What Are We Worth?

When we shop for something, be it a car, a flat screen TV or a service provider, we usually are looking for a good value. Values are defined as broad preferences concerning appropriate courses of action or outcomes. There are moral, ethical, social and business values to name just a few.

As humans, what we are worth can be looked at in many ways. From a chemical perspective the average person is worth about $4.50. I am a bit on the large size so I might be pushing $5.00. How our family and friends value us in all probability cannot be measured directly in dollars and cents. As a species, we are capable, valid, creative, intelligent, unique and powerful. In the work place it is normal to evaluate workers on a regular basis to judge their performance against a set of “standards.” But how does the company we work for value us? Do we sometimes feel that in our chosen profession we are not appreciated?  Do we think we are taken advantage of and are not compensated as we should be?  What do you think you are worth to your company?

When I worked at a large aerospace company I would often ask the people who worked for me if they thought they deserved a pay raise. Usually 90% or better would say yes. I would then ask them to justify why they should get a raise, and they would often have a hard time articulating why they should get one. I would ask them to use a scale from 1 to 5 (where a 1 was absolutely terrible, a 5 meant you walked on water, and a 3 was normal and average) to rank themselves. Again, with the exception of the few that thought they were the cream of the crop and the few that were too hard on themselves, the vast majority ranked themselves as a 3. To that I would respond as follows: “When you agreed to work for the ABC Widget Company, they defined your job responsibilities and what you would be paid. You agreed to those terms and started working, and one year later you were given a professional review. In the review you were graded a 3 in all respects. My question then is if you agreed to do a job for a given pay and you do that job, no more or no less, why should you get a raise?”

Look at it from this perspective — if the car mechanic says it will cost $200 for a car repair and he does as he said he would, would you pay him $225? The company you work for is no different in this regard. If you do what you agreed to do, they will pay you what they agreed to pay you and not a penny more. To make more money, you have to show your company that you are worth more to them. On that scale from 1 to 5 you have to move to the right and become a 4 or better.

Fortunately, there are many ways to do this.

Take on more responsibility. Learn to do work that is outside your area of expertise and your comfort zone. Become a mentor to a new hire. Increase your knowledge base by either taking job-related courses outside of work or technical training classes through work. Don’t be afraid to volunteer to help another department that may be short on manpower. Keep yourself known, and available, in a positive way.

There are many more ways I could list, but I am sure that you catch my meaning. Whether times are good or bad, we have to show those who are looking that we are worth more than we are being paid. Are you doing all you can to make yourself worth more to your company? 

R. Fred Polak |  Editor