“My company for the first year ever did not give out any raises this year. We did not lay anyone off but we did freeze salaries and reduced benefits” the assemblyman said. He continued “In state government we are trying to freeze salaries and give furloughs but that is really a small portion of the state budget. Most of the budget goes to school districts and municipalities and the teachers, police officers, and other employees are still getting their 4 percent to 5 percent increases plus great benefits. In this economic climate I don’t think that we are all sharing the burden equally!” This remark obviously was not made before the NJEA, but neither was it made before a group of school board members. It was made before a group of policy wonks (with the notable exception of one unwonk – me). Of those assembled, only one other person and I were in the education field. I will tell you, however, that all present nodded their heads in agreement. I will also tell you that this remark was not made by a conservative Republican but by a Democrat.
This reaction to teachers and other public employees getting raises during an economic downturn is understandable. It got me to thinking. I once had a boss who ran a retail store and always made a big deal out of his Employee of the Month Award, praising the employee almost to the point that it was embarrassing. I once asked why he did that and he said that the more he praised the one salesman, the more angry the other employees got. They would then try to out-sell the Employee of the Month out of spite. The owner wanted to fuel competition, and, it did do that. But what he couldn’t see what how the over-the-top treatment of the Employee of the Month also destroyed teamwork. The sales staff would not only not help each other, but they’d consciously undermine each other, particularly the top employee.
Jealousy is a universal emotion. (more…)