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Winston Lake

Husband and father of one,

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Is there a mutual responsibility between employer and employee?

I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine about fair distribution of profits at all levels of an organization. He informed me that as an employer he doesn't feel he owes his employees anything and they are in fact lucky to be working.

Is he right? Do employers have an inherent right to the vast majority of the profits garnered by their organization?

Is his view too "old school"? Is there an ethical imperative to create a more equitable distribution of the profits at all levels of the organization?

I would appreciate feedback on both sides of this question. I know my views on the subject, but I'm really interested in other peoples opinions. As important as what you think, I would like to know why you hold that view.

This is an important question for me, and I thank you in advance for your assistance.

Cheers, Winston

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    Sep 19 2011: As someone who started their own business and worked like a dog to get it off the ground and then grew it to a place where it sustains others, I'd say "yes and no" (to the question "Do employers have an inherent right to the vast majority of the profits garnered by their organization?").

    Yes, in that I took the initiative, the risks, and the financial hit during the start up phase.

    No, in that my goal is to keep the company growing with the best possible staff - and having them have a vested (in both senses of the term) interest in the direction and growth of the company, dependent on the health of the company only makes sense.

    I suspect, though, that that attitude vanishes at most companies with the development of a layer of middle management - for a variety of reasons.
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      Sep 20 2011: Thank you for lending your perspective :-)

      I find that it occurs once a business begins using "career" managers who are totally disconnected from the staff. There are the founders such as yourself, there are the workers doing the work. At some point, the separation becomes institutionalized.
      The only antidote is to encourage employers like yourself to m attitude and look to hire other's with a similar understanding of the need for balance.

      Cheers, Winston
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    Sep 19 2011: Thats what we call god complex. Sometimes people think that they climbed to top only by themselves denying all the contribution that their surroundings gave before. In most cases they are tend to loose good workforce and trying to replace it with inexperienced and less driven newcomers. Some succeed to survive some fall apart.
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      Sep 19 2011: Thank you for your input.

      You are absolutely right. It is the myth of the self-made man. "No man is an island.", as the saying goes. It goes hand in hand with our skewed view of heroes. I recently watched this talk http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/philip_zimbardo_on_the_psychology_of_evil.html by Phillip Zimbardo. In it, he talks about the impact of making heroes of those with unique abilities rather than ordinary people. If only special people can be heroes, then it dis-empowers everyone else.


      When the CEO declares that he built this company from nothing, with practically nothing but his faith and a dream, you can bet he doesn't give the people under him a whole lot of time to dream.

      Cheers, Winston
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    Sep 19 2011: nobody deserves anything. every arrangement comes about by mutual agreement between participants. nobody else than the owner, the manager and the employees themselves can, in the current situation, decide what is the appropriate level of salaries, what is the right atmosphere and all. it varies from firm to firm.
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      Sep 19 2011: Thank you for taking the time to weigh in on this. But it would seem beneficial to all concerned to keep everyone happy. I've been on both sides of the labor question and have always worked harder when treated fairly, and compensated accordingly. As a result, when I was running a business, I made a point of ensuring my staff were rewarded by what they were willing to give.

      I understand that the specifics vary, but do the ethics as well?

      Cheers, Winston
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        Sep 19 2011: that sort of ethics is rather personal. would you expect workers to care about the company too? probably not. many work relations are purely financial: i work you pay. you want to put an end to it? fine, but how? millions think like that. how do we make a factory worker care about the company? and a cleaner?
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          Sep 19 2011: I think it resonates for organizations that do need a compliant workforce and nothing more. I worked alongside middle management where people come and go, and you can certainly find that attitude where folks refuse to respect you, your company, and even other coworkers -- they just want a paycheck. For many people, it's perfectly fine.

          And of course not all sectors of society have leadership that treat -- or even WANT to treat -- their "bottom-dwellers" like a plantation. Even if it's the humblest of professions. There are many instances where 1) a founder feels that their company should be an incubator for talent, and 2) the health of a company depends on the well-being of all who work "the man."

          Sometimes, higher compensation may work. Or perhaps there can be other creative ways of compensating others aside from redistributing profit?
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          Sep 19 2011: Krisztian>Work relationships are purely financial in so many cases because that is how we have been conditioned to view them. At one time, it was considered normal to sell people in the public square like so many chickens.. The fact that millions of people share a view doesn't make it eternal. And yes, I firmly believe that factory workers, cleaner and retail workers would be far more likely to feel invested in their respective companies if they had any indication that it was a two way street. What is required is to find the lever which might shift labor into a new paradigm.

          Bryann>Thank you for joining in. In the employment you mention with people coming and going, were the staff treated with respect by the company? I've been a store manager at Blockbuster Canada, and I certainly know the type of person you refer to who have no respect for anyone or anything. On the other hand, I have had far more who responded positively to respectful treatment from the company and it's managers. Indeed until our recent demise at the hands of our parent company's creditors, Blockbuster Canada believed firmly that respect was a key ingredient in retaining a loyal, dedicated workforce. Part of that respectfulness involved paying more than any other comparably sized employer in the retail/service industry.

          A key factor in a manager's bonus involved staff retention and hitting training goals Every interested staff member was actively encouraged to train for the position above theirs. They also promoted on merit rather than seniority or cronyism. A fact enforced by one of the most enthusiastic Human Resources Departments I have ever seen. They weren't perfect, but at least they were on the right track.

          There may be other creative types of compensation than redistributing profit, but at the entry-level, low wage, often part-time income, none of them are that appealing. Especially for anyone with a family.

          Cheers, Winston
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          Sep 20 2011: Winston, thank you. The company in my old job had to deal with seasonal employees all the time. Short answer to your question is: No. In hindsight, my colleagues could've been treated better.

          My gripe was with some of the upper tier management who tend to talk down to their employees, as well as promote mere "order-delegators" within leadership positions who weren't the best of character to lead people at all. I would see entire situations where "salt of the earth" folk would clock out and walk out. The reasons are many, but in sum, the stress that came from the upper rung was undeserved.

          You're right that respect is a key in loyalty and retention. You can certainly bring the best out of people that way, and I certainly believe it and I've seen it. Good to hear that BB Canada actually encouraged ways to apply respect throughout, rather than treat it as some empty platitude. :)
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        Sep 19 2011: winston, so be it! i'm not against having better human-like relations at work. but i'm just telling that if both parties agree to a more cold type of relation, it is also acceptable for me. it is their business.
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    Sep 19 2011: He sounds like he doesn't think too highly of his employees; but then again some employees just want money from their employer so i could understand that.
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      Sep 19 2011: Thanks for your feedback :-)

      You are absolutely right about some employees. On the other hand, every company I've ever worked for or heard of "just want money" from their employees. That's why so many employees don't think too much of their employers either.

      Cheers, Winston