Lucrative pay and perks in a bad situation

MANY people managers — shall we say more than 90 percent of them? — are quick to judge their workers as soon as problems become apparent. Is this normal? I believe so as we’re talking of human nature. They’re “chronic blamers,” according to The Healthy Journal. In psychology, it’s also called a “projection” or “defense mechanism” that’s used by people to “protect themselves by using others as scapegoats.”

I’ve experienced it many times in my 35 years of corporate life. One time, my boss blamed me for using old photos of employees in our bimonthly newsletter. That was when the internet and social media were not yet in vogue so I was relying 100 percent on printed photographs of people or whatever was in their 201 folders.

Can you imagine working on an eight-page newsletter that should be out Monday morning twice a month? That was on top of my other duties handling labor relations, which was made doubly complex by a militant union, an employee suggestion program that was expected to produce millions in savings a year, the need to write press releases, and heading the implementation of our corporate social responsibility program, among other things.

Can you imagine a two-person editorial office with me as the editor tasked to do the researching and writing of articles with very little help from a habitually absent assistant who was to do the layout? I tried talking to my assistant to no avail. It appeared that he was trying to project himself as a rebel without a cause.

Instead of blaming my assistant and my then boss, I made myself responsible given my attractive pay package. Why not? My monthly salary was more than triple and almost four times my previous pay. On top of that, the firm had guaranteed a total of 16 months’ pay per year, gave me a new car, offered a housing loan at a friendly 2-percent interest rate, a health maintenance program for me and my family, plus a list of fringe benefits.

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Sometimes I suspect that the reason why I got a “golden handshake” was the fact that I had to perform the tasks of three people. I was overpaid to handle a bad work situation. There was no budget to do my job, no competent support staff, no nothing. Luckily, I was able to meet the deadlines but not necessarily with flying colors. I satisfied the minimum expectations of the job, and I was not happy about it.

Looking back, I blame myself for the bad situation. I didn’t complain about it to my boss except to mutter the words that we were in a daily “firefighting” activity. If there’s a buzzword for it, I would not hesitate to call it “neglect of probability,” or the tendency to disregard certain probabilities when making a decision. The lucrative job offer was enough to blind my decision-making process.

I thought that if there were risks involved they would be trivial, if not something that could be best managed when the right time came. After all, it would have been easy for me to get out of my job at the time due to other offers, except that I didn’t want to be known as a carefree job-hopper. I thought I was invincible. I was wrong. I accepted the lucrative job without understanding the bad situation I would find myself in.

So, whenever my layout assistant would absent himself two working days before the publication of our newsletter, I would talk to him as soon as he returned to work. He would give various reasons, mostly medical ones that were supported with medical certificates. No one could argue with that except that his attendance record prepared me to outsource his job to a part-time external service provider.

That experience taught me the lesson that reprimanding erring employees can only do so much. So I talked to him, which somehow helped improve the situation for two months until he just quit and made my job worse. A fellow officer later told me the real reason for my assistant’s rebellious attitude was that he thought he was better than me except that he was not chosen by management.

Fast-forward to now. Many of us mindlessly accept lucrative job offers without asking questions like what was the reason for the vacancy? Why are you not promoting from within? How dynamic is the company’s succession plan? How many are the support staff? How competent are they? Can I check their 201 folders? What resources are available for my use? Can I visit your office, and my work station as well before I join? Is it possible for me to review the organizational chart? The list depends much on one’s apprehension and lessons learned.

It’s the best thing you can do to predict your future in that organization. It’s for a practical reason. These questions may raise the eyebrow of a prospective employer but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management. Chat with him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or email [email protected] or via

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