T Nation

Life Isn't Always Fair


Hi all-
I had a situation at work recently that recently intrigued me. My company (big-pharma) was conducting their semi-annual communications meeting, which is basically a meeting the big-wigs put on to convey how our company as a whole is achieving in the market place and how our site compares to the others world-wide.

All employees, from the janitor up to the CEO attends. After all the basic information is covered (dollars, market fluctuations, etc.) is covered, the forum is opened up for questions to any and everyone about any facet of the company at all. Now, as with most big companies, there is always some "tension" between the production workers out on the floor and management. This isn't really a new concept so I won't go into details as to what all it could encompass.

I myself am more middle management, so I was able to kind of step back and observe this meeting from both ends. During part of the initial presentation regarding gross profits for the year, one of the slides revealed a percentage of profits that the "big-wigs" received as a bonus on top of their already large salaries.

And after the presentation, one of the production operators raised a question regarding this very topic. He addressed it to one of the the senior VPs of the company. He basically asked this VP how could he justify this large bonus he received (which amounted to almost 100K), when the production operators were busting their butts to get a 3-4% raise on a 30K annual salary.

When asked, the senior VP sat silent for a moment, and then said the most wonderful thing I've ever heard: "Well" he said, "I guess you chose the wrong career path now didn't you." The entire crowd went silent, and the meeting was quickly dismissed shortly thereafter.

Now I understand that this was not the PC thing to say, and that sensitivity to all employees is paramount in these situations, but I wanted to run up and just shake this man's hand. In one utterance he had completely given me new hope in the American dream, and what hard work and perseverence will get you. He had also reaffirmed the one lesson that is so hard for people to grasp these days, and it is that life isn't always fair. I guess I'm just curious how others out there see this.


If you aren't making this story up, it may be the single best thing I've heard in at least a month.


I was in this meeting last night @ 8pm


Country doesn't kick ass.

And you guys are applauding some "bigwig" for having no skill at speaking? Lame. Sorry fellas, his response was lame, and definitely NOT praiseworthy.

I guess if he doesn't mind having darts thrown at his picture in the break room, then whatever... but an actual "good" CEO won't say something completely asinine like "because I write the checks" (that's what the guy asking the question heard, trust me) to a working class stiff. What a weak-ass copout.

The truth is, that his bonus was unjustifiable. They all are. This is in no way the fault of the guy who didn't join the right fraternity in college and kiss ass his whole career to climb the corporate ladder.

The correct answer to the question was "Because although you guys think I don't work hard, I do. I take on a lot of risks, and make many decisions that affect the livelihood of everyone in this company. You guys do a great job at what you do, and you know what to expect from doing that great job. The same thing goes for me. We are going places with this company because I am making damn sure it does. We all are. And I want to thank you all once again for everything that you do here at corporation X. Good work, everyone."

There. That is how you properly deflect an honest question without sounding like a complete asshole, and missing your tee time the next morning. Now go make me a martini.


I see two sides to this. I agree that the operator should have aimed higher with his career and life, but to blatantly throw it in his face at the meeting was completely uncalled for. If I was the operator, I would have been escorted out for knocking the VP's teeth out in front of everyone. You just don't tell your workers that.

  So the question remains, did he justify the amount he received ? We have had some wonderfull examples in Oz of Management receiving obscene amounts, even when the company did very badly, there appears to be very little accountabillity in these large increases, I personally don't believe that he choose the wrong career only the wrong school.


Maybe you should clarify what a production operator needs in terms of education.

If he is just an assembly line type of guy, he should be getting minimum wage. If he has some education, maybe he deserves more.


Had the production operator made a smart ass comment like that to the VP would he still have a job? It's just like politicians who vote themselves huge raises regardless of what they have done. If you are in charge of the money you can give as much as you want to yourself.


Definitely lame. I would love to hear what the CEO had to say to said VP after the meeting was adjourned.


No no, you don't get it. We should ALL be management. Who needs production workers anyway? What do they do?

IF we're all upper management, oh what a wonderfull place this would be...


It's very easy when you are on the top (and believe me I know) to blame everyone who isn't for being lazy, stupid and making poor decisions.

There are certainly differences in people with respect to skill, capability and dedication.

However, depending on how much of a ruckus was created by such a stupid (if honest) answer to the question, Mr Smarter-Than-You may just find himself looking for a new job soon... and it won't be in the public relations group.

You see, it is pretty hard to make money if nobody is willing to work for your sorry ignorant ass, or if they do work for you but fuck everything up for the hell of it or otherwise trash your company to your customers, the public and the media.

If you want to lead, it would be good to know how to motivate people and foster teamwork.

And no, life isn't always fair, but a reasonable profit sharing program doesn't hurt.


exactly my thougths. If I was CEO I would have fired his ass on the spot. If that's the kind of leadership and team building skills he displays in a large meeting I would have no choice but to assume he was completely useless.


Wow, I guess I was pretty lucky for making $16.60 an hour wile employed for BAE Systems as a "production operator", with no degrees. I had 4 years of experience in the Navy that related to the work I was doing (which wasn't simply assembly line work, it was installing and de-installing comms equipment including a secure LAN for an Army Special Forces unit and the NYPD).

I should never have left VA, but I wanted to be with family. Now I'm looking for another job just like that one I had while I work on my degrees. $16.60 is far from minimum wage. Another guy I worked with was making over $22 an hour, also without a degree.

BTW, the cost of living in Chesapeake VA is pretty low comparatively, just in case you wanted to make that argument.


Exactly. Most of these bonus's (boni?) are unwarranted. I see it first hand at my place.

If the jackass can't even articulate a legitimite reason for his bonus, he probably is not good enough at his management job to have actually earned his money.


The rich get righer and the poor, well, screw 'em! Right?
I can't imagine how crappy this country would be without the laymen that actually DO work. Manage in one hand and crap in the other hand. Now tell me which one fills up faster.

I am lucky enough to have a decent paying job. I will never get rich, but my home won't get repossesed (I hope) any time soon. I have always taken issue with the big corps giving 1-3% raises for GOOD reviews, when the cost of living increases 4-5% every year. Of course, MANAGEMENT thinks this is fair (probably because 1-3% of a six-figure salary is not a bad raise), but for the guy who is busting his hump to make ends meet, he just took a 1-3% step BACK in pay.


Let this be a lesson to everyone.

It is a bad idea to be confrontational in meetings and the line operator's question was confrontational.

Questions that put presentors on the spot are better asked offline.

I can see if from both sides but in a capitalistic society the spoils go to those that take the risks.


The only thing that I can say about this is that this is a perfect demonstration of the ignorance of the senior executives in corporate America. I wouldn't be surprised if that jackass either got fired or promoted. What really wouldn't surprise me is that if the person who asked the question got fired. Anything is possible in corporate society. I've been in for the last almost 15 years (In Pharma for 12 of them).

And no, that question was not confrontational when the presentation showed exactly how much these pricks were fleecing the company for this year. That arrogance is another reason why people hate corporations. That and the fact that it was an open Q&A. They should be ready to expect any question.


Sounds like something out a john grisham book to me, bet you wont see that guy on monday.



If screwing your fellowman (or those who work under you) and laughing in his face if you are more successful than him in any way is the "american dream", someone needs to wake this country up...quick.


You're missing the point prof. He doesn't mind being screwed, as long as he thinks it'l be his time to screw really soon.

And as far as "taking the risk" goes. When a company reorganises, wages get cut, people get fired, and upper management gets an option plan.
When they finally run it into the ground, the operation people get laid off, and upper management gets a golden parachute.

My heart bleeds for them.