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Business, Diversity & Inclusion, Entrepreneurs, Leaders, Numbers, STEM

Thrown Under the Bus – Part 2: The Real Color of Money

theojays-fortheloveofmoneybackstabbersOpening lyrics to For the Love of Money by the O’Jays:

Money, money, money, money, m-o-n-e-y [x6]
Some people got to have it, yeah, some people really need it
Listen to me y’all, do things, do things, do things, bad things with it
Well, you wanna do things, do things, do things, good things with it, yeah, uh huh
Talk about cash money, money
Talk about cash money, dollar bills, y’all, come on now, yeah, yeah…

When I wrote the first post for this Thrown Under the Bus series, I was not singing the lyrics to the O’Jays blockbuster hit and timeless classic, For the Love of Money. Since launching this blog in February 2012, I haven’t written a specific post on the subject of money although I’ve been meaning to do so for some time. The topic of money is widely discussed in the workplace when analyzing profits, acquisitions, capital spending, etc. However, when it comes to salaries and personal compensation, most organizations discourage individual discussions between employees on the topic.

First, let’s get one housekeeping item out of the way. If you haven’t read the first post in this series: Thrown Under the Bus (Part 1): 3 Common Career Blocking Techniques, please do. It sets the stage for Part 2. While salary has never been the #1 goal for any position that I have held, and that includes the consulting work that I do, it is important, and don’t let anyone tell you that it is not. Getting paid a respectable and competitive salary may or may not rear its head in your first job or professional position, however, it is sure to surface at some point in one’s career. This includes starting salaries as well as pay raises and bonuses. Money is often one of the primary sore points in work and personal relationships.

Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of disparaging workplace related money stories. One of those stories that often comes to my mind was shared by a retired executive of a package shipping company. His nephew, a mechanical engineer, worked for a manufacturing company in the Midwest. His nephew appeared to be doing well in his career with this firm. He got along well with others and everyone appeared to like him. After seven years with the company, he had received a merit raise every year and one promotion. The company offered an incentive program to encourage creativity and innovation within the employee ranks. Of those ideas submitted, each was evaluated and if the idea or proposal was accepted, the submitter was eligible for a cash award. In addition to the above, those employees submitting ideas could become eligible for the Product of the Year Award.

bills-shaped-into-a-heartTo be eligible for this top award, the product or idea must have made a significant impact on the company’s profits via sales and/or reduction in operating expenses. Being the enterprising young man that his nephew is, he submitted a product idea. It was reviewed, accepted, and he received a preliminary cash award. After additional engineering work was done, equipment purchased and installed, and start-up of the new product line began – all of which was managed by his nephew – sales of the new product went thru the roof once units began rolling off the manufacturing line.

As far as I know, everyone was excited. My friend’s nephew was recognized at a large company gathering where he received a really nice plaque. He was even invited to one of the company’s Board of Directors’ (BOD) meetings where he was again recognized for the Product of the Year Award. There was an article or two in the company newsletter about his idea and the project that was undertaken to bring it to fruition. It is also possible that he received some recognition from the local news media.

While all of the above sounds good and is what many employees dream of, one thing was missing. Traditionally, the Product of the Year Award also included a check for $100,000 which was also presented to the winner during the recognition ceremony. For some unexplained reason, this person’s work was recognized, he got the plaque, he was invited to a BOD meeting, he got the photo and newsletter posts and newspaper write-ups, but no check. There was no explanation given as to why this award recipient’s check was missing in action (MIA), when checks had been awarded to all previous winners. His nephew did ask his manager(s) about the missing check, however, no answer was ever provided.

The Product of the Year Award program was not suspended going forward. In fact, the next two award recipients received the same level of recognition, but they also got the big check. It was also noted that the sales, savings, or other financial impacts of the two post awards were lower in dollar value than his idea. Needless to say, this employee had been thrown under the bus. Following the second award, my friend’s nephew made a decision to exit the company.

Since most of us have to work for a living, and I don’t know too many people who live to work, we want to be treated fairly at work and by the people we work with. Fair treatment includes proper monetary compensation, promotional opportunities, as needed training, and a non-hostile working environment. While my retired friend’s nephew may or may not have discovered who threw him under the bus and short-changed his Product of the Year Award experience, here are three workplace bouncers that one needs to be aware of:

The $Gatekeeper: It’s not too hard to find the $Gatekeeper in most work environments. It’s that person who is obsessed with everyone else’s salary. Whether you are a newcomer to gatekeeper.jpgyour work location or have been around 20+ years, the $Gatekeeper’s #1 goal is to ensure that he or she makes more than you do. The $Gatekeeper may allow an exception for the management team if he is a non-management employee. They believe themselves to be indispensable to the firm and that his or her knowledge, skills, services and performance exceed those of others at this location. There may also be a separate $Gatekeeper for the management ranks. They constantly circle the wagons to make sure that they walk away every two weeks with the largest paycheck or the largest payroll deposit.

Is the $Gatekeeper guilty of throwing others under the bus when it comes to short-changing them in salary compensation? Probably not. However, the guilty ones are his supervisor(s) and other members of the management team who support this practice.

Most organizations say that they reward performance. Nothing about the above practice speaks to merit or performance-based management.

Continuation of lyrics:
For the love of money, people will steal from their mother
For the love of money, people will rob their own brother
For the love of money, people can’t even walk the street
Because they never know who in the world they’re gonna meet
For that mean, oh mean, mean green
Almighty dollar, cash money…

Idea and Credit Stealers: Although it is probably obvious what ideas and credit stealers do, identifying that person may be more difficult. Often you may not be aware that someone has stolen or taken credit for your idea or work until after it has happened. In sticky situations like this, all too often supervisors and some co-workers pretend to look the other way, say they didn’t see or hear anything, or expect you to be the better person and just get over it! They also overlook that someone taking credit for your work affects your income and opportunities going forward. Then again, maybe that is the way some want it.

Two-types-of-people_Indira-GhandiThings get dicey and more complicated when the idea stealer has difficulty explaining the nuts and bolts of the design details and how the process, equipment, or software (sw) program should work. On the other hand, taking credit for work that has already been done is a very different ballgame. A colleague who worked with me in the semiconductor industry shared the following incident: a first level manager sold his management team on an idea that had been developed by one of his employees. To add insult to injury, the employee worked on the project outside of work and not on company time.

Needless to say, he did not give his employee credit for generating the idea or the work that was done to deliver a conceptual model. Shortly after this meeting occurred, the message that was being spread via the facility’s grapevine was that this manager should be very careful not to find himself alone in the company’s parking lot or on the premises after dark. And he should constantly look over his shoulders.

The manager exhibited a form of arrogant behavior that has thrown many persons under the bus: an unhealthy need for financial incentives and professional recognition that most likely would have accompanied his employee’s proposal. Sadly, this was enough to make this manager cross over to the dark side.

Continuation of lyrics:
For the love of money, people will lie, rob, they will cheat
For the love of money, people don’t care who they hurt or beat
For the love of money, a woman will sell her precious body
For a small piece of paper it carries a lot of weight
For that mean, mean, mean, mean, mean green

Almighty dollar, talkin bout, talkin bout…

Entitled Masters: This next group of workplace bouncers has little respect for their employees, their management, and anyone or anything else including established policies and procedures. This group is famous for creating their own rules to justify their thinking or action(s). They have what some would call a plantation mentality or plantation mindset: they get upset and fearful of the idea that their employees have the freedom to make some decisions for themselves, and that may include seeking new opportunities elsewhere. The company and its employees exist to serve the Entitled Masters and assist them in achieving their goals in life.

This group creates a division of labor between themselves and their workers. They treat their employees like worker bees, i.e. the employee will never be seen as anything other than an individual contributor in this camp, and they will never move beyond their current position as long as they are working with an Entitled Master. Also note that a plantation mentality or mindset is not limited to a specific gender or race.

You are sure to find manipulators and even a few sociopaths in the Entitled Masters’ camp. They are BAITERs –  Backstabbers, Accusers, Imposters, Takers, Exploiters, and Reckless persons – to the core (see BAITERs, Haters, and Social Climbers). BAITERS will do just about anything to get their way. The list is long, but here are a few of their techniques:

  • Invoke blocking techniques. See previous post: Thrown Under the Bus (Part 1): 3 Common Career Blocking Techniques.
  • Have major trust issues. They will never trust anyone who questions them, even if the questions are timely and appropriate.
  • Shun new ways of doing things. Why is a new way needed when their way is not only best, but superior?
  • Are idea and credit stealers, and the only thing they’ll ever be sorry about is getting caught doing so.
  • Invoke (readily) gender, female and any other stereotypes to get what they want or keep something from happening. e.g. You know blacks can’t be trusted with money. Women don’t make good managers or leaders. Asians don’t speak good English. They return to the workplace of the 1950s in these United States on a regular basis, and don’t see anything wrong in doing so.
  • Exhibit various shades of green envy and are full of hubris and very self-serving. E.g. I just don’t want her/him to have it! I can’t see him/her ever in a position at my level or higher. That person should never make more money than me.

Continuation of lyrics:
…For the love of money, got to have it, I really need it
For the love of money, give it up, give it up, give it up, yeah
For the love of money, got to have it, some people really need it
For the love of money, give me, give me, give me, cash money
For the love of money, I need, I need
For the love of money, give me, give me, give me
For the love of money
For the love of money, how many things have I heard you say
For the love of money, don’t let it, don’t let it, don’t let money rule you
For the love of money, how many things have I heard you say
For the love of money, don’t let it, don’t let it, don’t let money fool you
For the love of money, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
For the love of money, got to have it, I really need it

Save your soul, save your soul, don’t sell it
For that mean, mean, mean, mean green…

Color-PaletteWhy is this important? You need to know what the real color of money looks like before the real color of money shows up. For the Love of Money was included on the sound track of the Ship Ahoy album that The O’Jays released in November 1973. In 1973, $100.00 had the same buying power as $568.08 today. Although the purchasing power of the almighty dollar has eroded over the past 40+ years, the song’s lyrics are even more relevant today. Money will make or break relationships and that includes marriages, siblings, friends, colleagues, and business partnerships.

One thing that I cannot tell any reader of this post is what hue the real color of money will look like when some folks’ true colors show up. Aside from being on the look out for workplace bouncers described above and other colorful characters, here are three pieces of advice about money that I was given many years ago and I have not forgotten them:

  • All money is not good money! There are some places you should never work and persons that you should never do business with just for the money. That’s it! That’s all!
  • True friends are hard to come by and they don’t come along every day, once a week, once a month, or even once a year, and not even every decade. A true friend will hang with you through thick and thin, and won’t desert you like a prodigal son or daughter after they have bled you dry for everything that they can get from you.

   My featured author for this summer, James Baldwin, sums it up this way: “One of the hardest things that a man has to survive in this country is his friends.”

   [Source: Disturber of the Peace—James Baldwin, An Interview with Eve Auchincloss and Nancy Lynch (1969) in the book, Conversations With James Baldwin]

           Don’t sacrifice a good friend, relationship, or business partnership for money.

  • Know what you are worth, even when others pretend that they don’t. It is not uncustomary for any job applicant to inquire about the salary range for an open position or pay grade. In addition to the above, there are several online resources that are available where one can find out what similar positions are paying, and even what those positions are paying in specific cities or regions of this country. PayScale is one, www.payscale.com, and job hosting sites such as Indeed, www.indeed.com, Glass Door, www.glassdoor.com, and Career One Stop, www.careeronestop.org, also provided salary ranges for thousands of positions.

More progressive companies readily provide some salary data to prospective applicants as well as their employees. One of my employers in the high-tech industry gave each new hire a pocket-sized card that listed the pay grades and salary ranges for each within that company. Their reason for doing so? To ensure that the employee didn’t receive erroneous information possibly from some of the workplace bouncers cited above. These cards were also available to every employee, and the data was also posted on the company’s intranet.

In closing, I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be happy with more cash in their paycheck or checking account. I also know others who are open to earning that extra cash by adding income from a side hustle. Desiring a higher income is not the problem. How one chooses to make that happen could be.

About Vi Brown

Vi is principal and CEO of Prophecy Consulting Group, LLC, an Arizona firm that provides business and engineering services to private and public clients. Prior to establishing her consulting practice in 2001, Vi worked with Motorola, Maricopa County Government, Pacific Gas & Electric, CH2M Hill, and Procter & Gamble. As an adjunct faculty member, Vi teaches undergraduate calculus classes and graduate level environmental courses. She is also a professional speaker.

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