All We Need Is Money

A while back there was an article in The Imaginative Conservative, “Can You Buy Your Employees Happiness?

The smart-alec imp in my head looked at the headline and said, “Of course you can buy your employees happiness, but only if they are willing to sell it to you.”

Throughout the last half of the XXth Century, workers did just that. The bargain they made was, “I will let you make me miserable at work, provided you give me enough money.” Then, suddenly and the more shocking for being such an abrupt transition, the bargain was voided, and bosses were telling the troops, do what we say, and think what we tell you or we will fire you, and by the way, we are reducing your compensation.

By that time, docility had set in, or complacency, or perhaps apathy. I recall when it happened at my own place of employment. fifteen years back, It wasn’t pretty. Productivity plummeted, and managers just couldn’t issue threats fast enough to make up the slack. When I retired seven years later, it was still down.

But, I speak of the blue-collar machinists, electricians, carpenters, painters, plumbers, and techs. The company’s big mistake was in buying the bill of goods that “computers” would make up the difference. Problem is, it’s hard to get a computer to turn a wrench, or replace a light bulb. Manual workers are into craftsmanship, at least the good ones are, and while money is nice, it is actually more to have ended a day with satisfaction of having done a good job, of having contributed to the end result.

When we blue-collar scum told management we didn’t want more overtime, but more time with our families, they responded that we were, “obviously being paid too much to start with.”

It may be far different for the “white-collar workers. I suspect they also would appreciate knowing what they did was worthwhile, that it accomplished something beyond another useless meeting, or another TPS Report.

I was actually lucky. With a carpenter for a Daddy and a shirt-factory seamstress for a Mother, I learned about adding actual value. In college, at a Work-Study school, I found one could read Plato and Camus as well as drive a nail or cook a hamburger.

After the “Real World” came along, back in the early ’70’s, it was rapidly obvious there was more money to be made working in industry than shuffling papers. And with a growing family and company medical benefits, the choice was a no-brainer for me.

But, those days are now gone. My wife was able to be a stay-home Mom, which our children really appreciated. No more. Now both husband and wife have to work, just to make ends meet. And the kids — daycare. (And, BTW, it doesn’t make a bit of difference if daycare is mandated by the State, or because corporations have reduced real wages — the effect on the next generation is the same.)

No wonder Millennials were turned off by the notion, “work hard and you will get ahead”, when it had become such an obvious lie. So this article purports to hope things may be changing, back to a better way? I sincerely hope so. But there is too much corporate greed, and too many mechanisms in place for allowing corporate greed to triumph.

It will take a miracle