De Botton 185). In addition, the book made me understood that my workplace really provided me with an excellent opportunity to communicate with interesting people. I had a lot of friends among my colleagues. Moreover, my firm arranged the corporate events several times a year. They were really interesting and allowed me to communicate with the personnel of the firm in the informal environment.

The Sorrows Of Work

Any benefit has its cost. Although we enjoy certain pleasures from our work, the sorrows which we suffer from it represent the price which we should pay for these benefits. This fact should not be understood in a straightforward way. It rather means that any work, to certain extent, is connected with stress and emotional and physical pressure. However much we like our occupation, we need the rest. It is the need of our mentality and health to take the rest. If you do something all the time and think about it all the time, it will turn to routine.

The emotional and physical overload, which we suffer from work, can be overcome only through changes in our activities during the day. Alain de Botton touched upon the problem of the work-life balance in his chapter Accountancy. The author tells about the life of the auditors working in the large corporation. The work overload and rapid pace of life make them indifferent to the external world and the beauty of nature as they have only their work on their minds.

“Once outside, it seems extraordinary that the natural world should still exist and be so apparently undisturbed and serene, so indifferent to human concerns” (De Botton 146). Reading the book of Alain de Botton made me recognize that my job was not so bad. The author touched upon different workplaces in different industries and gave me a clear understanding that every job had its positive and negative sides. I compared my office job to the work of sailors. I should admit that the frequent overtimes made me tired and I started to hate my job as it deprived me of the ability to communicate with my folks.

The next sorrow which the workplace may cause us to suffer is the sacrifice of the time which we can spend with our family and friends. In the chapter Cargo Ship Spotting, the author describes the functioning of the navigation industry and uncovers the peculiarities of work of the sailors. “At a quayside, a car transporter opens its heavy-jawed cargo doors to emit three thousand family saloons which have spent twenty days at sea since leaving their assembly plant at Ulsan, on the Korean peninsula” (De Botton 18). Their job requires long trips and, undoubtedly, deprives them of the ability to be close to their beloved.

Finally, any work is connected with a risk of failure. Obviously, the entrepreneurship is more than other kinds of occupation connected with risk of losing your money and spending your time and efforts in vain. The author of the book says, “He urged me to consider the legions of entrepreneurs, many working by themselves in the hope of transforming our lives and their fortunes” (De Botton 166). I guess many people consider the entrepreneurship as a very interesting sphere of activity but not everyone will agree to put their savings at hazard by opening a business.

A ‘Good’ And A ‘Bad’ Job For Me

Before reading the book of Alain de Botton I have a little bit different understanding of the working environment as a whole. I considered that my job have more disadvantages than advantages. I believed that the pleasures which I enjoyed from it did not cover the painful things I suffered from it every day. One sorrow of work, which came to my mind, is the loss of our free time. When I had read the book, I thought that I had a much better job than the sailors of The Goddess of the Sea had. The sailors spent a terrible twenty days on the board. My job deprived me of only a couple of hours of the time I might spend with my family and friends.

Their job deprived them of almost a month! Overall, I should say that everyone can learn one very important lesson from the book: there is no ideal job. However, I can say what a “good” job means for me now. It is the place where I can do what I like. I recognized that my job is a “good” one because it gives me an opportunity to be occupied in the sphere interesting for me. All other painful things such as overtimes, business trips, and so on are mitigated by this crucial factor. In addition, similar disadvantages can be noticed in every job. In contrast, a “bad” job is the one where you cannot realize your talents and to do what you like. In this case, it means that it is just not your workplace and you should do your best to find yours.


In order to sum up all above mentioned, it should be said that the book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton would be interesting for both the students who only search their occupation, and the people who have already have one. The book makes us think about what a good job really is. Every job has its sorrows and pleasures. The moral satisfaction from what you do is what that ultimately matters.

Works Cited

de Botton, Alan. The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, New York: Vintage Books, 2009. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Ideal Workplace in "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" Book." May 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ideal-workplace-in-the-pleasures-and-sorrows-of-work-book/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'Ideal Workplace in "The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" Book'. 26 May.

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