Frustration Friday: Pay Rates, Jealousy, and Hard Truths

Last week I had a nice, relaxing, if organized rant on the economy, the work ethic, and compensation.  I'd like to maintain that moment by looking at something that may be making your Friday a Frustration Friday, but something I've come to accept and understand.

Yes, some people make a lot of money being dishonest jerks and not producing anything.  But many people do get compensated amounts of money others may not like, and at levels that may make others feel that it's unfair.  However, as I've noted, your pay rate isn't always tied to your productivity.

Corrupt money-manipulators and serial liars in business aside, some people are getting paid disproportionate to what they produce, and frankly, there's good reason for this.

RARER SKILLS: They call it the job market for a reason, and if you have rarer skills, you'll probably get paid more.  You may not "produce" as much as someone with a different skillset, but their skillset may be more common.

EXTRA SKILLS: How many times have I harped on the fact that a professional is not just one skill or a set of skills, but having skills that support their job?  Well, here I go again.  The best programmer, lawyer, manager, manufacturer, craftsperson may indeed be able to just do a wonderful job and be all kinds of productive – but if they have lousy social skills, can't communicate, can't be organized, lack the extra language, etc. they're not going to be worth it.  Extra skills are important, and at times incredibly important.

Once I worked with a programmer who was slower than most (especially to me, who liked to work at high speed and "code often fail often").  However his organizational skills were fantastic, as were his people skills.  This meant that he was precise, produced bug-free code, was exceptionally good at planning, and got along well with everyone.  I wouldn't have traded him for a more skilled, but antisocial, programmer.

Alongside extra skills, some people just get the big picture better, and that's important to their job – and to those they work with.  They may have broad experiences, they may be well-travelled, they may just think big.  Either way, they have a better sense of what they do, even if they're not the best at doing it.  In short, someone who understands an industry, state, customer base, or whatever is going to get the job over someone with better skills and less idea of what's going on.

THE CONNECTIONS: Not a case of just knowing the right people to get you the job, some people get jobs because they do know people.  That salesperson may not be the best salesperson or get the product as well as others, but they can work their network.  That acting agent may not be eloquent, but they know the right people.  Connections at times are the job.

WILLING TO DO IT: Some jobs are insanely annoying to do, life-threatening, stressful, etc.  Some people may make money for putting up with adverse working conditions, even if they're not the best.  Again, that's the market.

So, yes, some people who aren't the most skilled or most productive get the big bucks.  There are reasons for this, often very good reasons.

This might be annoying, but remember, at least they're getting paid for something.  Even someone that gets a job due to things unrelated to how good they are at the main skills at least is getting it for something.  Far better than some of the rip-off artists we've seen crashing the world economy.

– Steven Savage