Something about Peeling Durian


Written on 2/13/2009 06:07:00 pm by sikapitan

We were just sitting around when a friend mentioned that his friend just came back from work at 5 am this morning and was up for work at 8.30 am. That’s crazy, but auditors usually are. Anyway, we got around to discussing on success measurement, on a more micro level.

My friend is a bit stressed out from his current job scope, understandably as he has around $20 million revenue target to meet and a whole lot of back-end mess to clean up. He’s staying on a bit too long every day, and he is seldom left alone on weekends.

The problem is that there’s no correlation at this moment with the work he’s doing and the amount he’s getting paid. Logic dictates that the harder you work, the more you should be paid, but management is seldom logical.

So we started calculating our effective wage, which means wage/number of hours working. We don’t care about your output, as no matter how productive you are, it doesn’t matter shit if you’re paid the same.

My friend got more depressed. Let’s say our effective monthly compensation is RM4000, and we work for 20 days. That means it’s RM200 a day. On this, we are both equal. But I spend an average of 6 hours a day at work, while he goes on close to 8 hours a day. So my effective pay is RM33 per hour while his is only RM25 per hour. I haven’t added in the complexity of his task yet…

There is a potential pay-off for all the hard-work, and that is called promotion. Promotion usually corresponds with a pay raise, though more often than not, a one-step promotion seldom result in more than 10% increase in wage. Isn’t that depressing?

But there is still another potential pay-off. The faster you get your promotion, the faster it is you get to another step for promotion. And the cycle goes on and on, until one fine day, because of your hard work, you managed to earn what you should be earning 3 promotions ago. Sad but true.

You want more sad news? Well, promotion depends on rating and assessment by your boss. Most of the time, through no fault of your assessor, you get rated the same as your colleagues. I know some of you would be saying, “You’re not effective” but trust me; sometimes it’s just the nature of the job.

Well, imagine that A and B were hired to cut and serve fruits. A was assigned to serve oranges, while B was assigned to serve durians. Customer demanded 10 oranges and 10 durians. A and B both served the customer’s demand on time and as requested. Both met their boss’ expectation, but we all know that peeling durian is harder than oranges.

And the boss can’t favor B simply because his job is harder and more complex. A can simply turn around and demand the same treatment because he’s doing what is being asked by the boss just as well as B. So the boss compromises by giving both the same ratings, or at most, give B a bit more than A.

Now, imagine that the durian portfolio is a messy one, filled with blunt tools and haphazard organization. My friend is handling the “durian” while I’m the one with “oranges” to take care of. Life’s not fair, and we BOTH know it.

My friend is slowly turning into a Durian

Not only do I have a higher effective wage than him, and much less stress, but we are both on the same path towards promotion. He might get there sooner than me, by a few months, but with less stress and more free time, I will not get old as soon as him either!

Another way to measure wage is to calculate your profit. Another friend of mine, who is earning less than us in Maxis can afford to buy a new car with his own money. How?

Treat yourself as a company. Your total wage is your revenue. Minus all the work-related expenses (transportation, parking, food) and you get what you’d call your useable income. This is the true measurement of your profit, not total revenue. There’s no point earning RM4000 when you spend RM2000 every month for work while another person earns RM3000 but only spends RM800 for work.

Anyway, have sympathy for my intelligent, hard-working and all-around nice-guy friend at Maxis. Luck, as Malcolm Gladwell pointed out in Outliers, plays a more important role than good old-fashioned effort in success.

Go figure.

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1 Comment

  1. Carrier Man |

    Pity that old man... He is indeed truly marginalized...


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