Tuesday, March 1, 2016

As a manager and executive...

As a manager and executive ... I heard some version of this so many times: employees (or prospective employees) just not believing that the laws of economics should apply to their labor.  That is, they didn't think their compensation (their pay) should be related directly to the value they delivered to the company.

I've heard many variations of this over the years, enough that they form patterns that I can now pick up very early in a conversation.  For instance, there's the “my pay should be related to how hard I try” version, wherein the employee believes that what's actually accomplished is not important, but rather how hard one tries.  Then there's the “but it’s the right thing to do for this cause I believe in” version, as if companies should pay their employees on the basis of a philanthropic goal, and not the company's profit.  And then there's my all-time favorite: the “but I have this advanced degree!” version, wherein the employee believes that their credential should determine their pay, and not their actual ability or accomplishment.

All of my attempts to advise people with such beliefs were fruitless, so far as I could tell.  They just went through life bitter and resentful about their compensation, which of course they generally believed was too low (exactly one person ever complained to me about being paid too much, though quite a few people really should have!).  That one person was an interesting case: he worked for me in a company that was struggling, and very clearly understood that if he made less money he was less likely to be laid off.  He was one of the most highly compensated engineers in the company at the time he made the request.  What he didn't realize was that we often asked key people to take a pay cut in lieu of being laid off, and that's what we did with him on a subsequent round of expense cutting.

Reflecting on this makes me glad (once again!) that I'm retired...

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