“The tragedy of our age is salary”… writes Sunday Adelaja in ‘No one is better than you.’
My fellow working hoteliers are mostly receiving their salaries in part and the extremely fortunate few, in full by now. One’s reaction to a truncated salary receipt, while not initially positive, must compel ourselves to look at our half-filled glass and consider that ‘I 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. Thus the need to look at Salary from a philosophical & aphoristic perspective.
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.
Mokhonoana in his aphoristic 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. It is only then, that we began to view our Salary from a philosophical & aphoristic perspective!
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.
At the pandemic’s outset many months ago, most international & domestic hotel chains in India took 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. Those employees who were, and still are blessed to receive any salary, need to maintain an aphoristic perspective, to retain their philosophical sanity. On the other hand, some of the larger Indian chains with self-owned properties did not withhold salaries (barring performance bonus), making their employees amongst the fortunate few in the industry – these few and rare instances display the company’s courage to pay complete salaries during these stressful times and it 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 several luxury chains have asked its people either to leave or to sit out until further notice. Dickson G. Watts, Author states “Not to have the courage to accept a loss, 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 released a note a few months ago, announcing layoffs and the surmise behind it. In the note to his employees, 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.”
This seems to be 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 my industry colleagues going through 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 recovery to better times ahead. It is not easy to have to receive wages less than what has been contracted for and I trust owners will empathize with their employees’ pain whilst implementing such measures.
At the end of it all, we must remember that there is that which is in one’s hands and then, that which is not… As an employee, the quantum of salary pay-out may not be in your hands. However, accepting the inevitable that salary is transient, would be a philosophical way of looking at this aphorism.
In the meantime, it is highly recommended that we invest this time in upgrading ourselves in various areas. You are the best judge for what you need to upskill on, professionally or otherwise. “Better capital in a man’s head than capital in a bank.” – Dickson G. Watts
So keep your thoughts positive. To quote John Assaraf, “Keep your chin up. No one expected you to save the world, otherwise, you would have been born wearing a cape and tights. Just do the best you can.”
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This article has appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM September 2020
This article has appeared in ET HR WORLD.COM September 2020