By Mickey Skidmore, ACSW, LCSW

Dr. Spencer Johnson’s book “Who Moved My Cheese?” seems to be the new fad in corporate America. For those who have not read the book, “cheese” is used as a metaphor to represent the one thing that we treasure most individually. While the metaphorical message about adapting to change would seem to resonate idiosyncratically at the personal/individual level, executives and managers of corporate America are handing it out to employees and workers with hopes that they can rally the work force into a constructive paradigm shift of increased work productivity, improved customer service, and enhanced morale in the work place. Pretty clever if they can pull it off. And it appears that just maybe they are making headway.

I was amazed at the reaction of my co-workers when this fad hit my place of employment. Most responded predictably with a personal interpretation which led them to conclude their criticisms of the company had been too harsh and that if they only adjusted their perspective a bit things would not be so bad. I seemed to be alone in my view that they were being emotionally and psychologically manipulated by this maneuver.

Although I believe Dr. Johnson’s book offers a worthwhile message for most of us individually, I feel that corporate America’s use of his message is nothing short of arrogant, for the following reasons:

*First of all, it assumes that everyone gets their “cheese” at the workplace. While work is clearly important and even meaningful to many, (for me at least) it is not the thing I treasure most, nor in my opinion should it be for the masses.

*Second, it implies that the only one who needs to make any adjustments to improve the workplace is the employee. The corporation or company is absolved from whatever its role in workplace dissatisfaction or burnout may be, and thus, places all responsibility for change on the worker.

Certain aspects of corporate America have cleverly scammed their workers by taking Dr. Johnson’s book and used it in a manipulative manner to sidestep the role they contribute to the challenges, difficulties, and stressors of today’s challenging work environment. If your boss gives you a copy of this book and instructs you to read it, remember — it is best suited for your personal life not your corporate one. Any company that assumes and implies a one-sided vision such as this is more than likely focused on how to obtain more “cheese” for themselves rather than be genuinely concerned for your welfare as an employee.

Finally, do not be seduced into the notion that work is where you find your “cheese”. While work is an important element of your life, do not forget it isn’t the most important aspect of your life — your personal/family life is.


Johnson, MD, Spencer. Who Moved My Cheese? G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1998.