Don’t blame the workers

 I just got back from holidays and noticed a lot of comments on a letter from a “business owner”. I suspect that it was a letter that I received some time ago through the internet and signed “the boss” and which indicated the author’s disenchantment with some political regime that was mis-spending his or her tax dollars.  I was surprised to see that so many people enthused over the letter, which I personally found to be “sick”, and I feel it is important to tell you why.

While the letter has certain cosmetic attractions in that it hits emotions that are experienced by many people; when you analyse the letter it is complete and utter nonsense. Worse than that, it amazes me that someone who has so little concern for his or her fellow workers (“they turn up at nine but don’t really tune-in until midday and then go home at 5.00”) could conceivably be successful in business.

And don’t cry on my shoulder because the author has sacrificed so much (the inference being that the employees haven’t) and that life is unfair because he or she is the target of taxation, which is spent on worthless recipients such as a deserted mother of four children.

We all make choices in life. Mine, as was apparently the case with the disaffected author of this letter, was to pursue my own business, and I suspect that coming from an impoverished family of eight children it was a lot harder for me that our gallant author. When I finally got my own business I had some modest success and that was for one reason and one reason only; I had some wonderful people working for me and they never stinted themselves in trying to make the business a success.

I have long since left that business but still enjoy the friendship of many of those great “employees” who, incidentally, paid income tax; sales tax (in those days); local government and utility taxes, together with parking fees and fines, just like me.

These employees made their choice, and that was to share some of their precious moments on this planet with me, and each morning I would get up and remind myself how lucky I was that these people chose ME as the person with whom they wanted to share part of their life.

The democratic process continually brings about changes in public policy; some of them have our support and others don’t. When public policy takes a turn against our own political or social philosophy, we have the choice to accept it, make representations for change, or opt out. Those who opt out when they don’t like how democracy works might take a turn at living in an authoritarian regime, because that is the alternative.

In the meantime, it is worthwhile contemplating that in our society, growth is intimately involved with employment. For every person sacked, there is one less customer in the marketplace, and when people get sacked in droves, the economy takes a real hit. Once a person gets the sack, they go on unemployment benefits (as do business owners if their business goes belly up) and they become a burden on all taxpayers; those who are self employed and those who are lazy “employees”.

It might also be worthwhile for the disaffected author of this chip-on-the-shoulder letter of complaint to contemplate why the economy is in such a mess. A lot of people who did the hard yards to build their business came up with new ways of making money that had nothing to do with social utility, and ripped people off, right left and centre.

They also did something that many business owners did (and I am one of them); they took the opportunity to avail themselves of some generous taxation concessions that are available to people who own businesses as against those who are “employed” in them. When things turned nasty, a lot of these people walked away with considerable amounts of unearned income which their “employees” helped them to generate, and then left the ship for those employees to drown.

Employees did not create this terrible financial mess we are in, but many of them are now picking up the pieces and paying the price through the loss of their job while being totally innocent of any complicity in the tragedy.

People who have run their business well and benefited from the good times and took the trouble to bring on board great people, have the resources to ride out this current crisis and to face the future with confidence. However, those people who feel that they are not getting a good day’s work out of their “employees” and who feel that the Government is serving them a dirty trick and is singling them out as the ones to pay the price, will, in all likelihood, not make it through this financial fiasco.

I would like to finish with a story.

I was once called in to salvage a business that had been owned by Japanese investors, who had the capacity to borrow a great deal of money and then waste it. The call came for repayment; they didn’t have the money and so cleared off, leaving their “employees” unpaid.

I walked into this scene of disaffected employees who wanted to know when they were going to get paid. Despite the fact that I didn’t have the money to pay their arrears, I experienced one of those wonderful episodes where employees and management work together to turn the ship around.

These people gave up their weekends; they worked nights and they came up with some fantastic ideas of how to make the business successful. The business, which had never made a profit in 10 years, turned to profits within three months – because of the loyalty, dedication and devotion of these “employees”.


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