So I’d like to step up to the altar and preach this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about the plea for equal pay for equal work. What does that mean exactly?
My beef is with the concept of equal work. What is the definition of work today?
Today’s corporations value the time your bum is parked in front of their computers more than quality and quantity of the work you produce while you are there.
While working a giant TelCom Corp. one of the things that would cause my blood pressure to skyrocket and my face contort into a semi-permanent scowl was the frustration of working effectively and efficiently without getting credit for it. I would create scripts and shortcuts and play the most productivity boosting playlist in order to best meet the mission impossible set before me. The mission: complete a 4 month project in a week, on a deadline that was 3 weeks ago. All of this needs to be delivered without mistakes, a shiny beautifully designed report, and a smile.
While I was busting my ass to get everything done and feeling shackled to my laptop, I would notice that my colleagues were taking a smoke break, then a coffee break, then a smoke and coffee break and then a gossip break. Then they’d ask me for help with their assignment and we’d end up practically living in the office getting the bare minimum done.
The absurdity was that when it came time to decide who to promote it would be those who stayed the extra hours living in the office rather than working.
Put simply, there is great value placed on the hours we sacrifice to the almighty corporate gods, but not on the quality of the work we produce.
In a knowledge economy, you can’t measure progress by the number of bottles you package on the assembly line in an 8 hour shift. So our definition of “equal pay for equal work” needs to change. I think value should be measured by what an employee brings to a company rather than hours invested.
When I was in the role of the manager, I had a brilliant part-time employee. He was delivering brilliant results. My bosses were constantly asking me why I didn’t hire him full time, since he was providing such great value.
This didn’t make any sense to me. I felt that by respecting his decision to work part time and devote more hours to his kids and family, I felt I was getting more value out of him. I will let you in on a dirty little secret: by praising the value he delivered in a short time and giving him responsibility over the progress of a certain project, he ended up spending his own free time learning and setting up a newer and better system.
So without having to increase his salary, I got far more value out him than I would have otherwise. And I would like to believe that he felt a greater sense of pride in his contribution.
Why shouldn’t those who manage to keep the world turning while still enjoying the things they are passionate about, and do so by being efficient and effective, be rewarded for this skill?
Giant tech corps that measure value by quantity rather than quality of work end up with two equally bad outcomes: They lose money because they encourage people who don’t work but simply sit around the office for hours collecting overtime and watching movies just to ensure the clock keeps ticking away. At the same time, people who are creative and efficient end up uninspired and underappreciated, chained to their desks in order to clock in minimal hours.
The solution would be to reward based on results rather than the time spent on a given project. For example, a project manager should determine a deadline and all the departments involved, if they deliver the project ahead of schedule, the remaining budget should be distributed as a “bonus” to all the employees.
In the same way, if they go overtime or deliver a poor quality product, some penalty could be exacted, such as unpaid overtime.
Do you have suggestions for a new way of measuring success and value the work and results employees produce? Have you worked somewhere where you felt that they rewarded the value employees added appropriately?
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