Friday Fable. LaFontaine’s “THE LION AND THE RAT” (one more time)*

Posted by jlubans on June 27, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Sculpture by Tom Otterness.

More thoughts on LaFontaine’s “The Lion and the Rat”, which I first wrote about a month ago:
This fable is more than its appended moral on the virtues of “time and toil.”. Rather, consider “There’s none so small but you his aid may need.” Does one, then only, do good for gain? I think not, more often simple courtesy and kindness, with which all are equally endowed – granted, some suppressed or overripe with meanness - call on each of us to do what one must. The return in kind may never materialize, but knowing we helped suffices.
That’s why, on the job, the genuinely kind and considerate boss achieves most.
Caption: A Stamp From Zambia Honoring LaFontaine

*Source: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New Edition, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882.

Freedom at Work: The 2%.

Posted by jlubans on June 26, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

“Open books” or open budgets are among the must-haves in the democratic work place. Trust can be strengthened and, once the staff see where the money is going, how it is spent, they are better able to conserve resources and use them wisely. However, with most open budgets, staff are limited to looking, not touching. I think staff should have the opportunity to influence the budget, to influence how the money is spent. When you get to help decide how the money is spent you will develop a much greater understanding about the budget, that “quantitative prediction of the future.”
Reality intrudes: Most, if not all, of the new budget is already spent, already obligated, already committed, leaving few dollars for new equipment, new programs. The costs of salaries, benefits, books, subscriptions, equipment, do not diminish over time, they invariably increase. Indeed, “benefits” alone can drain resources away from the other categories, robbing Peter to pay Paul. In reasonable times, the budget is almost always incremental; it increases a percent or two and programs continue, largely undisturbed. It seems that only in a crisis can the budget be used as a force for change, forcing us to make those long delayed, uncomfortable decisions. While that may be what it takes, it would have been far better for the organization to have the courage to confront change rather than to have it forced upon the library, to be told, “You have 5% less this year, deal with it”.
One approach to break up the incremental organization is through involving staff in planning for the future. My book gives an example of doing this. Here’s a quote from Chapter 26: You Can’t Build a Fire in the Rain: Sparking Change in Libraries:
“The underlying theory behind the FS (future search) is that if you get enough good people together, they can decide what needs doing for their organization and then go about doing it.
Envisioning the future is the first step to getting there. The FS includes a large number of stakeholders: selected staff Haves and Have-nots along with invited guests like customers. For the academic library this group would include students, faculty, and board members. (My FSs numbered over sixty participants each.) This mix is the difference maker, because for an intense two days, we sidelined the pecking order, with good and bad ideas coming from all over. Good ideas are supported on their merit and not by the status of the suggestion maker. Invariably, there are enough positive people in the mix to assuage the uncertainty and trepidation some participants—often proponents for the status quo—might be feeling. Cannot becomes can do.”

But, and it is a big but, many FSs conclude inconclusively – at least those conducted at institutions not on life support. My FS groups developed imaginative and expensive scenarios for desirable futures but largely stalled when it came time to decide what to give up to fund the future. That is not necessarily bad. As indicated in the above quote, the FS did in one case lead to a dawning realization – initially resisted by many - that the digital library was indeed the future and that we had to re-allocate funds for e-resources and more money for hardware and for systems staff and that it would have to come out of hide (OOH!) The upper administration, however sympathetic, made it clear that there would be no new money. We brokered a deal with the administration to keep salary savings and went about systematically holding positions open in order to put more resources toward the digital future. In many ways this put us on the right road well ahead of our peer libraries who continued to delay and to deny for several years more.

The 2%. Writing about opening the “books” and reading about participatory budgeting, and blogging about bee decision-making, and Vermont town meetings in which citizens debate and decide a town’s budget, lead me to make a pragmatic and practical suggestion: The 2%, a way to find “new” money for programs and equipment. How it works is that the organization holds back 2% of the total budget, in all lines. Easily said, you scoff, but how would you really do this? Pretty much like what I described above for that one library: make small sacrifices to gain big resources – including a new vision - for the future. But, only on the condition that the 2% goes to an Innovation Fund, visible to all staff. Of course, be sure all share holders understand what you are doing and why.
If your upper administration is enthusiastic about your plan, ask them to help out with a “thrift” match. Include them in the solution. So, once the money starts to trickle into the Innovation Fund, how do you decide what gets supported? I suggest you borrow from the Participatory Budgeting process and allow staff – certainly all those how have touched the 2% - to make proposals for all to see, to publicly lobby for them, and then to vote. I recommend that the vote should be anonymous and that the results are binding, not advisory. Repeat, annually.

Friday Fable: More Music to Manage By

Posted by jlubans on June 21, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: When I Get Through With You by Patsy Kline

Them That Ain’t Got, Can’t Lose.
(If your budget’s always been low, you ain’t got much to lose, but you will anyway. If your budget is higher than most, there’ll be concern at the top about doing you wrong. )

I’m Going Someplace I Hope I Find.
(When we start in with a new idea, sometimes we do not know where we are going. No reason not to go; some destinations reveal themselves. Like the man said, a long walk is better when you do not have a destination in mind.)

I Don’t Know Whether To Kill Myself or Go Bowling.
(A good song to keep in mind when the inanity around you regardless of the enterprise gets to fever pitch and out of proportion to what needs doing. Go bowling. Even alone.)

Somewhere Between Lust and Sitting Home Watching TV.
(Similar to the above conundrum, but not as poetical as Wordsworth’s line, “Something between an hindrance and a help,” from his Michael: A Pastoral Poem, but close. Hah!)

Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out When I’m Dead and Gone?
(I used this song title for when we experimented with cutting the direct reporting relationships between staff and administration. It was an attempt to free up the former – to give them more elbowroom for decision-making. Much consternation ensued, but some staff were overly gleeful – “Hell, yes!” and so I had to rein in the enthusiasm with a reminder that there was more to supervision than just the line on the organizations chart. My new role was still a leadership one and not to be forgotten. A few expressed their dismay at being turned lose. They did not want the line erased. Most humored me. Probably better if we had used a tentatively dotted line rather than obliterating it. Live and learn by doing.

I Borrowed the Shoes, But the Holes Are Mine.
(I’ve used this song title numerous times to reflect that, unlike too many writers - in my field of libraries - who theorize and express interest in new ways of organizing, we actually did the theory we wrote about. Trying it is what matters. Wearing those borrowed shoes and putting your own holes in ‘em is when you learn. Doing, of course, puts you at risk. So be it.)

Caption; Johnny Cash
When I’m Alone, I’m in Bad Company.

(A good song to reflect on when you begin to believe you have THE answer and all others are inferior. Think again. Another reason for teamwork. Really good teams help reign in the rampant ego.)

And we’ll end this Friday’s Fable (More Music #3) with one from Memphis, the home of the King:
True Love Travels On A Gravel Road.
Kind of like “It’s Not Love, But It’s Not Bad.” There are bumps, potholes and detours aplenty on the road to mature relationships, at home or office. You might even plunge into a sinkhole. Learn from that gravel road.
“Elvis has left the building.”

Switching & Giving and Going

Posted by jlubans on June 19, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant’s 2012 movie, Thunderstruck, was originally titled, Switch!

Frank Deford writes in his essay, “The Ultimate Contradiction”, that basketball is: "…the most intimate — even organic — of all the team games, with its players more fundamentally involved with one another.” That’s an illuminating observation, even to me since I am no stranger to transferring insights from the hardwood to the workplace.
Chapter 8 in Leading from the Middle is “More Than a Game: A Season with a Women’s Basketball Team,” about how a team met challenges and displayed the finest kind of transcendent teamwork.
Besides noting that all players touch the ball and play both offense and defense – no platooning and specializing - Deford gives us two basketball terms to consider. The first is “Switch” in which a screened or blocked player calls for help and literally switches his role with another player.
His second is “Give and go," a basic play where after passing – giving up the ball - to a team-mate, the passer quickly cuts toward the basket, and receives the return pass back from his team-mate for the score.
I would add a third, the “Assist.” It’s the end result of the “cut and go” and other strategems in which a player creates a scoring opportunity by giving up the ball. Blocked inside, a player “kicks out” the ball to an open player – she scores. That’s an assist, and a perfect metaphor for the workplace where what you do directly helps another succeed.
While I was dwelling on Deford, my nephew posted or “facebooked” his experience with an on-line-class project:

“Professor says: "I want your mini-essays to be 300-500 words"
Team gives: 3 short paragraphs totally MAYBE 200 words.
Professor says: "You must cite at least one peer-reviewed journal in each mini-essay"
Team gives: Only cites the textbook
In other words, guess who gets to rewrite the team's mini-essay that's due at midnight? Wheeeeeeeeeeee!”

No give and go, no switch, and no assist. He’s not the first or the last to encounter dysfunctional teams in class or the office. Yet, some teams, somehow, become high performing. How does that happen? Luck? In my nephew’s case, I doubt if the professor explained what was expected from each team member. He probably left it open on how they would go about doing their work. And, I doubt if the project teams established any guidelines on how to work together. For many team projects, everything is assumed and nothing is agreed. The same happens in the work place when we create teams and provide them with little guidance.

Basketball, like all team sports, can help us understand why some teams click and why many fail. The best teams communicate, all the time. In basketball, a team that chatters, signals, and talks through each play will disconcert a silent opponent – the opponent does not know what to make of it. Nor can the switch or the give and go be done in communicative silence. When screened or blocked, the player calls out, “Help, help, switch” and as Deford says, “At least for a while, you must become me, and me you.” That’s extraordinary teamwork. Not only does the player know what to do, how to switch, he willingly does so, replacing you so you can get free to shut down an otherwise easy goal by the opposition. How often do you hear, “Help, help, switch” in the office?

Players on the best teams help each other. It is an accepted norm and behavior. It is what you do. In my chapter, “The Unstodgy Airline” I explain how ramp agents – the ground crew - help each other out; indeed, switching is part of their game plan.
“Southwest is resourceful. Ramp agents know to plan ahead, to anticipate. … “Our turnaround time (the best in the business) is not the result of tricks,” CEO Kelleher says, “but the result of our dedicated employees, who have the willpower and pride to do whatever it takes.” On an occasion, pilots have helped empty luggage bins. I asked a supervisor if “whatever it takes” was indeed widely practiced at Southwest? The answer: “Some people help so much they miss their lunch.”
And, the training coordinator told me.” It’s common sense to help each other out. Not helping is rare; you know if you are helped, you help in return.”
20130619-beltloader med.jpeg
Caption: Switching at Southwest.
While I was on the tarmac observing the ramp team’s work, I saw switching in action. When the provisioner’s job was done inside the plane, he dropped down to the tarmac – in the wind and rain - to help hoist luggage onto a belt-loader. I’d score him an “assist!”.
Becoming a good team takes work. I have held for a long time that a team itself has to figure out most of its working dynamics – a coach’s or supervisor’s assigning roles, at best a first step, is not the same nor as effective. It is best for the team to take the time to decide who is going to do what and when and why. The team has to answer these questions: What happens when one or more of us slack off? How will we disagree? How will we confront each other when things are not going well? How will we ask each other for help? Will we give help when asked?
My nephew’s group project team is going the way of too many teams; one or two people will do the work, while others appear to be content to coast along and accept credit for non-work. No one takes on the risk of calling the behavior and confronting the team. You’re left with a tacit, shrugging acceptance – it is what it is - instead of a spirited questioning and a fair and trustful resolution. In sports, when a team is struggling, the coach will often ask for help from the captains – or, better, the captains will intervene on their own. These peers are expected to confront the team, away from management, away from the coach and to help get the team back on track. When I asked about the three captains on the women’s team I studied, a player told me, “Anytime we aren’t playing focused or hard, our captains are always the 1st people to say something to try and pull us together again. They keep us from being down on ourselves and help us to play as a team.”
I do not think we have anything like elected captains on our work teams, perhaps we should – they might get us past the inevitable “being down on ourselves” and to “help us to play as a team”.

Friday Fable. Odo of Cheriton’s “Two Brothers: Against Flatterers.”*

Posted by jlubans on June 13, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

“There once lived two brothers whose itinerary took them past a monastery. And the second of them declared: ‘I’ll wager you. I’ll turn a bigger profit with lies than you will with truth!’ ‘And, I’ll wager you!!’ the first answered back. Having managed this solid agreement, the liar broke in upon the religious community of apes. And the apes asked him: ‘How do we appear to you?’ To this the liar replied: ‘Of all the creatures upon the face of the earth, you are the fairest. Indeed it is to you that men are compared. Never have I seen such a handsome congregation.’ And he praised them without limit. Now, on account of such words, the apes heaped him with honors and gave him gold and silver.
Then the upright brother came along. And the apes asked how the members of the their community appeared to him. He responded by saying, ‘ I have never seen a congregation so unsightly, so foul.’ As a result, the enraged apes gave him an incredible beating – one so bad that he barely escaped.’

‘And sometimes it is perilous to utter words completely true.’”

Caption: “He who has the sack of gold will always have flatterers.” 1592. Circle of BRUEGHEL Pieter, the Younger, (d'Enfer).

We know from research on effective followers – self-starters who do not have to be led – a willingness to tell the truth can be dangerous to one’s health, particularly with an apish audience. About half the time, effective followers are punished for doing a really good job.
While screen-writing in the Hollywood of the 1930s, P. G. Wodehouse, saw a lot of another type of follower/flatterer: The Yes Man. His short story** “The Nodder” explains:
“A Nodder is something like a Yes-man, only lower in the social scale. A Yes-Man’s duty is to attend conferences and say ‘Yes.’ A Nodder’s, as the name implies, is to nod. The chief executive throws some statement of opinion and looks about him expectantly. This is the cue for the senior Yes-Man to say yes. He is followed, in order of precedence, by the second Yes-Man - or Vice-Yesser -, as he sometimes is called- and the junior Yes-Man. Only when all the Yes-Men have yessed, do the Nodders begin to function. They nod.”

*Source: “The Fables of Odo of Cheriton”, translated by John C. Jacobs. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 1985. Pp. 100-101.
** Wodehouse, P. G. “The Nodder”, in Blandings Castle. Woodstock NY: Overlook Press 2002. pp. 214-234.

Freedom at Work: Set Your Own Salary.*

Posted by jlubans on June 11, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

Caption: Everyman a Plutocrat.

Before any HR types hyperventilate, let me dispense a little oxygen. Most salaries are already “set” for employees. Industries like libraries, or most not-for-profits, already have general guidelines for pay scales. These scales reflect, for the most part, the value society and the organization place on that type of work. As long as one’s salary stays in a “range” there is usually little resentment.
Of course, secrecy and minimal oversight can lead to excesses not only for private CEOs but also for overly handsome paydays in the not-for-profit sector. Once exposed, at least in the latter, taxpayers, board members, and voters can punish the greedy.

But back to Rich Uncle Pennybags, our fantasy spendthrift poster child. “SEMCO” is a for-profit organization that’s on record for allowing employees to set their own salaries.
Hardly a Marxist fantasy come true, Ricardo Semler’s SEMCO’s 3000 employees went at it in a rational manner:
“This was a … complex process, which involved hiring an analyst to benchmark pay levels across multiple positions at 35 different companies. Average pay scales were established for comparable companies, to which SEMCO added 10 percent to help reduce employee turnover. And everyone’s salaries, from that of the security guard at the factory entrance to Mr. Semler’s own, were published for all to see. Peer pressure provided an efficient leveling mechanism. “

Not much of a raised fist and red banners unfurled struggle there. It appears that fairness prevailed. Probably a tiny percentage - even at SEMCO - remains unhappy but the company’s considerable success suggests a vast, content majority. This blissful state is probably more ascribable to the leadership’s openness and fairness then it is to having a say on one’s salary. What do I mean? Salary simply is not the great motivator many believe it is. Most people are satisfied with what they believe is a fair salary. Once achieved, fair pay neither motivates nor demotivates. It is akin to air conditioning. If off on a hot day, all hell breaks lose in the office; if the ACs on, no one notices.

So, when fairness and openness are the goals, employee involvement is salary setting is more educational than it is insurrectionist.
Another way to involve workers in salary discussions is to tie that discussion to an annual review of everyone’s job performance – now that could get interesting! This is said to happen at the “manager-less”** Morning Star company: “In a company with no promotions, people earn more by getting better at their jobs. Employee-elected compensation committees set pay levels after measuring colleagues' performance against their CLOUs and other metrics.”

The CLOU - Colleague Letter of Understanding - is an employee’s stated commitment to the organization including what the employee will do (as capsulated in “Key Performance Indicators” – KIPs) and with whom he will work to achieve his “Commercial Mission.” The process appears heavily HR-inspired, intensely quantified, convoluted and clumsy – even vaguely Soviet - but is seems to work in spite of itself. I suspect there is a tacit understanding: Produce more, help others produce more, and we’ll all get paid more. “Morning Star can pay 15 percent more in salaries and 35 percent more in benefits than the industry average because it's not paying managers and productivity is so high.” (Emphasis added.)
I’m guessing, but workers may be humoring the leadership’s whims for CLOUs, iPod time clocks, and KIPs because they truly thrive in Morning Star’s freedom-at-work environment.

In library-land (my world of work), managers and administrators - who may take home pay triple or more what line staff do - could be particularly vulnerable in an open discussion about salaries. What’s your response when someone asks “What have you done for me lately?" or "What have you done for the organization?” If your role is to back up a fussbudget boss you might have difficulty explaining how you add value to the organization’s bottom line or purpose, why you are still relevant.
I recall in one free-for-all budget session – we’d opened the library’s budget (salaries and operations) to all staff to find resources to pay for new initiatives – one participant asking a pointed, even personal, question: “Why have assistant directors? (people like yours truly). Why not use the AD salary lines for operational needs?” While I kept my job, it was a difficult moment. Later, I tried to explain to myself why I was worth the extra dollars. It wasn’t easy since I saw that the value I placed on my services might be too vague or irrelevant to staff, or, for that matter to administrative colleagues who often saw (and were rewarded) their roles as keepers-of-the-faith more than my role as questioner-of-the-faith!
Self-delusion and preservation on my part? Maybe, but then I could point to successes that previous incumbents in my position had failed to achieve.
That rankling suggestion that ADs were dispensable – regardless of past achievements – may well have portended a time for me to hie for the distant hills. One’s welcome does wear out.
Objectively, that singular experience does suggest how salaries can be kept in line through public discussion. If your value to the organization is up for discussion and you want to double your take-home pay - you’ll need to demonstrate how you bring more to the table.

*Note: This is the third entry on how democratic workplaces behave. More to come. The first installment was about work schedules.
The second was about making salaries public.

** Chris Rufer, the founder of Morning Star explains managing in a flat organization: “Everyone’s a manager here”, …. “We are manager rich. The job of managing includes planning, organizing, directing, staffing and controlling, and everyone at Morning Star is expected to do these things. Everyone is a manager of their own mission. They are managers of the agreements they make with colleagues, they are managers of the resources they need to get the job done, and they are managers who hold their colleagues accountable.” From Gary Hamel’s, "First, Let's Fire All the Managers", December, 2011 Harvard Business Review, p.58.

Friday Fable. La Fontaine’s “THE THIEVES AND THE ASS.”*

Posted by jlubans on June 06, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

20130607-thieves & ass med.jpg
Caption: No less than the illustrious impressionist, Paul Cézanne! His “Thieves and the Ass” (I ladri e l'asino), 1869. Findable at Galleria d'Arte Moderna di Milano - Italy

“Two thieves, pursuing their profession,
Had of a donkey got possession,
Whereon a strife arose,
Which went from words to blows.
The question was, to sell, or not to sell;
But while our sturdy champions fought it well,
Another thief, who chanced to pass,
With ready wit rode off the ass.

This ass is, by interpretation,
Some province poor, or prostrate nation.
The thieves are princes this and that,
On spoils and plunder prone to fat,--
As those of Austria, Turkey, Hungary.
(Instead of two, I've quoted three--
Enough of such commodity.)
These powers engaged in war all,
Some fourth thief stops the quarrel,
According all to one key,
By riding off the donkey.”

One can think of political examples much like La Fontaine did. As I write this from Riga, Latvia - a Baltic country not long free of communist rule – the 1945 Yalta conference comes to mind.
And so it might go at work. In my realm of libraries, I did see struggles between the print and the digital partisans in the library that raised a more than casual interest in a third party. I refer to IT (Information Technology) departments that were looking to consolidate their empires. Some (like La Fontaine’s “third thief” riding off with the donkey) orchestrated mergers with libraries and the resultant mis-match resulted in a lose/lose for the print and the digital groups.
Many of the mergers backfired, with IT blaming the fuddy-duddy librarians and the librarians blaming ITs poor customer service culture. Whatever the cause, library users were not well served.

*Source: THE FABLES OF LA FONTAINE Translated From The French by Elizur Wright. [original place and date: Boston, U.S.A., 1841.] A New
, with Notes by J. W. M. Gibbs,1882.

Freedom at Work: Open Books (Part 1)*

Posted by jlubans on June 05, 2013  •  Leave comment (0)

20130605-Pay shhh, secret pay.jpeg
I had not meant to overhear. Really. No ear to the keyhole for me, please! Regardless, my executive colleague in the next office with an open door was talking to someone on the phone – maybe an investment firm – about his confidential salary. He mentioned the amount, loudly enough for me to hear. I bolted from my office but not before learning that his salary was about 25% more than mine! I was a recent hire in a position on par with my next-door-colleague. We had similar backgrounds. If anything, I had more experience and professional achievement but somehow I was being paid less and he was being paid more. Ouch!
I was dismayed and unhappy about the apparent inequity. And, I kicked myself for not negotiating more cannily.
Now, many years later, a University of California study about making salaries public provides some rationale for my hurt feelings:
“The results were what you might expect for those whose pay was below average within their peer group: they weren't thrilled. They were more likely to be unsatisfied with their pay/job and search for new work. The worse the individuals' pay was relative to the median, the worse their satisfaction.”

Open books are essential to the democratic workplace. Employees get to see the financials – the budget - and, sometimes they get to see how much people are paid.
(Taking this a step further, a few freed-up organizations allow workers to set their own salaries. But, while many embrace the principles in my DW definition only a few have given workers a salary setting option. More about that in a future essay).
Opening the books – raising the curtain on the operating budget and the payroll, letting people see where the money is going and who is making what - is relatively simple. It can be limited to read-only access. Of course, you could opt for more democracy, like a Vermont town meeting, where people see the budget, debate it and then vote on it!
What’s the worst that can happen by revealing salary lines? Well, probably the worst is the exposure of historical inequities. Lacking those, there may be some initial confusion and gnashing of teeth, but then things will begin to sort out – the less deserving will understand why they are paid less and the more deserving will understand that they are compensated for doing a better job than most. And if wrongs need to be righted, then let’s get to it!
Now, for the faint of heart, you can opt to raise the curtain partially, say ankle height. Not all salaries need to be disclosed. Staff can be given the option to disclose or not.
Why am I so sanguine about making a payroll public? Well, there is the reassuring fact that many public employee salaries (including libraries) are already a matter of public record. With a few e-clicks, you can find out what your nemesis at work is making and whether you are better or worse off than she is. Those open record orgs behave like any other hierarchy – they are no better or worse for salary disclosure; it is simply an accepted tradition. For salary disclosure to really matter, other democratic virtues have to be in place. Salaries are often regarded as motivators; the greater the salary the greater the motivation. Truth is salaries have little to do with motivation. If adequate they are like organizational wallpaper, a reminder of a pleasant working environment. If niggardly, they de-motivate. Most of know the real motivators, respect, achievement, recognition, and camaraderie, along a few others, far outrank salary in an individual’s drive to be the best she can be.
I have worked in both public and private settings. Usually, I kept salaries secret, off limits. “Why, you blasted hypocrite”, you exclaim! Not really. For one thing, secrecy was the rule in those organizations. But, I will confess that confidentiality helped me avoid the hassle and embarrassment of having to explain why Mr. X – often inexplicably - made more than Ms. Y.
I now think that secrecy creates more problems than it avoids. People want to be treated fairly; an open payroll should make fairness manifest. If they are not being treated fairly then people need to know and they can choose to move on or, if there is apparent discrimination, to appeal for adjustment.
However, even some famously liberated workplaces only partially open the books. One of the more progressive companies, New Belgium brewery, plays its cards close to the corporate vest: “The company is earnestly open book--laying out everything but salaries (emphasis added) and providing an exhaustive education in financials.”
It is important to be “earnest”, someone said, but, New Belgium’s not revealing salaries does suggest there are some secrets the Fat Tire Tribe is not ready to deal with, regardless of ceremonial beads and investiture mojos. What is there to hide?
Bottom line, as they say, people desire fairness. Eyeballing salaries helps us make decisions about fairness. If we believe we are being treated fairly, then salary becomes less of a morale buster or fodder for unproductive grousing. A 2011 Atlantic magazine article backs that up, concluding that “knowing how much money other people make would benefit workers and make the labor market more efficient”

Overhearing that my peer was more highly valued than I was did make a difference for me. When a new CEO arrived, I re-negotiated my salary; I knew what to ask for. Did I get it? What do you think?

*Note: This is the second of several blog entries on how democratic workplaces behave. The first installment was about work schedules.