Nov. 11, 2022
Greed can be insidious. When people think of greedy employers or employees, their minds may go to flashy headlines like Bernie Madoff, Theranos or extreme cases of employees embezzling, stealing and defrauding the company they work for. In reality, many of the problems we face in the business world — income inequality, quiet quitting, high employee turnover and burnout — also result from greed.
The origins of both employer and employee greed are the same: wanting more than one deserves. For employers, this looks like squeezing every last drop out of their employees without fair compensation or care for their well-being. For employees, this means disproportionately prioritizing their compensation over creating value for the company.
It is easy for the scales to tip in one direction: employers grinding employees to the bone or cynical employees taking advantage of a company's lenient policies. To achieve balance, there needs to be a proper value exchange between employers and employees — the company cares for the well-being of its employees, and the employees return that care by creating value for the company.
Greed drives burnout
Burnout culture is, in large part, fueled by greed. Consider the companies that provide enough amenities for an employee to essentially live at work with showers, gyms, free food and more. These companies may feel they're being generous by offering these perks, but in practice, such perks can encourage an unhealthy work-life balance. Employees are incentivized to stay in the office as long as possible, doing more work for the same salary at a cost to their well-being. No amount of free meals or free dry cleaning is worth the emotional stress caused by the burnout this culture could possibly lead to.
Employers who engage in this type of behavior fail to consider that greed is not only bad for employees, but also for businesses. Employees who feel overworked and underpaid build animosity toward their employers over time. Employers will see an increase in employee turnover, which is already at a record high. If employees don't literally quit, many may partake in " quiet quitting," a viral trend encouraging employees to put in less effort at work to avoid burnout.
Instead of asking for more from our employees, we need to ask what they need more of from us — you may be surprised to hear they are not actually interested in a new treadmill or workplace happy hour. Gain employee loyalty and increase job engagement by prioritizing employee health and happiness, even (or especially) if that means they need to do "less.")
Is it greed when you deserve it?
If someone has shown their worth by adding value to the company, it is not greedy to ask for a raise. Rather, it is a fair share of what they helped generate. The value an employee adds to the company can and should be directly tied to their compensation.
When employees divorce compensation from value creation and instead focus on time ("I've worked here for six months") or comparison ("My friend at X company makes Y more money than me"), they can quickly become dissatisfied and cynical. As a leader, I have seen that the people who've grown the most in our company are those who focus on value contribution, which, in turn, leads to increased compensation. These employees don't even have to ask for a raise; leadership recognizes their contribution and the loss it would be if they left, so we offer a raise that reflects their value.
When employers and employees can come together to figure out the best compensation system that reflects the value creation by both parties, there's no longer a rivalry between shareholders and stakeholders. When everyone is compensated fairly for the value they create, they're motivated to drive more value, leading to more revenue and a virtuous cycle is created. When the scales are balanced, you will see results far beyond anything achieved through short-term self-interest. When you create an environment like this, it is much harder for greed to play a part.
Greed does not bring fulfillment
When it comes to greed, it is all too easy to point the finger at other people, but greed is all around us. Employees should feel cared for by their company, and they deserve fair compensation. In exchange, employers deserve employees who care for the health and growth of the business. Greed is a two-way street, and both employees and employers must be conscious of ways, big or small, in which they are perpetuating greed at work.
The most important reason to combat greed is perhaps the simplest: greed does not make us happy. Fulfillment comes when we create value and are passionate about our work. It comes when we care about the well-being of others and form genuine, mutual relationships with the people we work with every day. And it comes when we put aside comparison, let go of our ego and lead with generosity, faith and trust.
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