Where did my Salary Go?
Some of you remember when we actually got double digit merit increases. One year, it is foggy now, but maybe in the 1980s I remember getting a 12% merit increase. It was so exciting! Do you feel like you are making less money? There are a variety of reasons including the facts from Part 1 of this post— more of your work security is coming from you and not your employer. By the time you put money in your 401(k) or 403(b) plan, add money to your health care savings account, put some money in the Healthcare Flexible Spending Account to cover out-of-pocket expenses and take a trip to a professional conference to keep up your CEUs because you “own” your professional development----there’s not much left.
National Public Radio (NPR) sponsored a series several years ago called “Living in the Middle” about America’s middle class. Experienced workers know what it is like to slip from middle class to poverty level. Job searches that take years, raising grand-children in their 50s and 60s, helping adult children and sudden lay-offs require Baby Boomers to extend their work years while they can still earn an income. The U.S. economic climate has probably changed enough that it cannot support the middle class as I knew it growing up outside Chicago. Heavy manufacturing jobs were supported by labor unions employing high school-educated (mostly) men earning a livable wage at the time. This year Mercer Consulting estimated midsize and large employers would increase their average raise in base pay to 2.9%.Wal-Mart employed 1% of the 140 million working Americans in 2010. 1.4 million Americans work for Wal-Mart. Their associates earned an average of $20,744 annually three years ago. Ponder that for a minute.
Employees: Work at Your Own Risk!Despite protections from the NLRB, FLSA, ADEA, EEOC and any number of acronyms describing federal, state and local agencies; talk with Baby Boomer employees and they will tell you how vulnerable they feel. Employment attorneys are not inexpensive and no individual has the financial wherewithal to fight even a small business. While companies are not legally required to offer severance packages, many do and in return for signing, laid off employees give up the right to pursue legal action or initiate a claims with regulatory agencies. Employees are also losing out time after time with the highest court in the land. The Supreme Court most recently made filing for class action status more difficult when it struck down the appeal of Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the case of a female 50+ year-old employee making a wage and promotion discrimination claim.
Employees protected by unions fell to a 70-year low in 2011. Government employees account for more half of all unionized workers. Yet, the federal workforce is shrinking even before sequestration. According to a New York Times story published in June 2013, about 45,000 government positions were eliminated this year. At the Pentagon, a large number of civilian workers will be required to be furloughed--off work and unpaid unless they have paid time off (PTO) for 11 days in 2013 to save money. Most of my business-owner colleagues dislike any type of government regulation and work hard to keep their businesses union-free. While I trust them and applaud practices they employ to keep their workforces equitably paid, treated well and safe---not all business owners take the same steps for their employees.
So, another Labor Day has come and gone. Surely, change is the only constant in workplaces today. For experienced employees, it is important to stay employed. Generating the highest income possible should also be a goal even it means taking a part-time job. Your money has to last a long time and as you get older your ability to earn unfortunately produces an inverse turn on the graph like the one illustrated.
HR and company leaders: Research supports the premise highly satisfied employees create increased customer satisfaction. Company leaders also should also get out their offices and have face time with employees. Try catching workers doing something right. One corporate leader or business owner cannot change the statistics or troubling trends in employment. Employee bullying, lower productivity, devaluing others and workplace violence are on the increase. Each person charged with the management of subordinates has an obligation to engage with their workforce and leave the organization better than it was when they joined the department, division or company.