When “a dollar there” is no different from “a dollar here”

I am not addressing the economic crisis, nor am I trying to define the value of a dollar.

A few years ago, as an in-house HR business partner, I was conducting an exit interview with a line technician (Let’s call him Simon). I’ve known Simon for about a year or so, and we’ve had lunch on several occasions.

In that interview, Simon was very truthful and straightforward in his answers and I was somewhat brought back to reality on the importance of a good manager and a warm friendly environment.

Simon brings home about a thousand dollars every month. Considering that he’s had a new born baby, I know that he’s been putting in extra overtime hours whenever possible. He is a smart and diligent individual and was given extra responsibilities in his area of work.

However, I knew that he wasn’t getting along well with his department head (Let’s call him John). Not that he’s having any direct confrontation with John or anything. It’s just the environment that was created by John. He practically micromanages every single detail.

John is not an easy going person as well. At times, talking to him can be rather intimidating. Simon doesn’t report to him directly. In fact, there are two other persons in between Simon and John. An engineer that Simon reports to, and a manager that the engineer reports to.

In the exit interview, Simon shared with me his plans. The company that he’s going to is much smaller in size and the salary’s about 20% lower. The overtime may be good, but it’s due to the fact that they’re running a sweatshop. On the whole, Simon will be putting more hours for pretty much the same pay.

How does all this equate to a better opportunity? I am not convinced by the fact that he’s taking a pay cut to join a smaller company and he’s feeling good about it.

He refers to his career move to being released from prison, saying that “a dollar earned there” is the same as “a dollar earned here. I put in the hours and I get my pay at the end of the month. The difference? I don’t have to put up with all this!”

I was sad to see him go. The last I checked, he’s still at that smaller company. He’s a much happier person now. He’s gotten his promotion and had been rewarded with a slightly better package.

I guess we all know that the environment is important, and most people quit on their managers and such. But it will be a while more before we can put all this knowledge into practice. There is no silver bullet to creating a superb working environment, but what I do know is – “A happy employee is a productive employee”.


Eric Wong


2 thoughts on “When “a dollar there” is no different from “a dollar here”

  1. Well I pretty much in agreement to the above story. I have a different situation wherein most of my engineers leave not because of their manager ( which is myself..ha..ha).
    I have a very good relationship with most of the leaving engineers and they even thank me on the time spend together, the lesson learned, the stressed shared, good and hard time. Evan one of the engineer said, I’m going to miss you and my not find similar to you..(huh..I’m too proud of myself).
    But the pressure received in the company, the work load that keep on coming and the expectation from top management makes my group keep on leaving the factory. What they said was, the renumeration was not justify the work…so the leaved to find a job with better pay or less stress and I’m here keep on training a new engineer to meet the Company objective.

    How to go about it ?

  2. All i have to comment about this is as a manager you have no other go but serving the company and meet the objectives from your side. You can have a discussion with the top management regarding the high expectatins from their side to be lowered( too much to ask eh….i know) or you can do is make the engineers enjoy their work with a lot of training techniques from your side. As you mentioned in your comment that the engineers enjoy working with you. so i think you can make them stay as long as the top management would stand with you and your tatics. all the best

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