Friday, March 23, 2007

Shell-Shocked: "Cut Some Coupons"

Today I'm going to introduce a new section of the Turtles at Work blog titled: Shell-Shocked. As commented in some of my previous posts, workers do not turn into Work Turtles overnight. There is a series of events or experiences that erode at the once high performer that leads to the Turtle mentality. From time to time I will post a "Shell-Shocked" story from my past that contributed to me becoming a Turtle at Work.

"Cut Some Coupons"

Let me start by laying some groundwork for this story.

It was nearing performance review time at my company. I was not completely a Work Turtle at this point and had achieved "exceeds expectations" on each of my past 3 yearly reviews. I had been led to believe by my current VP that I would be promoted to his position upon his retirement, only to be screwed (that's another story for Shell-Shocked).

My wife had just given birth to our first child an we were struggling over whether my wife would stay home with our son, giving up her $32k a year teaching job. I had thought I was going to be promoted to VP (higher pay) but as stated earlier I was misled.

I was called into the President's office to discuss an issue that he wanted me to address. We chatted about the issue and then began to talk about my newborn son and wife. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity (before review/raise time) to slip in how hard it would be to make it with only my income. My plan was that although my company was cheap when it came to increases (even with high performance), I could play on the sympathy factor. My chance with the President, I thought, would really improve my chances of getting a better increase.

So I unleash my plan with the comment "yeah, it's going to be hard to make it with only my salary, but it's best for my son that my wife stay home." The Prez looks stone faced, ponders a second and then responds with the Turtle changing comment "Well, you'd be surprised how much you can save by cutting coupons." Cutting Coupons is all he could offer in response!!!! He then receded smugly into his comfortable, leather President chair. We were finished and I had obviously failed in my attempt to sway him or receive the sympathy pay increase I had been seeking.

Now, this guy makes around $500k in salary plus bonuses. I make a fraction of what the Prez makes and had just come off a year in which I saved my company over $250k due to process improvements I implemented to reduce damage. I call my wife and break the news. "How did it go" my wife asks. "Coupons" I reply "Flippin coupons is the only answer he gave me."

My review time came and went and again I received my "exceeding expectations" rating. As expected I received my 2.5% increase without a bonus for my "exceeding" efforts. This was one major defining moment in my transition from ambitious Wolf (high performer) to slow and steady Turtle.

As a joke I keep and excel chart tracking my coupon savings posted on my office bulletin board. My Prez comes in one day and looks at the board. Seeing my coupon savings chart he quips "Well, looks like you took my advice." Gee thanks!

This was one of the many moments that led me to become a Work Turtle. It's funny because, as I think back, I realize that executives at most companies have pretty much lost touch with their employees. Executives at solid companies are highly compensated and are probably worth every penny, however at the mediocre company the highly compensated executives are just a drain on the workforce. It's easy for an executive, and in my example, our President to tell me to cut coupons. He has totally lost touch with what it is like to not be "highly compensated". The cut (pardon the pun) runs even deeper because in my situation I have performed at the highest level for 3 years and instead of getting a solid increase or even a bonus, I get "cut coupons". Meanwhile I get to see the Prez driving his Lexus SUV and the other mindless VPs driving their luxury vehicles. As they say "the rich get richer" and that is certainly the case in mediocre company-land!

Feel free to post any of your Shell-Shocked moments. I'd love to hear them!


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