By C.J. Marshall: Significa: The importance of ethics
Many years ago, an incident occurred that I'm going to share with you now.
I was attending college, working on my degree. One day I was in an empty classroom, cleaning up a project and putting things in order. As I was working, I could clearly hear what was being said in another classroom across the hall - a classroom filled with students listening to a lecture from an instructor.
From what I heard, I could tell that the class was business-oriented. Normally, I have little interest in such things and under regular circumstances would have just tuned the words out as I went about my task. However, as I went about - at first only half-hearing what was being said - the subject matter eventually made me pick my ears up and pay much closer attention to the nature of the lecture.
The instructor was talking about "How to get more out of your employees for less money." I don't know if that was the specific title he used, but it fit the subject matter to a "T." The instructor told his class that there are methods employers can use to get more out of their employees, while at the same time delay giving them anything in return.
As an example, the teacher said that an employer can inform an employee that he (or she) is getting a raise. Said employer, according to the lecture, tells the employee that they will see an increase in their next paycheck. Because the employer has timed it that the next pay period won't be for one to two weeks later, the employees goes about the job in that time period, happy because they are anticipating more money.
When payday comes due, the instructor continued, the employee discovers no raise, and goes to the employer asking what happened. The employer apologizes and makes some excuse, saying it slipped their mind or some other plausible reason. The employer then promises to put the worker in for the raise, which will be realized in the NEXT pay period.
The worker then goes about assigned tasks, a bit put off, but still happy that a raise is coming. But then, when paychecks are given out, the employee discovers no raise, and goes back to the boss, wondering what is going on. The employer, in turn, makes another excuse, saying that although the raise was approved, the payroll office forgot to process it properly.
The instructor continued to go down the line with a number of reasonable-sounding excuses, all of which could be used to "draw out" the period in which the employee would work, thinking they were getting more money next payday, then being put off because of some excuse or another. The instructor ended his lecture by saying that the time to actually process the raise was when the employee appeared to be getting frustrated (i.e. suspicious) with the whole process. He explained to the class that by drawing out the process of giving the raise, the employee not only saved money but also got the added benefit of getting better performance from the employee in that time period because of the anticipation of getting the raise.
The reason this instructor's words had such a profound affect on me is because I had previously experienced what he had been talking about - on the receiving end!
About a year before going off to college I worked at a fast-food restaurant - my first full-time job. While there, I was promoted to maintenance, which I took because it included a 20-cent per hour raise in pay.
But I didn't get the raise immediately. Exactly the same things occurred which I heard the instructor pass on to his class over a year later - first week "I forgot to put you in for it, but you'll get it next pay period;" Next pay period, "They forgot to process it." The third week, I only got a 10-cent per hour raise, and the excuse given was they couldn't give me the full raise at that time, because they could only increase my salary by 10 cents an hour each pay period.
Etc., etc. As I recall it took about eight weeks - two months, mind you - before I finally was fully paid what I had been initially promised if I took the job in maintenance. Although by my calculations this came out to only about $30 to $40, it's money that I had been CHEATED out of due to some subtle behind-the-scenes manipulations.
There are those who would argue there is nothing illegal about such practices - that its sometimes the nature of doing business. To that, I reply, just because someone has the right to do something does not make it right. When people employ legal subterfuge to rob their employees, it calls into question just what other methods do they use in their attempts to fatten the profit margins.
Through the years, I've experienced first-hand some of these "other methods," but I won't get into them here. However, the one thing that really makes me shake my head in disbelief goes back to what I heard during that instructor's lecture. Because that man was teaching and encouraging his students to cheat others when they entered the workforce. And make no mistake - cheating is wrong, even when it's legal. Because, once you start, it takes very little to cross the line between the legal and the illegal.
That, I believe, is part of a greater problem. I think that instead of the bottom line, maybe we as a society should concentrate on things such as ethics, honesty and integrity. If more people did so, the world would definitely be a better place indeed.