Most times, we tackle private business owners as if they deliberately wished to use their employees without paying them well for their services. I know that many employers are ruthless. Some of them have a way of owing their workers until those workers resign and they bring in new ones, who will not know the organisation’s “no-steady-salary” culture. We also have those that look for every little opportunity to slash employees’ salaries so that they can reserve some of their money. I know all these, but they are not my focus in this article.
I met the son of a former neighbour, who did his house job in a federal medical centre, somewhere in the eastern part of the country, and is now working in a private hospital. When I asked him how he is enjoying his new job, he hissed and said what everybody that works in the private sector says, “They are stressing me yet they won’t pay me well.”
Well, that private sector stresses employees is a cliché; even private business owners are stressed out too. So being an employee of a business owner that wants to make his profit is naturally stressful in itself. What we need to address here is the “not paying me well” ideology.
When my neighbour’s son was done with complaining of how “low” he earns compared to his expectations or allowances during the house job, I asked him one question that threw him into a reflection. I will still mention the question I asked him later, but first let’s look at this scenario.
A private school just opened and it has to employ qualified teachers even before it enrolled its first student. It is almost impossible for a school to open today and be filled with students tomorrow (unless in rare cases where there are no schools in the town). People will give the school a chance to balance first. Within that period, its standard will be scrutinised and when it is found satisfactory, parents will start bringing in their children to the school, gradually. So, it is possible that this school owner will have to run the school from her pocket until it stabilises and starts making profits. Believe me, this can last for years.
Now, for this school to be considered of good standard, it has to employ qualified teachers. But because it is yet to make profits, it will pay them lowly and also overwork them. If the owner decides to start off with unqualified teachers, its standard will be considered low, hence the reputation of the school will be dragged on the mud.
Why am I saying all these? Teachers in this school will complain that their proprietor is “wicked”. People that know how much these employees are paid will say their employer is using them for cheap labour. Those of us out here will say that private business owners do not pay their workers what they deserve. What most people do not sit back to ask themselves is how much the employer is generating from the business.
Another thing you would have noticed from the case given above is that the employer went for qualified staff. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are graduates. But let’s say they are graduates, is it wrong for this employer to go for the best even when he or she knows that the business cannot afford it? Let’s rephrase it, if you were the employer, will you go for the best even if they come cheap? Your answer is a reflection, which will explain the nucleus of this essay.
The truth of the matter is this, a lot of businesses do not make as much profit as we assumed. Business owners need to pay their employees from the profits they generated and the only way for these employees to make profit is by putting in their best. So when someone says his boss isn’t paying him the salary of a PhD holder, remind him that he has to make profit for his boss like a PhD holder so that his salary can come out.
Finally, the question I asked my neighbour’s son was, “When you open your own clinic, will you pay your workers more than your boss pays you?” I believe we should also ask ourselves this question when next we make comments about “stingy” and “wicked” employers.