We work to earn money. That’s the system. There are other reasons to work, but earning an income is why most of us turn up for work each morning. When I read articles about knowing what you’re “worth” in pay negotiations I cringe.
The language, whether intentional or not, implies that our intrinsic worth can be measured by our pay. That’s a ghastly view, and entirely out of sync with the teachings of Jesus, for instance:
- Jesus taught that the last would be first
- He taught eternal truths to uneducated women
- He prioritised the welfare of children
Jesus’ approach didn’t make economic sense in his society. Women and children didn’t “count” for many reasons, including the fact that they didn’t own wealth in their own names.
Most of us now reject the notion that a person’s worth is reflected in their pay packet.
Anyone who has been cared for in a hospital will value the work of a nurse over their bank manager. Worth here is surely not measured by the market value of the job itself!
Yet in our market economy, we need to negotiate. We need to plan our careers. We need to know the market price of our skills and talents. Our “market price” is what we can receive for our labour. But, it is not our “worth”, it is a price attached to market value of our labour. We should never confuse the two.
Four realities of the market in which we operate
- We live in a market economy with a regulated industrial relations system
- We can negotiate for more, but our employer can’t (shouldn’t) practice discrimination
- We may need more money to live in a certain way, but an employer is not obliged to provide a salary in accordance with our expectation
- Our capitalist system, for all the talk about “our people” sees employees as an “expense” rather than an asset
So, what can we do about it - four suggestions
- Find our self worth in our identity in Christ, not our income
- Be diligent enough to know the relevant awards, market conditions and industrial law as it relates to our industry
- Negotiate with firmness and graciousness, by asking ourselves the questions “what is fair?” or “what is just ?”as much as I ask these of our employers.
- Make ourselves valuable to our organisations as good workers, advancing the organisation’s goals – i.e maintain a “common good” approach more than a individualistic approach, which is highly countercultural.
Two resolutions to help me
We can affirm our dignity when we seek to be paid appropriately. This is neither selfish or wrong if it comes from a place of seeking what is fair or just.
We can recognise “worth” goes far deeper than our pay packet. This keeps my first resolution balanced against the backdrop of rampant materialism in my culture