My $.02 on Gravity Payments 70K Minimum Salary

I first heard about this story in late July by reading this NY Times article. I also decided to read this article in Forbes, this one in Entrepreneur, and this one in Fistful of Talent.  Four articles is plenty for me to have an opinion.

Really, there are two pieces of this story that interest me.

Psychology – Price hears a psychology study and realizes his company can do better providing for people’s basic needs.  Fact: people who make 70K aren’t worrying about paying the basic bills.  “Price based the figure on a 2010 Princeton study he read, and an epiphany while on a hike with his friend who was struggling to pay her bills on an annual income of $40,000.” – From Entrepreneur.  Basically, just take a look at Maslow – employee’s have their basic needs taken care of and can then focus on other pieces like improving job performance, or saving, or creativity.

Maslow, Compensation, Benefits

Biblical Literacy – The man paid attention to this extremely disturbing biblical parable of the Workers in the Field that rocks me every time I read it.  Seriously, go read it.   The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t work like the USA works, and doesn’t work like we want it to work.  It won’t be “fair” they way we like to think of “fairness.”  Is Price a Christian?  Well, he grew up in a household of faith, but he isn’t anymore.  According to the NY Times –  “Mr. Price is no longer so religious, but the values and faith he grew up on are “in my DNA – It’s just something that’s part of me.”

Parable of the Workers

So, this crazy decision made his employees obviously uncomfortable.  No, it wasn’t fair within his company, and he definitely should have consulted other people on his decision.  It’s demoralizing to people who only got a slight salary increase for their already higher paying positions.  After all “ Giving large raises to lower paid, lower contributing employees may be well intentioned, but unless it’s paired with equitable raises for higher contributing employees, it is bound to cause dissatisfaction and turnover.” (As Forbes points out: Equity Theory!)  I can easily see other psychology principles coming into play pretty soon, like the fact that we easily get accustomed to the new normal – hello Hedonic Treadmill!

But, quite a lot of what I see in this is that we (journalists? Americans? pundits? fellow employees) continue to confuse the idea of labor value with personal worth, and at the same time, pretend that how much we earn shouldn’t/doesn’t affect how we see each other.

The change forced the employees to reckon with the way they judge their own worth and the way they judge the worth of other employees.  Suddenly, they’re all on the same “worth” scale, and so they cry foul, they see it as an attack on their personal worth.  If I’m suddenly making as much as the admin, despite my different duties and education, am I worth what I think I am?  Serious ego blow.  I think this is also a story about identity and the way we value people.

That, and the obvious workplace connection, is what makes me keep thinking about this story.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics gives us plenty of ways and formulas to help calculate salaries and benefits, but they don’t touch on how we as humans make meaning from that data and determine worth.  A lot of us take what the BLS says about labor value, and the emphasis on making money and spending money and determine that a salary is equivalent to their personal worth.  All you do is answer phones, that’s not worthwhile, you’re not worth a wage like that.  That’s not even close to true. My labor is worth a dollar amount, but my worth as a person is priceless.

What I think Price did is to try and make that discrepancy between worth and value a little smaller.  His method was flawed, imperfect and is causing waves, but I definitely applaud him for a radical decision and doing something.

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Career Advice for my Younger Self

Career Advice WordPress

I’ve been poring over my resume in order to update it with my new (almost completed) degree, as well as recent projects, experiences and high hopes for the future – Oh wait, that last bit just goes in my diary.  So I’ve been considering lessons and career advice I wish I’d known during my first  job… but that I’ve learned along the way since then.

After a series of eclectic high school and summer jobs (orthodontist assistant, library page, soccer referee, camp counselor..) I finally got my first real job – as in only 40 hours a week, with a liveable salary – as a twenty-two year old.  The salary was enough to move into my first real apartment, which I wrote about on Connect Shore last year.

But, as most of us know, first jobs are well… first jobs and the learning curve is steep, and includes more than just the basics of mastering the job description.  Eventually you move on, leaving behind a trail of mistakes, growth, and new references for your resume.

Here are the top 5 pieces of career advice I wish I’d known on my first day of work.

1. Write down what you learn and what you want to learn.  The first two weeks on the job I was an eager beaver writing down all the important things I could – like where the emergency kits were, what my employee ID number was, and how to create the best daily schedule.  But over time I stopped making an effort to write down details. Since then, I’ve become a lot more conscious of holding onto lessons learned.

At the beginning of each semester I take the time to write down a couple goals that range from details:  answer ALL the emails within 6 hours to content: Read at least one supplementary reading the teacher mentions and use it in an assignment.

At the end of the semester I write down what I learned: personally: don’t take three classes at once! and scholastically: I now know about Michael Porter’s Shared Value theory and the importance of reviewing key learnings in training programs.  You could also choose to write down professional learnings, emotional learnings, or simply various observations.

Taking the time to keep a learning journal will help you remember and practice the lessons you’ve learned.

I also try and write down what else I want to learn in the future about the topics I just started exploring through a class: for example I want to learn more about concrete ways businesses are able to integrate sustainability practices into their strategy and bottom line.  This applies equally well to jobs – there are always more things to learn.  This can help you make the most of even an entry level job.

2. Office politics matter. People, and the way they work together, are incredibly important.  Some people have even disagreed with the venerable Abraham Maslow to say that social needs may be as important as physical needs – at least on the job.  It’s worth the effort to learn the strengths and weaknesses of your coworkers, to learn how to manage your boss (as the Harvard Business Review calls it) and your coworkers, along with learning how to manage yourself.  It’s also worth it to know when to get involved in a conflict, when to walk away, and when to ask for help from your boss in a conflict. Yeah, that’s a story for another time.

3. Track how you work and what is involved with big projects. I have a bad habit  of wanting to do half of my week-long to-do list on Monday morning. Then, when 1pm comes around, I’m disheartened that I couldn’t tackle those first 16 hours of work in 4 hours. Be realistic and know how long answering emails, writing reports, and travel time can take. Writing a paper is a project – but there’s a lot more to it than simply “writing” (see my last post).  There are “sweet spots” for working on different types of work, and figure out when and how the pieces of the puzzle (projects and time available) fit together.

4. Reach out to like-minded people AND/OR join a professional group.  I got disheartened after two years of working in my first job because of a dearth of connections.  I liked my coworkers enormously, and office drinks were fun… but other people didn’t seem to view what the work the same way I did.  Some were putting in hours to get paid, others were focused on daily tasks and I wanted to talk the high level view.  I got so frustrated, in fact, that I first began my quest to re-assess my skills, desires, and interests in order to find another field to work in.

Perhaps if I had known to find a professional group, a mentor, or reached out to others in a group for career advice, I might have found a way to use my skills in that field.  Talk about work from a step-back every now and then with other professionals in order to get a fresh look, don’t just whine, moan, and complain about the daily grind.  Reach out to mentors!

5. When the right time to move on is. I wish I’d known the answer to this one then, and I still haven’t had enough experience to be able to answer the questions now – but I really wish I knew!  Some experts say that when you’ve stopped learning anything new, that’s the time. Other say, when you’ve mastered the core responsibilities of the job.  I don’t think these take into account the fact that people aren’t just career-bots and may also need to accommodate rest-of-life circumstances when they consider moving to a new job.  However, if you’re feeling burned out, it’s probably time to move on now!
How about you? What career advice would you have given yourself when you started working?

Your Priorities aren’t just another “To Do” list

I bit off more than I could chew and it’s been weighing on my mind for a couple weeks now.

When I calculated how much time I had at the beginning of the semester – there was an ample amount of time to study and balance work.  I only needed about 35 hours total – and there are 168 in the week.

I immediately, of course, threw out the 56, give or take, I spend sleeping, and all the time I spend with E pouring water on the floor, watching buses, fighting to get the coat on, and all the other activities of daily living.  I’m smart about that stuff – I know I can’t read textbook chapters and eat oatmeal with a toddler on my lap (or can I?)

That brought me down to about 42 hours of time per week.  See!  Look!  I’d planned for 7 hours of wiggle room no less!

Haha.  Wiggle room.

Like always – I glossed over the fact that life changes.  That I would have new ideas about the best way to live – and those ideas might involve amounts of internet and book research which also has nothing to do with class – and wouldn’t fit into those left over 7 hours.

I didn’t budget in for feeling overwhelmed and sitting on the couch watching Modern Family, and Once Upon a Time over and over.  I didn’t plan for buying new furniture, or non-routine shopping trips.  I didn’t plan for just not wanting to work some nights – or not being able to figure out what needed to get done the first time around.  I didn’t plan for planning, or questioning my decisions.

Who can plan for that stuff?

Real life takes up time – and even though people say it can be organized – (Even though I’m trying to be organized – and there are purportedly more tools than ever via apps, the internet, and experts – I get the feeling that’s not really helping anyone – it’s just kind of putting off disaster a little further.)

One Problem? These tools aren’t doing what needs to be done – they won’t tell you a single thing about your Priorities.

These tools are trying to tell us we can have it all, if we can just pull together by trying another solution, or working harder, or just smarter.

It doesn’t work like that.   You have to say ‘No’ to some things – and you have Say ‘Yes’ to the Right things.

You have to do your best, forget the rest – and then not try to fit “the rest” in later in the day.

No tool in a magazine, on the internet, in a book, or in a day planner will tell you about your priorities.

You will need to figure out your priorities on your own.

Truth be told, you should probably get help from others too.  Cause if you, and all your little wants, and all your impulses are priority one – you did it wrong.

None of those other tools, the books, planners, and resolutions, will help you when the going gets tough.  For that – you need grace – not another “to do” list.

I’ve been clinging tight to the words of advice from Proverbs 6:6 that Donald Miller reminded me of and simply trying to do one thing at a time lately – and those things that have a lasting impact.  The right things.

Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise.

image via fineartamerica.com

For more of my thoughts on Priorities and Values : Check out my post “This I Believe.”

Work Conflict and Adult Development

Last week I’ve finished my classes for the semester.  The more intellectually enjoyable of these was a Psychology of Adulthood and Aging class which used this textbook by Stacey Whitbourne. During the chapter on Work and Leisure the author discusses the some of the various tensions which exist between home and work life, which fall into two categories.  At the time, the class had a lively discussion about what constituted the “worst job.”  And it’s always fascinating to see that one person’s worst job, is another person’s idea of heaven.

Another concept was that of the spillover model, proposing that attitudes and behaviors associated with one domain (work or home) have an effect on the other.  The second postulated interaction is the role strain model, stating that work and family involvement are inversely related.

I’m not sure I would define as “strain” in terms of a “split.”  Since in life, an inevitable amount of strain is not only likely, but desirable.  The strain of lifting weights leads to strengthened muscles after all.  However, a role sprain could indicate some unnecessary torque that required an evaluation.

The other notion of role strain I dislike is that it pits “work” and “family” as two self contained spheres which shouldn’t mix, and if they do, they are somehow doing a disservice to the other environment.  The only inevitable result of this is conflict.  Conflict, again, is a necessary aspect of life, at least according to my new hero, Georg Simmel, who believes that it’s the balance of superordination and subordination that each person experiences within his relations with the world.  And the only way to destroy a relationship is to withdraw completely from it.  Furthermore, any entirely harmonious group will not partake in any kind of life process. (p. 12. Coser. 1965)

The role strain model also seems to carry the implicit message that it is necessary to divide time either equally between work and family, or that one should focus solely on one domain at a time.  I protest! Not possible!  Not only not possible, but implausible, for no one can be completed by the necessarily somewhat impersonal work relations they undergo on a daily basis, nor the intimate and cloying family relations that occur from the stifling assumptions of people who know you so well they want to change you. (As I once aptly read in Coelho’s The Alchemist. )   Yet, simultaneously, these are the same people that take your work for granted on a daily basis, gloss over your most admirable qualities, and nitpick your insignificant faults. And stop laughing at your jokes.

Perhaps one of the most dissatisfying experiences of this (and well, all) semesters now where I’ve balanced work and life is the dizzying and saddening realization that I can’t do everything I want.  (And not just in a Rolling Stones kind of way), but in that, there will not be time in life to complete all possible pathways.  This is what I would more consider a time strain.  Or, as I was summarily told by my husband, the problem of my own humanity, with which I need to come to grips. 

It seems that the older you get the more you understand the delicate balance of choosing what activities to engage in.  The classes have taken up about 20 hours of my weeks lately, work another 40, and various necessary commitments most of the weekends, and that meant there wasn’t time to look for a couch for our apartment until now.  But, with the end of class, and a lessening of strain, I assume I’ll have a place to sit aside from the bed and the kitchen table fairly soon.  Which will cut down on back strain.  Ha.

Fruits of our Labor

There’s something different about the “office gossip” when you’re tied to a piece of land you’re cultivating.  Especially if cultivating is your livelihood, but also, it seems, when it’s your hobby.  It’s like that phrase, “getting back to the land.”   Certainly when I hear it, I think, ‘this person means to invoke a hint of nostalgia to the conversation, to celebrate simplicity, to champion physical labor.”

I don’t often think of another associated meaning also deeply rooted in this aphorism.  Smaller Social Circles.   I consider myself an urbanite, a city dweller, an appreciator of fine culture (often as handed down by bigger cities and corporations), aware of some, but not all, global trends. To get back to the land seems to imply that I’m going to eschew certain New Yorkers with their television shows as my neighbors, and certain residents of Hollywood are no longer worth my notice.  I don’t know if it’s conscious, what these cultivators are doing by rejecting some of their broader context, but it seems to be a prerequisite for creating something that grows from the ground.

What they’ve got on their minds takes up more of it, and there aren’t enough extra fields left over to plants seeds of gossip about music, fashion, celebrities, cinema, and art into the ground.  Not when there must be concentration on planting, sowing, harvesting, the weather, and thirty or so varied crops.  (If you’re a small farmer, like the ones I’m basing my observations on.)  And once the last crop is plucked from the ground, there are irrigation systems to remove or rework, there’s pumpkins waiting to be pureed and preserved, and there’s peppers waiting to pickle.

Their after-work business isn’t finding out about gossip, it’s saving what they’ve made.  There’s only so long a tomato can hold before it starts to mold.  There’s also a more intimate connection to be made with a jar of homemade sauce than a computer article (the kind I will admit, I get sucked into frequently), about who wore what to New York Fashion week.

When the hard work of the farmer is done for the winter, they are left with jars and cans and tangible results.  When I’m done with my articles there isn’t much left.  Vague feelings of being connected, but not to anyone who knows me, still linger in my brain, and a round of conversation starters.  I don’t want to say that one is “better” than the other, only that they are different.  Only that it seems like choosing to follow the land results in actual fruit for your labor, or at least jam, and that choosing to follow a virtual connected world leaves you with intangible produce.

While you can yet still choose to change.

The more you age the more you gain wisdom, and the more you ossify.  This is hardly news to an osteologist, or a psychologist, but it may be news to a theologist.

Well, perhaps it isn’t, and I just wanted to string together words ending in “ologist” of which I have now exhausted my paltry store.

The more I read, the more phrases are thrown into the ocean of subconscious, and the more surprised I am when some smaller bits of driftwood work their way out of the riptide of general themes and onto the beach.

I read the book, Surprised by Hope earlier in the year, and though it’s addition to my conscious brain largely reoriented my perceptions about life’s best works lasting eternally and the restoration of soul and body, another small sentence has worked itself free from the waves and come to lodge into my daily living.

Perhaps I can’t even quote it exactly, but it goes a little like this, “But who says you’ll have the choice to change later anyway.”

Although a good chunk of growing up has meant sacrificing the ability to do everything, it has also meant that I understand I couldn’t do everything anyway.  The more conscious pigeonholing I do in my life, the more capacity for sadness and profound joy.

But you probably know that already.

What I didn’t know already, is that as life progresses there are some choices which you might not even be able to consider anymore.  This isn’t along the lines of choosing to have your own biological kid when you’re a woman in your 60’s.  To use a Christian cliché, it’s talk about hardened hearts.  Contemplating ways of thinking that aren’t yours.

A couple weeks ago in church my pastor told the story about an old man in his 90’s who was recounting his life story to a volunteer at the assisted living facility where he stayed.  The volunteer said to him, “Wow, you’ve certainly lived through a lot of change in your life” and the man replied “Yep.  And I’ve been against every one of them.”

That man was calcified.  But he had done so long before he hit his nineties, before his bones had hardened his mind had hardened.  These choices now, well, not to make them seem more weighty than they already are, but you might not get a chance to make them again, and you certainly won’t get a chance to make them in the same way.

Actions speak louder than words…

Unless of course you work with someone who really needs verbal affirmation.

I used to think it was cheating to try and read people and figure out what they needed to hear.  And I’ve also heard that it’s pretty good advice to take books like The Five Love Languages with a grain of salt.  And whenever I hear the phrase “there are two kinds of people in this world…” I immediately think – and of course the third type that fits neither category.

Bearing all that in mind this book supposes that people really need to feel appreciated a certain way.  It posits that there are 5 ways people feel appreciated.  These are: through physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, and acts of service.  Each person has a way that makes them feel as though they are understood and loved.

Therein lies how I ran into trouble at work the other day, and I think, in a lot of past jobs as well.  I’m firmly in the “no news is good news” category.  If something’s not broken, there’s no need to try and fix it.  But it turns out, my coworker was sick of my seemingly negative point of view, fixated only on the things I want to change and enhance, never celebrating success, or embracing how much progress we’ve made.

She wants and needs to be commended on the things we’re doing that are working well and are changing lives.  She wants to rejoice in each moment of triumph.  That’s a wonderful thing, an awesome thing.

I want to look at the things that we need to improve in order to become better.  I want to make plans and lists and “fix” things.  Enough with the pats on the back, let’s get a move on! Let’s be busy!

So we decided to reach a compromise with each other, to attempt to speak each others language.  I will say “Thank You” many times a day, look for our successes and build on them without noting the things that could also be improved on.  I will notice and discuss the changes with her and talk about how great we are.  Cause, oh, we are.

And she, well, she’s not going to wait three months to tell me things like this anymore, trying to bring about change by focusing only on my positive qualities.   If I’m being a jerk, she’s gonna tell me.

Sounds fine with me.