Quote of the month

In response to a CNN Money article about setbacks the middle class has to cope with, commenter “Kevin Finkle” says:

How come no one ever says “We can’t just raise CEO pay… if we do that then we’d have to start charging $15 for a cheeseburger!”

Priceless. Of course, the answer is partly that $15 wouldn’t even begin to cut it. 😉

I was recently informed by someone I know that workers who don’t “bring in the clients” shouldn’t share in the wealth. The problem was, loads of well-compensated workers at this company do not “bring in the clients.” They simply do work that is valued. So despite what this person was saying, what they really meant was, “People with degrees that sound complicated are important. People who do the work that enables those people to do their thing are worthless.” Okay. So, have the people with the exciting degrees do their own travel scheduling, proof-reading (if they’re capable – lots of brilliant, worthwhile people are not), make their own phone calls, handle their own emails, clean their own toilets. I mean, if it’s such worthless work, why on earth not make the workers you can’t do without do the work of the workers you think you can do without?

Oh, no, I get it. It’s not that you think you can do without them. It’s that you think you can replace them so easily. And you can, of course, in this economy. Just remember that employees can also get on the “Gotta look out for #1″ bandwagon. I’ve seen it happen: they embezzle a little here and there. They run a porn ring off the company IP address. They cook up really creative scams that could make one wonder, was that employee really so worthless and replaceable? At the very least, they find ways to slow. down. your. workflow like you would not believe, to show you just how “busy” and “needed” they really are.

But some companies will never get that. They think they’re entitled to infinitely more work for infinitely less pay. Gotta break it to you: the employee is thinking you’re entitled to infinitely less work for infinitely less pay, and after a time everybody’s so cynical you can’t “find good help” for more than six months.


  1. says

    Scary part – it’s dead easy for a company to get good work out of people, even those very low down the totem pole (the ones your contact described as “shouldn’t share in the wealth”; you know that they want to do less work for more money, so give them opportunities to either earn more for similar work (but of higher value to the company), or to reduce their workload for the same pay.

    For example, one of our receptionists realised that it wasn’t a huge shift from what she was already doing to also filling in people’s expenses paperwork, freeing up the people who bring in the bacon to do more revenue-generating work; this has resulted in her being paid slightly more, as she’s reduced workloads for both the people whose paperwork she’s started pre-filling, and for Accounts, who now get expenses forms filled in correctly, with all receipts attached.

    A second (and more extreme) example is that we’ve reassigned a low pay employee into a higher paid job; he got interested, learnt about the job, and we seconded him across (on his *original* pay) to see if he could do it. The result has been win/win – an unqualified, unskilled employee is upskilling through experience (and getting paid more here so that he doesn’t take his new skills elsewhere), and we’ve got a cheap employee where we’d otherwise need ot recruit an expensive one.

    • Jennifer Kesler says

      That’s awesome, Simon. That’s what HR courses are teaching in college – mine the talent you have before bringing in new hires. New hires always cost “money” in the sense that other employees have to spend time bringing them up to speed and introducing them to this company’s particular workflow. But some companies just don’t get it. They would rather hire someone young with an exciting brand new degree – I can’t figure it out, but it’s almost like they think kids with degrees are on sale for a huge discount right now, so grab ’em while you can! They won’t even allow the existing pool of laborers to make lateral moves to positions that pay the same but have more potential (and are more interesting/fulfilling). So maybe they’re just hoping all those people will go away so they can replace them with bargain degree Millennials? If so… I don’t think that’s going to go so well. Kids who’ve completed college might temporarily be thrilled to get something in their field, even if it’s low paying, because it beats part-time minimum wage jobs. But give them a couple of years – when they’re approaching 30 and not remotely financially secure enough to buy a house, have kids, etc., they’re going to want more. And if they don’t get it, they’ll all take what they learned from (or know about) their employers and start companies of their own – very possibly competing with their former employers.

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