Social workers, Sociopaths and Politicians

silence of lambsI have written a few posts to date about money and one thing that constantly comes up in the mainstream media is pay. I break these ‘news’ stories into three categories:

  • Pay for social workers;
  • Pay for sociopaths; and
  • Pay for politicians

Warning: This post is a bit political…sorry about that. Normal service will resume once I’ve got this one out of my system.

Social workers:

I am using the ‘social worker’ label in a very broad way and deliberately so. I am referring to those workers who provide incredible value to our society yet do not get paid mega bucks for doing so.

You know who they (and perhaps ‘you’) are – just look for the perennial ‘offenders’ in the eyes of the establishment* for complaining about their meagre pay. Yes, these are the health workers, teachers, emergency services (police, fire and ambulance) and so on.

(* as in “their Unions are being unreasonable again and are threatening to strike!”)

Here’s the thing I find interesting about these social workers – we all recognise that:

  • we want ‘the best’ people in these roles: we have a vested interest since they nurture, develop and care for us!
  • (virtually*) all of them ‘bust a gut’ in their roles, doing far more than most of us should expect of them (or might do ourselves); and yet
  • for the value they provide to our society, the effort they put in and sacrifices they make, they aren’t paid well.

* sure, you’ll find the odd incompetent or bad egg but this is surely so in every walk of life. This can be an issue of selection but, more likely, of what ‘the system’ has done to them/ turned them into.

Classical economic doctrine would hold that, if you want the best, you have to pay for it. Further, if you don’t, then they will swap to complimentary careers that pay better.

But here’s the interesting thing: the vast majority of these social workers stay and soldier on in spite of the pay and conditions (i.e. the ideological policies handed down to them by politicians who have little real knowledge about what they are commanding).

This got me thinking: There is clearly an error in this supply/demand economic model. If I’m a social worker (using my wider definition), poorly paid, working long hours, and could get, say, an admin. job on similar money and far less stress…why do I stay and put up with this sh1t?!

Here’s my answer: Because they are paid in more than money – they are doing something that meets with their purpose (i.e. gives them great personal satisfaction). This, to them, is worth more than the monetary alternatives on offer.

And here’s the catch-22:

  • We want people like this to be doing social worker jobs! We don’t want people doing it ‘for the money’, we want people to be doing it because of the good that they do;
  • However, it would be very easy for society at large to take advantage of such people (in fact we do!), paying them poorly knowing that they can’t easily leave a job that they love.

I think society has to be thankful for, be respectful of, and do all it can to protect and support such people. This means:

  • providing them with a decent standard of living so that they can do as much good as possible, and not have to worry about the roof over their heads, the food in their bellies, the clothes on their backs and the bringing up of their families; and
  • listening to them, to use their undoubted passion and expertise to make our world a better place.

Sociopaths:

So, clearly, I put this group forward as a sort of opposite to the social worker. As usual, I want to get my terms right so here’s a definition:

“Sociopath: a person with a psychopathic personality whose behaviour is antisocial, often criminal, and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.“ (Dictionary.com)

I then turn my attention to executives and their pay. Here’s an illuminating graph:

PayGap

Bizarrely, rather than being ashamed of this graph, many an executive uses it as justification to lobby for more pay from their boards!

“Look at what he/she gets in comparison to me…it’s not fair – I need a pay rise!”

This is merely a never ending race-to-the-top argument.

Indeed, I know of one (Antipodean based) executive using it to argue that their high pay isn’t an issue because “look at the Americans!”. Yes, you poor thing – it’s all soooo unfair.

We are fed the line that they (the executives) are brilliant, that only they could do the job and as a result, their pay is totally rational and justifiable.

Even more weirdly, if a good candidate for leading an organisation told its board that they would do the job for far less pay than what the market was demanding, the board would likely think that they surely can’t be up to it!

Here’s a test for any board:

Test: Advertise the top jobs to people in the company for, say, 10x workers pay, see who applies and find the best one.

Likely outcome: The person selected may very well be someone with great passion, leadership and humility…where money wasn’t the driver…you know, where they truly believed in the organisation’s purpose and are willing to bust a gut to strive towards it.

Executives have conned us into believing that, unless they are being paid mega-bucks, then they clearly aren’t competent to hold the job…what a topsy-turvy way of thinking.

Worse still – the majority of executives preside over command-and-control management regimes as if this were a good thing. It is, for them…but not for their employees, customers and (as a result) their shareholders*.

(* If you want to know why this is so then this is the subject of virtually all the other posts on this blog.)

Some daring thoughts:

  • if a job is so big that it really is so hard and complex that it is worth millions of dollars in pay…then the job is too big and needs breaking down into many roles.
  • just because a person happens to be brilliant at something doesn’t mean that we need to shower them with riches.
    • Who believes that the best teacher in this country (who shapes hundreds of lives daily over a dependably long and loyal career) should be paid many millions per year? Anyone?
  • the person who says that they need to be paid millions or else they won’t do it is likely not the best fit for an organisation – they aren’t really in it for the organisation’s true purpose, they are in it for themselves.
    • It’s no surprise that founders live and breathe their company – it is most likely about their passion rather than the money.

Cor, that’s all a bit controversial….I’ll be accused of being a socialist next….and then it’s not too far down the spiral to be branded a communist…I’ll get my coat!

Here’s a theory: If you are paid, say, 50+ times the amount of your workers and you think this is justified then you are a sociopath.

(Corollary: If you get paid this much and don’t think it’s justified then you are likely unhappy in yourself, with feelings of guilt, which isn’t very healthy for you)

Why do I put this theory forward?

  • you think that you are better than everyone else (with your sense of extreme entitlement); and/or
  • you have an unhealthy relationship with money (and are excellent at rationalising why you need it).

And, just to head you off from the ‘communist’ label you may be lovingly making for me right now, here’s where I turn sideways, go all Zen and pull out one of my favourite quotes:

“The meaning of life is just to be alive. It is so plain and so obvious and so simple.

And yet, everybody rushes around in a great panic as if it were necessary to achieve something beyond themselves.” (Alan Watts)

Or, put into this context: sure we need enough to cover our basic needs but, after that, money cannot buy happiness. I’m pretty sure there’s been a song or two written about that?

Politicians:

And finally, I’ve saved the best till last!

This post wasn’t really about sociopaths, and it doesn’t matter whether you agree with my logic above or not (my views, whilst reflecting what I currently think, are just a red herring)…but it was necessary to set executives up for comparison purposes because this is what is done for and by politicians.

Back in February of this year, we had the all too common comedy of MP’s being awarded a hefty pay rise by an ‘independent’ body and then the leaders of political parties desperately trying to distance themselves from said pay rise.

Setting the scene: MPs in democracies around the world realised a while back that they were on a sticky wicket when it comes to their pay…so they create an ‘independent pay authority’ to take pay rises out of their hands…and then they can say “erm, I’m not asking for it but they think I deserve it – what can I do?”

Then some MPs aim to look pious by being seen to be ‘turning down’ a portion of their pay rise.

The MPs independent pay authority becomes the scape goat but, with some justification, argues in reply that ”it’s fulfilling its obligations, set by Parliament, that include relativity with comparable positions, recruiting and retaining competent individuals and any prevailing adverse economic conditions.”

The underlying scam: The ‘independent’ part of the pay authority sounds good in practise but what are its terms of reference? What is the job that it has been given to do? It has been set up on the same basis as boards considering executive pay.

  • To use money to ‘get the best’ (as in “if we don’t pay them well, they won’t come”); and
  • To compare, which includes against the corporate world (as in “look what a private sector CEO gets – MPs are at least as important as them!”);

The comedy:

“I think there are two sorts of MP: those who see being an MP as a public service and know what they are there to stand up for, and those who see it as a conveyor belt to a private-sector job after two terms and a spell in government. There seem to be many more of the latter these days” (Quote from a backbench British MP, Source: Owen Jones’ book ‘The Establishment’)

Sure, have pay set independently, but with what objectives? …which points directly to THE question to be answered:

Who do we want our Politicians to be compared with? Social workers or sociopaths?

…and whatever your answer is, will be what you will get.

Good luck to all of us with that!

 

  1. The best teacher: If (as unlikely as it seems) you are a politician reading this, I’m only theorising – PLEASE don’t think you should now rush off and hire some consultants to supposedly come up with a measure for this!!!
  2. Addendum: As I look ‘in’ at the current wonder that is the American electoral process, I see the following candidates for President: a gaggle of smooth politicians, 1 social worker and 1 sociopath. It sure is an interesting one – Go America, see what you can do…but (for the sake of the rest of the world) please consider what I write above. No pressure! Thanks in advance 🙂
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