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Tl;dr Book Review — Just Work by Kim Scott

Tl;dr – ★★★★☆

This is a great introduction to workplace injustice — how to recognize and fix it.

The book is broken out into three parts:

  1. The root causes of workplace injustice
  2. Discrimination, harassment, and physical violations
  3. Systemic justice and injustice

We’ve broken down each of these sections in our full review below, so you can skip to the sections you’re interested in. If you’re not able to spend the time — see our favorite learnings here.

Key learnings

Part One: The Root Causes of Workplace Injustice
Bias, Prejudice, and Bullying

Kim Scott starts out by defining the three problems at the root of injustice — bias, prejudice, and bullying — and providing responses to those problems.


There are four types of people in any situation involving the above problems — leaders, upstanders (observers taking action), people who cause harm, and people who are harmed.

When you’ve been harmed

Kim recommends choosing a few “I” and “You” statements, and then practicing them until they feel natural.

That said, the overarching message is not that we always need to respond but that we shouldn’t default to silence.

When you’ve caused harm

When you’re told you’ve caused harm, adopt a growth mindset — “I’d like to understand why [my actions caused harm], so I don’t repeat that mistake.” This does not mean that the person you’ve harmed is responsible for educating you — in many cases, you should be educating yourself about your unconscious bias.

This is hard work — keep in mind that “when it becomes routine for us to notice our biases, they feel less threatening.”

One of our favorite takeaways from this book is that “results matter more than intentions”. If we approach bias & prejudice from a business mindset (and we are at work here), then we see that it doesn’t matter if we intended to hit our business goals, it matters that we did hit goals. Applying this same logic to bias — it doesn’t matter that you didn’t intend to harm someone, it matters that you did.

For leaders

If you’ve been harmed or you see someone acting in a way that could harm others, “you may feel like the victim, but if you are the leader, you’d better act like one.” Leaders “must be personally involved with both helping to educate the team during the training” and “figuring out how they and their teams will interrupt bias when it shows up afterward”.

Find a place of shared commitment through a set of goals:

It’s your job to create an environment that is psychologically & physically safe — “people are free to believe whatever they want. But they are not free to DO whatever they want.”

Part Two: Discrimination, Harassment, and Physical Violations
A leader’s role in preventing

A few of the most interesting suggestions revolved around hiring processes.

For people harmed and upstanders

It can feel impossible to fight discrimination and harassment without “blowing up your career”. After all, “capitalism is so good at rewarding what we can measure, so bad at rewarding what we value”.

The first steps don’t require you to make the decision of whether or not to report it —

If you decide then that you want to take it a step further. Some of the following actions could be taken (though every situation is different, so keep a close watch on your wellbeing & consider your physical safety) —


This chapter was extremely difficult to power through & brought up some personal memories — so we would caution readers with a history of trauma or assault to skip it.

On that note, the points documented below will be relatively zoomed out.

Leaders should

Part Three: Systemic Justice and Injustice

This section is heavily based on the Conformity Dynamic and the Coercion Dynamic.

These two bad dynamics are self-reinforcing. In order to actively combat them we have to get past denial — taking Ibram X. Kendi’s quote “Denial is the heartbeat of racism” and apply it to all workplace injustice.

Recognizing different systems of injustice
Optimistic Conclusions

“When individuals feel encouraged to bring their whole selves to work — when they feel confident they will be heard rather than shut down if they speak up — they do better work, and they work better together. Productivity increases, innovation flourishes, and things are much more fair. Everyone is happier. It becomes a virtuous circle.”

Sparklos recommended supplemental reads
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