I read Lee Kuan Yew’s response to the topic of pay for ministers and he really inspires me. He inspired me to write this little story. I truly believe that you should be paid your worth, but some where along the line there should be moderation and not excess.The recent debates about pay is something that can be related to organizations as well. Organizations and corporations all want to attract the best talents, but is pay really the best way to attract them? In what ways would can this affect the quality of talents attracted?
There was once a village on a little island in the pacific. This village had a small population and the people lived on a diet of fish, coconuts and tapioca. The ocean around the village provided the people with much variety of fish. Every morning, a fisherman would head out to sea in his little row boat and fishing line. He was a happy fisherman who simply loved to feed his people. His fishes were sold at affordable prices, just enough for him to eat comfortably, buy his supplies and fix his row boat when a leak sprouts.
Over time, the population of the village grew, and so the fisherman needed to change his fishing line to a net. It didn’t bother him, he loved to feed his people. Every morning, he would bring his row boat out and cast his net. Eventually, he changed his boat to a fishing boat. He then had to increase the price of his fish slightly. The villagers understood and were all very happy to pay him, for they know that he was doing it all for them.
As time passed, the fisherman got older and older. He needed help. He got his son to help him and a group of friends to help him too. With much more hands on deck, he could catch even more fish. He figured that a well fed villager would be a happy villager and he wanted his villagers to be happy. From just one push cart of fish, he was now providing five push carts of fish a day. The villagers rejoiced for they could now buy more fish. Seeing that his villagers became happier with more fish, he decided to bring more people on board to help him fish.
All kinds of people came on board, some of them loved to fish, some of them just wanted the adventure on the high seas and some of them turned out to just want a job and not do much for it. The fisherman liked some of them but not all of them. He wanted people who were dedicated to their job. So he fired those that were not too serious about it. The people who were dedicated to fish worked really well for him and he was happy with what he had. The villagers were happy too because they had so much fish now and the fish weren’t that costly.
One day, the old fisherman decided that he has had enough of bad fishermen on his boats, so he decided to attract only the best of the fishermen from the village. He increased the pay that he was offering to attract the best from the village. True enough, the people that came for the job were of a higher caliber, smarter and better. With all these new people who cost more, the price of fish naturally rose higher as well. The people started to feel uneasy.
Over time, the price of the fish continued to rise because the old fisherman continued to raise the pay of the new fishermen who were of good caliber. In his crew of fisherman, the best of every craft from the village was present. There was the best blacksmith, the best kite maker, the best potter and even the best artist. They were all fast with their hands and quick on their feet and would make good fishermen, thought the old fisherman.
Yet unknown to the old fisherman, as time went by, some of these new fishermen realized that they didn’t really like what they were doing. They preferred their trade very much yet they could not leave this job because doing so would mean adjusting their lifestyles to the more common pay that their other trade would give them. So they continued to work for the old fisherman, not for love for the job or dedication, but for the pay that they relied on. They could never let the old fisherman know that they had lost heart.
Unknown to the old fisherman as well were some people who were the best in other trades, the best burglars, conmen and robbers. They came under the guise of able workers and qualifications because they simply wanted that fat paycheck. Nobody knew of their intentions and only time could really tell. All we know is that there is talk in town that some of the fishermen there are just for the money.
The worse of the lot were friends of the older group of fishermen who came in with a little help. They were not the best in what they did yet somehow they managed to squeeze their way in. From the way they behaved and fished, one would question straightaway how did they got there. These were the ones that the people were the most uncomfortable with. They didn’t want to pay for that quality of work.
The old fisherman’s idea did indeed work and he got the best fishermen to work for him. Unfortunately his idea was a double edged sword. Besides the fact that some of his hired hands were not dedicated to the job and some of them were there simply for the money, the people that was most affected by his idea were the people. For with the raise of their paychecks, the price of fish was raised drastically and the people were not happy. Not only could they not buy as much, they became poorer too.
So was the old fisherman’s idea of bringing in the best fishermen using money a really great idea? When all along, there were dedicated workers who didn’t mind the pay and only wanted to fish for their love of the people. It is true that these people are hard to find and hard to attract. He did indeed have good intentions but the people stopped appreciating them. Some where along the way, every one agreed that he did the right thing by bringing more people to help him, yet there was a point when his idea became excessive. Where was the balancing point for his idea to work and yet keep the prices of fish affordable? Or was the idea even worth working on to begin with if there were already dedicated fishermen?
In our own organizations, the decision of pay is often faced by the higher echelon. It takes good foresight, strong moral principles and a good sense of the ground to find the balance point for the organization to perform effectively and for the people they feed to be happy as well.