Have you ever visited Pity City? You know, the place where you feel sorry for yourself and all your problems? I think we’ve all been there before.
At Financial Samurai, we accept our situation and take action to make things better. Complaining why life isn’t fair is not the Financial Samurai way!
We are all given different strengths and weaknesses. Some of us have serious disabilities to overcome. How we make the most of our differences is what matters. We always fight on!
However, I’ve never actually been told to go visit Pity City before and then suck it up by someone earning millions of dollars. OK, maybe I have, but not in the way the CEO of MillerKnoll told his employees over a video call.
Don’t Live In Pity City You Mendicant Employees!
Have a listen for yourself as she addresses an employee’s question about how to stay motivated if they aren’t getting any bonuses.
“Don’t ask about what are we going to do if we don’t get a bonus, go get the damn $26 million! Spend your time and your effort thinking about the $26 million and not thinking about what you are going to do if you don’t get a bonus! Alright?! Can I get some commitment for that? I’d really appreciate that.” Andi Owen says.
She goes on to say, “I had an old boss who said to me one time, ‘You can visit Pity City, but you can’t live there.’ People, leave Pity City and let’s get it done! thank you Have a great… day.”
Yikes! When your employees are feeling down, the last thing you want to do is piss on them.
Easy To Leave Pity City When You Make Millions Of Dollars A Year
I understand Owen’s message about hustling and closing deals, especially in a difficult environment. Managing people, let alone an entire company is hard!
However, it’s disturbing to see how easily agitated she gets about lower-paid employees asking about compensation. There must have been some nasty anonymous feedback left for her to speak in such a way.
If you’ve ever wondered why it’s so hard to ask for a raise, responses like this are it! It’s even harder to ask for a raise in a face-to-face meeting. But the best time to do so and set expectations is during your formal review.
Andi Owen received $1.29 million in bonuses in 2022 and $1.12 million in 2021. Her total compensation in 2022 was over $5 million. If she gets another seven-figure bonus in 2023, I’m assuming the majority of her employees will look for new jobs.
If Andi Owen received a $0 bonus and cut her salary, her rallying cry for employees to work harder and not care as much about their compensation would have been better taken. But the MillerKnolls CEO is a top 0.1% earner who makes millions a year.
Oh crap, and I just learned Andi Owen is a fellow William & Mary alumni. Sorry! Most graduates I’ve met from this fine public institution are quite humble.
Employers Don’t Care As Much About You As You Think
The only way public-company CEOs can make million-dollar salaries and multi-million-dollar bonuses is if the company performs well. And the main way companies perform well is if their employees increase productivity.
Hence, your boss cares about employees to the extent that they perform at the highest level. Asking for raises hurts short-term profitability and therefore management compensation.
Yes, there will be team-building events and rallying cries to get motivated employees. But the sooner you look beyond the main purpose of these events – to get you to work more for less – the better you’ll be.
Most bosses keep their disdain for their employees private. Don’t think they aren’t talking about layoff plans, productivity schemes, and their disgust for quiet quitters behind closed doors.
Your Job Should Not Be Your Life
In this day and age of cutthroat competition, you must increasingly view your day job as a place for transaction, not for spiritual growth. Your day job is there to mainly make you money so you can have more options to do what you want, and that’s mostly it.
Potentially making friends and feeling like you have a purpose at your day job are side benefits. If you receive them, great. But don’t expect them.
instead, your boss is there to extract as much productivity out of you as possible to make as much money as possible from you.
Do you think the executives who drove Silicon Valley Bank into the ground are volunteering to give up their millions in bonuses earned in 2022? Hell no! They will fight to keep all their compensation despite causing financial hardship for their employees.
Employees must think more like management. If you work for a for-profit company, everybody’s main goal is to make as much money as possible.
Employees Must Continuously Fight For Their Compensation
You would be naive to think you’re simply going to get paid and promoted for doing good work. Meritocracy is declining, while office politics is increasing. You need to continuously sell yourself internally as much as you sell yourself externally to get paid what you deserve.
After every review, you must highlight your accomplishments and the value you have provided to your company. Then come up with an agreed-upon path to get paid a certain amount and promoted by a certain date, if various objectives are hit.
A written plan is a must to hold your managers accountable.
Employees are really only as good as the value they can bring to a company. If that value falls below their compensation level, the employee faces the risk of a layoff.
Negotiating A Severance Package Is A Must
Today, it is exceedingly rare for an employee to remain with one firm for their entire career and receive a pension upon retirement. The average person changes jobs every three-to-five years. And each time they change jobs present an opportunity to negotiate a severance package.
Given the transactional nature of work, the nature of a severance negotiation implies that an exiting employee provides value in lieu of receiving a severance.
This value can be in the form of cost savings, training a replacement, not going to a competitor, and/or not airing any company secrets. The last thing a company wants is a disgruntled employee writing a tell-all article in a major publication about shady things that were going on inside the firm.
As recent mass layoffs over e-mail at large tech organizations have shown, there’s not a lot of empathy that goes into laying employees off. Laying people off is difficult given the emotional element involved. The more an employee can help with the layoff process, the more likely the severity package will be better.
Don’t get too emotionally attached to your job.
The people who tell me, “Sam, but I could never do that to my employer and negotiate a severance,” are the same people who are too weak to fight for their pay and promotion. As a result, they get passed over for the people who do.
As soon as you leave your job, you will be replaced. Your old bosses and colleagues will forget all about you.
Cognitive Dissonance Is Real Among The Rich And Powerful
As I’ve written in the past, no matter how rich you get, you often never feel rich because other people have more. If other people have more, you convince yourself you’re not rich because you’ve worked so hard for your money.
Endless comparison with other households creates this constant anxiety that’s hard to quell. Even if you’re earning multiple six-figures a year, you might not feel like you are earning enough.
Here’s a fascinating survey that highlights the United States’ real and perceived income gap. In 2022, a survey of respondents believes 19% of the US population has earned more than $500,000, a top 1% income.
Accept The Reality Of Work
I hope all employees fight to get the best pay possible. If you do, you will boost your chances of reaching financial freedom sooner. If you don’t, you may end up bitter as you work way longer than you should.
The reality is, nobody will care more about your finances than you. Loyalty is an excellent trait. But loyalty also goes both ways. If your CEO is making mega-millions while paying you peanuts and talking to you in a condescending manner, you’ve got to leave!
Don’t spend the best decades of your life working for an organization that takes you for granted. If you do, you will look back with regret.
Reader Questions and Suggestions
How often do you visit Pity City? When you get there, what do you do and how long does it take for you to leave? Have you ever been hypnotized by management to stay for lower pay while they get paid huge sums of money? Is company loyalty dead?
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