Inverted Thinking 2/19/23

Political Thoughts with Richard Bleil

An odd thought crossed my mind the other day.  Considering my current employment status, it’s strange for me to think about things like this, but I’ve been in the workplace, and yes, I’ve had minimum paychecks.  And now it’s looking like it’ll happen again. 

As I keep dipping into my (less than you might think) remaining investments to pay for things like 1,800 square inch chalkboards and programming languages like Fortran and Python and C++ for my research, it’s beginning to become apparent that I will need a steady income if I want to live beyond my inheritance.  It occurred to me that when I get a regular paycheck, how grateful I will be for getting it.

But that’s backwards, don’t you think? 

I have, and will be again, working and looking forward to that next infusion of cash from my task masters to help me pay for my streaming movie subscriptions.  One a month, or two weeks, or week, my bank account looks like it actually has cash until it is again depleted by bills.  But I’ve earned that money, and frequently more.  Should I honestly be grateful for my paycheck, or should the company for which I work be grateful to give it to me?

The reality is that business, any business, must have profit as its highest priority.  If not, they will go out of business before long, and regardless of what benefits they are to society or what good they do, they will no longer be able to do so.  I get that.  They must make money.  Period. 

But the money they make comes off of the backs of their employees.  It’s the people who work for them who keep them in business, and the owners of that business, if they have a conscientious at all, should be always aware of this simple fact.  I feel as if my previous bosses are aware of this, as is evident by their flexibility and treatment of those of us who worked for them.  But too many corporations treat their employees as disposable cogs who are nothing but a burden to the company’s bottom line.  The greed of the owners of mega-companies lose touch with their employees (in my opinion) and want nothing more than to see their own wealth increase regardless of the cost in terms of harm to people. 

Thanks to Covid, more and more people are finding alternatives to personal income, leaving the wealthy to complain that they cannot get enough people back to fill the positions they have.  This should be a wake-up call, but instead it’s simply a point of complaints.  For the first time in a long time, people had to find alternative income when the business owners used the incentive monies meant to keep the employees on staff to buy back their own stocks and keep more money for themselves.  Meanwhile, in that same period of time, the employees who were let go had to use their own imagination and incentives to make money for themselves and came to realize that they are worth more than the company for which they worked.

A common mistake that owners make is that it’s all about money.  It isn’t.  People typically don’t leave jobs so much as they leave bosses.  You cannot pay people enough to keep them happy if they feel disrespected and unappreciated.  When I was the director of the forensic science lab, the office would get a batch of paycheck stubs (since we were required to use direct deposit), but I had my office assistant give them to me rather than putting them into the mail slots.  I used this opportunity, same day, to walk around my building and hand each of my people their pay stubs.  But it was always more than “here”.  Instead I took the opportunity to sit and chat with each one of them, informally, to catch up with what’s going on in their lives outside of work.  I would listen if they had work related issues to discuss, but it just wasn’t the point, and because we talked in their work area, it was less stressful than meeting in my office.  And the only reason I took the opportunity out of my time to do this is because I respected them, and appreciated what they did for us. 

Working as dean, the president of the university decided, in one fell swoop, to upgrade pay scales to national standards.  He looked at all of the faculty, and anybody paid a certain percentage below the national average would receive a bump in pay.  As it turns out, there were only a couple of faculty outside of my college (mathematics and science) who would receive such a bump, while a vast majority of faculty in my college would.  My faculty were famously troublesome and loved complaining.  True to his word, they received their pay increases, some of which were very significant.  Some months later, the president asked me, with a smile, how the attitudes of my faculty were.  His smile disappeared quickly as I explained that they were still disgruntled.  He reminded me of the pay raise, and I had to point out that the issue isn’t with their pay, but their perception of how they are treated.  As long as they felt disrespected, they wouldn’t be happy.

Far too many corporations still think of paying their employees as an obligation rather than an opportunity.  Too many people think of their pay as something to be grateful for instead of considering that it’s just a portion of the money they make for the owners.  Our thinking is just backwards.


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