I was recently talking with an employee who told me that their boss was fond of reminding them that their work efforts were costing the boss money. This phrase was really irritating them. Was their irritation appropriate? Absolutely in my view.
While on the surface this phrase may seem rather innocuous and in the abstract true — a boss or organization is paying any employee to work — beneath the surface, it is a thinly veiled invitation to join the boss’s personal “pity party”.
Let’s start with what I call the work contract we enter into with any organization or individual. Simply stated it is “YOU WORK, WE PAY”. This contract is usually either a formal document signed by the various parties, a guarantee carried by an organization’s policies for pay at various levels of employment, or simply a verbal agreement reached between an individual and his or her prospective boss. Whichever, it is still a contract, although something in writing is always preferable.
The specifics of this contractual arrangement are usually worked out in terms of hours, days, specific work requirements, skill demands, and output quantity and quality. As an employee, the best contractual agreement generally enables us to understand the work and deadlines required, the quality and quantity standards we must meet and what we can expect as pay and any benefits in return.
Unless the work contract itself needs re-negotiating for some reason — new duties, standards, or responsibilities, or an increase/decrease in pay — there is no rational reason to keep referring to it on a regular basis.
Most bosses will quickly tire of hearing regular employee comments regarding how hard they are working, or how difficult their job is. Asking a boss to feel sorry for us for having to do the work for which we expect payment, is not a winning strategy for continued employment and advancement.
Similarly, most employees will quickly tire of hearing regular comments from their boss that imply that the employee’s monetary compensation constitutes an undue burden requiring exceptional gratitude and sympathy. Why did you hire me — one might ask — if you can not afford the cost?
In today’s world of work, many organizations and employers regularly terminate a “work contract” because they can no longer financially afford to maintain their current staffing. Astute employees understand these realities and cope with the uncertainties involved. The best bosses and managers do not add to these uncertainties with constant reminders that their subordinate’s efforts are costing them the very salary they have agreed to pay.