Have you ever spoken with someone who works at a retail chain, or a fast food restaurant, about the state of salary? The conversation generally includes something like “Well I’ve been here for five years, and I’ve been getting 9 dollars an hour and they just hired her in and she’s getting 9 and a quarter.” Now, logically, even if the employee was working a full forty hour work week, something that’s a rarity for anyone in the service sector who’s not labeled ‘management,’ the extra $10.00 that week the new employee makes won’t really affect the lifestyle of the longer serving employee. The reaction is more emotional than practical. Management tends to be insensitive because they don’t really think in terms of who gets an extra $0 .25/hr. It doesn’t eat them up every time they come into work.
…there is a big difference between statistical data and personal information
Generally speaking we do live in the information age, and most income data is available online, yet there is a big difference between statistical data and personal information. Things get a little bit different at the professional individual contributor level. PIC’s tend to command larger salaries and are less inclined to worry about the wage discrepancies. Sometimes. But once they are past worrying about salaries, it’s easier to stay on the shared goal of driving the organization forward no matter the role you play.
As companies continue to try and drive income for their workforce down, and CEO Pay is skyrocketing, one possible solution may be to simply make all salaries open and searchable. There are articles and podcasts about companies that do this. And of course government salaries are open as well. This only works if the organization starts this way, or if there is a change to open pay, the company gets through the difficult period of resentment, emotional discord and commensurate wage re balancing when everyone finds out everyone else’s pay is. Basically, the idea of salary becomes about as important as who has a window in their office. Nice, but if you really get worked up about it then your considered a bit petty.
The whole thing reminds me of the open attitudes about intellectual property In China. In China intellectual property is not a thing of serious consideration. In the west we tend to think of IP theft as a huge problem in the Chinese market. It’s hard for us to wrap our head around the idea that intellectual property simply isn’t that important over there. I can easily see why a Chinese business person would have an incredulous and dismissive attitude if someone were to bring up IP to them. The local culture shares ideas and then they are iterated on so often that in short order someone surprising comes out of the cacophony of the dialog and experimentation. And then that becomes the idea and more great things happen. Ironically that’s the goal of the US copyright system, but what takes us the author’s life plus 70 years takes the Chinese one drunken dinner party.
It’s sort of like burgers here in America. No restaurant owner cares about who invented or has the IP on a hamburger, the value of the burger is really associated with each individual restaurants twist on the food type. Nobody cares about who owns what idea, it’s all about the service, the personalization of the idea. Who can come up with the next big burger. The ownership of the idea is irrelevant to the point of non-existence.
I don’t think everyone should make the same salary. Different work outcomes and different skills should result in different compensation. It’s just that the salaries should be pegged to performance and job types (they are) and it may be best if they are open for all to know (they are not). The closer we get to a more open compensation model, the less of a distraction the salaries become to everyone and there is more focus on achieving the next great thing.
I’m so sure that i’m right on this I’ll bet anyone a $10 burger on it. I just need to get that extra quarter an hour to pay for it first.