There have been many times in my life that I’ve heard people make comments about how CEO’s or business owners have it made. That the people who own or run large companies just sit back and drink G&T’s while simply bossing around the people under them who are actually doing all the hard work. The people who I’ve heard express these views believe that those who really deserve to be so highly compensated for their work are the manual laborers – the ones exhausting themselves with picks and shovels in the hot sun earning pennies. In their minds, the people whose offices reside in their laptop and don’t have calloused hands are ones who don’t know what a hard day’s work is and are just taking advantage of others.
I’m not going to waste time being political about this. These people are wrong, and for a few reasons. There’s no point for me to get into the issue of jealousy – saying that people think like this just because it makes them feel better about not having what they truly want. Additionally, I’m not going to try to argue that one position is in fact more difficult than the other. However, the two key points that I believe put this mentality back in the shadows where it belongs is the concept of replaceability, and that we can only give value to things we understand.
Starting with replaceability, I’m sorry to report that the majority of us aren’t as important and unique as we love to believe that we are. I’ve had many hourly jobs where at one point or another I felt like I was crucial to the functioning of the business. However, even if my position was important, I always reminded myself that at the end of the day there were probably 10,000,000 people in every country that could perform my position’s responsibilities as well as me, and another 1,000,000 in every country who would do it better given the opportunity. Simply put, I knew I was replaceable, so why did I feel as though I deserved more?
When people hold up a fieldworker against a corporate executive and argue that the fieldworker should be considered as valuable as the corporate executive (if not more), they always forget that one is much more replaceable than the other – think of it as supply and demand. In our world, there are EXPONENTIALLY less people with the mental horsepower to perform many of the high level positions in a business than there are people who can collect garbage, work an assembly line, or pick apples. Thus, just like we all understand why we have to pay a lot more for truffles than lettuce, it makes perfect sense that people who occupy the positions that are higher in the food chain of business are being highly compensated.
Next, we only give value to the things we understand. The people who believe that the only “hard work” a person can do is found in a hot kitchen or on a field will most likely only ever work in one of those positions. The reason being that they only know how to judge work and energy by the hour. When they hear that someone made $10,000,000 after closing a deal, they only view the work put in as a few handshakes and signatures – neglecting the fact that the person was probably working on the deal for years without ever knowing if they were going to make a dime (along with the potential of probably losing money!).
To me, this is the biggest reason people tend to act like there’s nothing to what owners and executives do. It’s because they truly don’t have a single clue what goes into running and maintaining a company. They try to value their bosses work by the same hourly scale on which they value themselves, which is both illogical and inaccurate. Thus, they keep on doing the often mundane tasks of their job that allow them to earn a less than meager living, giving them the time to blame others for not recognizing their own potential.
If you disagree with that we only give value to the things we understand…how do you explain then that a business professional making $5,000,000 a year is considered by most to be earning way more than he could ever need, while at the same time people will admire and idolize an NBA player making $50,000,000 a year? It’s because any idiot can understand what it takes to put a ball through a hoop, as well as recognize when one tall guy is better at it than another.