THE $64,0000 QUESTION….
The other day my eye was caught by a headline in the Financial Times that read ‘Don’t ask too much.’ I immediately assumed it related to wage negotiations. It turned out to be about the European Central Bank---not an institution I’m particularly familiar with although I’ve certainly done my fair share of salary arm-wrestling with journalists over the years—especially when inviting (my italics) younger members of the editorial team to take on more ‘responsibility’ (a well-known euphemism for extra work.)
Having come from the generation that was told ‘Work hard and you’ll be noticed’ I was often taken aback by the complete lack of reticence from those younger bloods who asked me: ‘And how much more money am I going to get for the extra work?’ My usual response was: ‘Well you haven’t done anything yet!’ although I invariably agreed to look at their salary levels after two months, as part of a performance review. And knowing that I’d need to get any raise agreed by at least three senior execs raiding the piggy-bank I learnt very quickly never to promise anything until it had been signed-off.
Most of the time they did deliver the goods and the extra wonga was duly found—though not always to the level they expected, but that’s another story. However, in time, I recognised that their opening gambit on salaries was probably right. Why shouldn’t anyone look after themselves in a large corporation? Especially as the age of the patrician manager is probably long past.
The fact that dinosaurs like me trusted our bosses to reward us (eventually) was doubtless based on an archaic mindset. Today, any manager needs to recognise the aspirations of the current generation and be prepared for the $64,000 question. And in return it’s not unreasonable to expect someone to prove they actually deserve the extra dosh---for after all, actions DO speak louder than words.