Pay Raise

By Louis R. Avallone

Superintendent Lamar Goree said this month that he’s been charged by the Caddo Parish School Board with looking at how to give “everyone a raise in our school system”. That’s after nearly 60 percent of Caddo Parish Schools’ were scored by the Louisiana Department of Education as ‘D’ and ‘F’.

Shreveport Mayor Tyler says that we need to give pay raises to city employees making $80,000 a year or less “to make sure that we’re being competitive with other governmental entities.” That’s after total (government) jobs at City Hall rose last year, while the population of Shreveport continued to decline and we ranked no. 4 in the country for job losses.

And in Washington, DC, even as he was leaving the White House, President Obama officially authorized a 2.1 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees in 2017, even though our national debt was (and is) nearly $20 trillion. Now, just this month, a House Democrat has introduced a new bill to give federal employees an across-the-board pay raise of 3.2 percent in 2018.

So from failing schools, to declining population growth, to rising debt – our government seem to be hell-bent on incentivizing poor results – and unfortunately, with devastating accuracy.

What’s missing in all of these calls for blanket pay raises across the country in government is not just the taxpayer money to do so, but the lack of any real progress – or interest – to develop an effective performance appraisal system of government employees that gives honest feedback, and provides meaningful differentiation between the high-achievers and those who work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit.

Why is it that some folks just don’t get it? Unless our government has an objective employee evaluation system, to get rid of low performers, and reward high achievers, we’re just rewarding mediocrity – plain and simple.

Yes, you can hire better people with pay raises, attract better job candidates, etc., but you have to still deal with those whom you already employ and simply are not doing the job that needs to be done.

You see, study after study shows that retention of an organization’s best and brightest decreases, in the long run, whenever blanket pay raises occur. This is because there’s a demoralizing effect on the high achievers in any organization because they feel their efforts to go above-and-beyond aren’t recognized when those who didn’t make the effort were rewarded, nevertheless.

And to add insult to injury, not only does your most loyal and best employees feel unappreciated, but a blanket pay raise makes it even more unlikely that these best and brightest will have any chance of receiving a pay raise themselves anytime soon, based on their own merit, because now there’s even less money available in the budget to do so, after the blanket pay raises to everyone else.

Maybe this is why President Trump has called for a federal hiring freeze, and an end to automatic raises, and to make it easier for our federal government to fire poor performers. As the White House press secretary explained, “Some people are working two, three jobs just to get by. To see money get wasted in Washington on a job that is duplicative is insulting to the hard work that they do to pay their taxes.”

And he’s right. If we are going to continue talking about blanket pay raises, shouldn’t we be talking about the effects of doing so, other than to one’s own bottom line? In the end, this is all about getting better, and grabbing life by the collar, gutting this out, growing ourselves, and turning our country around. Sure, the money is important, but the value of what you give is even greater, and rewarding mediocrity cost us all.

After all, as Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Related posts: