The aphorisms of Salary

The tragedy of our age is salary”… writes Sunday Adelaja in “No one is better than you”

My fellow hoteliers would have received their April 2020 salaries either in part or in full by now. One’s reaction on a truncated salary receipt, while not initially positive, must needs force ourselves to look at our half-filled glass and consider that we have a salary, if even in part; for there are many who have not been fortunate to have retained their employment in these trying times.

Those of us who have a passion for hospitality have chosen our own area of calling and purpose and we are working and converting our life into that area of calling. If you are such a passionate employee, you will realize that if you genuinely believe you are not being compensated with salary, it is then that you become the boss over your own life, for you have not allowed money to rule your life.

M. Mokhonoana in his aphorismic-style writes “The reason that man is seldom satisfied with his salary is that when it increases, he increases his expenses.” For those who have received a 50% deduction, a positive way of approaching the current salary crisis is to remember how one lived when one’s salary was half what it is now. The answer, perhaps may startle us – we were equally happy and experienced the same level of wants, needs and satiation at that time.

This tells us that money is a means to an end and not an end to a means.

There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money, either,” said Robert Graves, the Poet; while Voltaire, the writer said “Don’t think money does everything or you are going to end up doing everything for money.” ~ Profound statements, both eviscerating the ideal stance in the prevailing scenario.

Most international hotel chains in India have taken policy decisions to cut salaries as per grades and retrench employees in order to stay afloat. These chains are mostly managed or franchised where individual owners come into play. On the other hand, some of the larger Indian chains with self-owned properties like Oberoi Hotels, Leela Hotels (Brookfield owned hotels only) & Taj Hotels (IHC) have not withheld salaries so far (barring performance bonus), making their employees amongst the fortunate few in the industry. An international stand-alone luxury hotel I partner with, has had the courage to pay complete salaries during these stressful times and this clearly reflects the importance they give to their human capital.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some hotels which have retrenched and cut salaries quite ruthlessly. A luxury chain has rationalized all salaries above Rs. 50000 p.m. to the base amount (a Manager earning 60k p.m. will get 50k, and a GM earning 500k p.m. will also earn 50k) while another luxury chain has asked all its people to leave as they are shutting shop for the next 6 months. Dickson G. Watts, Author states “Not to have the courage to accept a loss, and to be too eager to take a profit, is fatal. It is the ruin of many.”

Such are the vagaries of business that in order to survive, a business has to reengineer expenses in tune with market trends. Frederic Bastiat, a French economist of the 19th century once famously said “Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone.

Airbnb Chairman, Brian Chesky recently released a note announcing layoffs and the surmise behind it. In the note, he writes:

“We don’t know exactly when travel will return. When travel does return, it will look different. While we know Airbnb’s business will fully recover, the changes it will undergo are not temporary or short-lived. Because of this, we need to make more fundamental changes to Airbnb by reducing the size of our workforce. It was important that we had a clear set of principles, guided by our core values, for how we would approach reductions in our workforce. These were our guiding principles:

  • Map all reductions to our future business strategy and the capabilities we will need.
  • Do as much as we can for those who are impacted. 
  • Be unwavering in our commitment to diversity. 
  • Optimize for 1:1 communication for those impacted. 
  • Wait to communicate any decisions until all details are landed — transparency of only partial information can make matters worse. 

The result is that we will have to part with teammates that we love and value. We have great people leaving Airbnb, and other companies will be lucky to have them. To take care of those that are leaving, we have looked across severance, equity, healthcare, and job support and done our best to treat everyone in a compassionate and thoughtful way.”

The above seems to me an empathetic manner of approaching severance and salary cuts.

In the book To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee, Atticus Finch tells her daughter: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

I sincerely commiserate with all industry colleagues in this current crisis and do pray that we all live through this period with grace, equanimity and a strong belief in the Almighty and faith in the recovery to better times ahead. It is not easy to have to receive wages less than what has been contracted for and I trust that owners will feel the pain and empathise whilst implementing such measures.

At the end of it all, we must remember that there is that which is in ones hands and then, that which is not… As an employee, quantum of salary pay out may not be in your hands, but accepting the inevitable is. Invest this time in upgrading yourself in various areas – you are the best judge for what you need to upskill on – professionally or otherwise.

Better is capital in a man’s head than capital in a bank.” – Dickson G. Watts

So, chin up and keep your thoughts positive. “There is little success where there is little laughter.Andrew Carnegie

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