Monday, September 8, 2014

A Failure to Pay a Reasonable Wage

A Failure to Pay a Reasonable Wage

First things first, I’m not proposing a change to minimum wage, that's a different argument for a another day. I have a different concern in mind: Paying people what they’re worth.

You see, I’ve noticed a sadly common and depressing trend of employers who honestly seem to believe they are doing themselves a ­favoror at the very least opperating under "normal" and "healthy" practicesby underpaying genuinely good employees. From what I’ve been able to gather is that these companies believe, on a whole, that it works in their favor to pay someone say, $12 an hour when they are doing the work and have the responsibility of someone deserving of twice that wage.

Let's get one thing straight, I don’t believe everyone earns that higher wage. Many people call it in, so to speak. But there is a breed of worker who will try and strive and do their best regardless… until they can no longer bend. Suddenly they break, and they move on. These workers ought to be paid twice what they make and truly replacing them often seems to cost triple or quadruple a company's original labor cost, be it through base wage or lost production during an inevitable training and learning curve phase. And yet companies seem oblivious to the value of these individuals. Why?

Seriously, why? WHY?

Come on, people! You’re killing me! ...And your businesses!

To me, the value is obvious. An employee who’s been with the company for five year has more value than an equally hard-working and intelligent worker who’s brand new to the company. The vested employee has learned dozens or hundreds of little side jobs and tricks to streamline work, has become more productive across a variety of necessary areas and has knacks, knowledge, and all the functional skills to utilize their individual strengths. What is that knowledge worth? Obviously, that depends on the company and industry… but from the jobs I’m talking about, the people I’m envisioning, they average out to a 5-10% pay increase over the brand new employee which they have to train.

Even assuming a menial labor job, a so called “no skill” position, the amount of output by such an employee is at least 25-50% more than the average new employee over the first year in the job. Even the best intentioned, hardest worker can only learn so much so fast. They can only produce so much as they adjust to the various learning curves.  And yet, from what I’ve seen in our “burgeoning” modern economy the truly hard-working, intelligent, diligent, and dedicated worker gets their 5-10% raise over a worker they are doing, let’s be honest, probably 50-75% more work than (that’s not counting how well they are doing said work or the value of their positive, competent face they’ve attached to the company).

Many of these great workers, dedicated to their own education and improving their value through measureable means, choose to move on to bigger and better companies. Ok, fine. Logical. Who wouldn’t, given the opportunity? What gets me is that any company would EVER let these people move on for a reason such as reasonable compensation beyond what their company is capable of offering/sustaining.

Let’s get this straight. People that feel the need to move on and upward are usually doing so because the company they work for simply isn’t valuing them properly (or simply no longer possesses the upward mobility of challenge and progression as well as financial compensation).

And yet the trend of companies undervaluing truly good employees—at least from my personal observation—has become the norm. Common place. Expected.


We live in a rough economy. "These people ought to feel glad they even have a job!" says the manager/ceo/owner, as they drive off in a car that could pay the competent worker for a year or two, while they themselves are often completely reliant on these underpaid workers to get the results they are paid for.

Look, I’m not saying pay a lazy kid doing a mindless job fifteen dollars an hour. I’m saying pay that 25/30/40 year old that’s in school or recently graduated, who's tried even when it’s hard! These are good people who want to work to earn their living. ------They deserve more!------

Why are so many companies blind to this?

Seriously... You people are hurting yourselves. You’re hurting your bottle line. You are limiting yourselves. Oh, and you're screwing over your employees, hampering them in their personal lives.

These employees you are driving away are the ones who will go on to new jobs with new companies and take them into the upper echelon (something which you’re incredibly unlikely to even sniff, if you’ve got this asinine practice).

Let’s put this in perspective, you up and coming, poorly compensating companies… McDonald’s pays an average wage roughly two to three dollars above minimum wage to its entry-level workers. They offer tuition reimbursement programs… and they are thriving. Believe it or not, they are capable of turning away poorly performing workers and getting rid of sub-par performers because they pay even high school kids just starting off decently.

Walmart, despite the massive negative publicity against it, pays its entry-level employees—aka anyone inside the story which isn’t management—an average of over $12 an hour.  Walmart does pretty well for itself, and, surprise, surprise, their good workers stay around, get raises, get promoted and, ta freaking da, receive equitable compensation! (Yes, I get it there are a LOT more factors involved, but I'm not talking about the moment...)

But why would you follow the lead of companies which have been wildly successful? Because you’ve heard the cries of the lazy and entitled about how they deserve to be paid better as well? Because you have a hard time imagining the drastic effect of paying your $12 an hour worker the $25 an hour they deserve?

I promise, after the cost of turnover and training, the loss of little bits of and knowledge, among other qualities, you’re getting a steal for these employees you’re underpaying until they run off to a company which treats them well.

I could go on. Sit me down in person and I gladly will. But I don’t want to bore you.

Just do yourself—and your employees—a favor and pay people what they’re worth. And yes, sometimes that means a raise of $5 instead of your standard 25 cents every six months or year.

Do it. Seriously. Give them a raise. Call it a selfish act, because you'll be reaping as much a reward as your previously under-paid employee.


  1. Interesting issue...interesting and meaningful reasoning leading to a valid position.

  2. or 10 cents a year if you are Macy's. Yeah, I'm getting to that point where I don't want to work anymore 'cause I'm tired of working hard and going nowhere.