On the surface, this is funny. But once you start thinking about it, you realize how true it is and it saddens you a little.
Life in corporate America can be rewarding and frustrating. One of the things I always found frustrating was the unwillingness of big companies to do anything different. Every company does what every other company does. The corporate buzzword for that is “industry standard,” which simply means, “we’re doing what everyone else is doing, and that makes it OK.” One unfortunate application of this is the way revenue is distributed. Companies use whatever method they choose to arrive at a dollar amount that is dedicated to salary increases. The vast majority of that pool of money is given to the top 2-3 lines of the corporate org chart, leaving tiny amounts for the rest of the workers.
The average US worker will receive a 3.1% raise in 2019, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. At the same time, health insurance premiums are up 5% according to CBS News. Corporate executives saw a 17.6% pay increase in 2017, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
Now, I’m a capitalist. I have no problem with any person making as much money as they can. I also recognize different jobs require different skill sets, and thus, different compensation. I also recognize that the fewer the number of a certain position, the higher the salary is going to be. There are a lot more administrative assistants than there are CEOs, so CEOs are going to make more money, and lots more of it. I don’t favor any hair-brained concept that the CEO and the janitors should be paid the same.
Also, anyone who knows me knows one of my least-favorite phrases is, “there aught to be a law…” I hate the notion that anytime an injustice is exposed, government intervention is the proposed solution. I absolutely oppose any social justice warrior getting away with using legislation to force corporate top cats to accept the same pay as an accountant with no direct reports.
That doesn’t mean the current pay structure is right. It isn’t. I’ve written before that there’s a perverted pecking order in big companies when it comes to profit and loss. In times of profit, the executives get the first and biggest cut, then investors with a dividend increase, then the customers with smaller price increases, and the employees come last, usually getting that microscopic pay increase that is more than offset by the much larger increase in insurance premiums. When there’s a loss, the employees get hit first with no pay increase, pay cuts or layoffs. Then the customers get hit with big price increases, then the investors absorb a dividend cut or no increase. The executives are usually exempt, still getting pay increases, although the rate may be lower.
Not only do corporations expect workers to be OK with the smallest possible pay, they expect them to just about destroy themselves with overwork to get it. The corporations I worked for did have progressive rating systems – the higher your rating, the larger your pay increase. But even if you get the highest rating – which you nearly had to cure cancer and raise the dead to get – you’re still not going to get a raise that exceeds your insurance premium increase. That explains the text at the bottom of the meme. The companies expect the worker to practically perform miracles with their effort, then give them almost nothing when they do.
So what can be done? As I’ve said before, I don’t favor any laws to force the top dogs to share with their workers, and them having a million- or billion-dollar is not evil in and of itself. There has to be a culture change. Companies have to make the decision to give employees more, and put policies in writing that ensure it actually happens. If companies are going to continue to increase the healthcare costs by 5% every year, 5-10% pay increase should be offered, and perhaps lower the executives’ increases to 8-10%. (Keep in mind if a high-performing administrative assistant that got the highest rating and gets a 10% increase is probably getting $3,000-$5,000, while a CEO making $5 million getting a 10% increase is getting an extra $500,000 – just some perspective when talking in terms of percentages.)
This would, of course, be a change viewed as radical as the assembly line. Any company that made this shift would probably get a lot of backlash from investors and shareholders (who would want more of the profit for themselves), consumer advocates (who would demand price decreases over rank-and-file employee raises), and other large companies who would face pressure from employee advocates to follow suit.
Could it happen? Perhaps. In the movie Hancock, Jason Bateman’s character said, when making a radical PR proposal, “We can change the world. Somebody’s just gotta go first.” We can only hope someone or some company decides to go first, change the world, and let the regular folks catch a break.