Friday, 28 May 2010

Promotion (and salary) envy


   My last post argued that despite Jack Wiley’s findings, the workplace is a very social environment, and we need to influence its sociology, if we want to maximise engagement and collaboration.

And as I stated at the summit, social media has a role to play in this, but so does lots of other things we’ve traditionally done within HR.  Like the way we promote people, and pay them…

Interesting then to see these two articles today:

1.   The workplace is a seething hotbed of promotion envy – HR Magazine (UK)

“A survey of more than 1,300 employees finds the office is dog-eat-dog after 34%, of employees in small businesses said that they would purposely sabotage a colleague's chances of a promotion, rising to 62% in larger businesses.”

And why?  “because they believe their co-workers would do the same to them if the situation were reversed”.


2.   BT union demands inflation-busting pay rise or they'll strike – Management Today

“It’s a bit hard to imagine anyone looking at the strategy currently being employed by the unions at BA and using it as model for their own industrial relations. But that appears to be the case at BT, another once-nationalised giant that’s been feeling the pain lately: its biggest union is threatening to walk out on strike unless management agrees to an inflation-busting 5% rise. Now it’s true that things are looking up at BT, and the £1m bonus CEO Ian Livingston stands to pocket as a result is being used by the unions as justification for their demands. But at a time when we’re barely out of recession, when unemployment is rising and BT itself has just shed 35,000 staff, isn’t it about time the union faced up to harsh economic reality?”


Yes, but if we see organisations as societies in their own right, and acknowledge that people will behave dysfunctionally if they believe they’ve been treated unfairly in just a relatively minor way (eg being passed over for promotion), then how do we think people are going to react when their CEO gets paid 40 times their average salary (£850k salary plus £1.2m bonus never mind his share options compared to an average salary of £50k)?

Is it really that hard to predict?


As Andy Kerr, deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union has said:

"It's all about fairness. We don't mind senior executives getting bonuses, but we want all staff to share in the success of the company."


Well, yes.  It is.  I’ve used the terms envy and dysfunctional in this post.  But I don’t mean to indicate that they’re that negative, that they’re things we should expect people to be able to avoid, or that they’re limited to a small group of people (let’s just call them ‘C’ players, shall we?).

I don’t and they’re not.  They’re  very natural emotions, behaviours and reactions that affect us all.

We’re human.  We’re social animals operating in social environments.  We’re not cogs in a wheel.


Interestingly, I included BT as a case study organisation in my presentation on social media and HR.  And think that in many other ways, it’s a very people-focused business – for example, its long-standing policy of avoiding compulsory redundancies  (it’s also a former client).  But with this sort of pay differential, can any organisation really be that socially functional, or that effective?


Picture credit: nicked from HR Magazine’s article, sorry.  I did want to include a picture of someone ‘slapping their forehead’ but they don’t seem to have any of these in wikimedia commons where I try to take my pictures from – and I didn’t think its alternative suggestion of ‘shopping in moorehead’ was that relevant!


Cross posted on Strategic HCM


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  1. Jon,

    I wanted to congratulate you on having this post selected to be part of July's Carnival of Trust, hosted by Doug Cornelius.

    The Carnival is held monthly and highlights the top blog posts touching on the subject of trust in business, politics and society. Congratulations again on helping to make this month's fantastic Carnival.

    The Carnival can be viewed in its entirety at


  2. Thanks for the inclusion.

    The carnival of trust I hosted recently is at:


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