Microsoft's CEO, Satya Nadella got himself into a pickle yesterday. He was asked at a women's forum what women should do to get paid more. He replied "It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raises as you go along,” he said, adding that such patience was “good karma”.
In this politically correct world, he was, of course, asking for trouble. He has been pilloried and the only sensible PR thing to do is to grovel and apologise. Women are paid less than men, in some places (although I challenge anybody to prove this in the IT industry. I know this industry intimately. No sensible company pays women differently from men for the same job. There are less than 50% women in the IT industry, and a lot less in senior echelons, but that is due to a whole host of other reasons, not unequal pay).
I have no desire to incur the wrath of the politically correct. So I am not going to debate whether Nadella should grovel or not. Instead, if you eliminate the gender factor from the equation, I think he was making a fair point. In fact, I would go a step farther to say that in some instances, we should be asking for a pay drop; not a pay rise !
Labour , and skills, are a commodity, like any other. Price depends on demand and supply. Every commodity's prices go up and down (even gold). Except an individual's salary, which goes only up. Unfortunately , we have been conditioned to expect a salary hike every year and that the more it is the better. Actually, the worst thing that can happen to us is that we get a fat salary hike each year. For, if we keep increasing our "price", a time will soon come when we have become outpriced. At that point, we are sure to be sacked. If collectively everybody in our unit does this, the unit will be shut down and the jobs moved somewhere where the wages are lower (probably overseas). If one is an outlier, then you can be sure that the person would be fired under some pretext or the other and we will be replaced by somebody cheaper. This is the brutal fact of today's workplace.
The trick is therefore to price yourself, just a shade below market. That way, the company cannot afford to sack you. If that means taking a salary drop, then so be it. In fact, as you age beyond 45, I submit, you should be looking to a salary drop every year. There is a far greater age discrimination in the job market than gender discrimination (try getting a new job when you are 50). The only way you can continue to age and survive without being fired, is to keep your "price" competitive, allowing for the fact that there is a perceived efficiency bias in favour of the young. A small discount to the market is the right place to be in. Unless you are in France, or unless you are in a profession where you cannot be sacked (as one commenter to this blog is).
I know this is heresy and I am going to probably be pilloried. But I would rather hold a lower paying job than no job at all.
Thankfully, I am no Nadella. So I can afford to be politically incorrect !!