Privilege, not merit

Power is a strange thing. I reviewed some of the items the union wanted to include in our collective agreement. One that immediately caught my attention was, “Personnel Evaluation Reports will not be used as a mean [sic] to determine if an employee is entitle [sic] to his annual pay increase.” My response was, “What does determine if an employee is entitled to his annual increase?”

Like many misunderstandings, my point of view differed significantly from the people suggesting the change. When I mentioned it, a co-worker said he once had a supervisor threaten, with the subtlety of a bull in a china shop, that perhaps his next evaluation would come up lacking resulting in little or no pay increase. Why the threat? Simply because they didn’t get along. I was aghast. I explained that in my experience, an evaluation is used to decide if a worker will receive an above average increase because of exceptional performance rather than as a threat to keep the worker in line.

So what is used to determine if you’ll receive your increase? A pulse. Everyone gets the same increase. As long as you’re not such a slacker that you get fired, you get the same increase as everyone else. This, my friends, is my big problem with unions. They tend to bring everyone together into one big happy socialist family … except those who have been there longer. Seniority is the yardstick by which privilege is measured. Merit is not a factor.

In the best places I’ve worked, management treated employees as a resource. Not a resource to be exploited, mind you, but a resource to be nurtured. Managing people shouldn’t be like mining, where you take everything you can until it’s all gone. Managing people is best handled like agriculture, where you provide the best environment and conditions you can, and reap the harvest indefinitely. Of course I’ve worked for employee strip miners, but I’ve always left them for greener pastures.

When I read the draft list of demands the union wanted to take to the bargaining table, I wanted to quit. I talked to the union rep and felt somewhat better about the situation, but only somewhat. Thank goodness it’s a part-time job to me. I work a single shift a week because I lucked into a set of specialized skills that make me valuable. If it were my full-time job I’d be very displeased because I can see how stagnation would be the only long-term outcome. The status-quo is far more important than any enthusiasm or exceptional performance.

So I’ll keep my head down, do the job, and collect the pay as long as things are good. My enthusiasm gets saved for my other job, where it means something, both to my employer and to me.

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