Discover more from Learning by Proxy with Vivek Srinivasan
Value and Values
If your work involves values be prepared to derive little to no value from it
An ’s’ separates the two but that one letter creates such a chasm. A chasm that money cannot fill. Or rather a chasm that robs one of money while putting it in the pockets of the other.
When we talk about the value of something, it is often something that can be measured. It can be priced.
Values are what a person adheres to. They cannot be bought or sold. They are inherent to an individual or an organisation or a society.
We live in a world where we give too much importance to value and very little to values even though we might like to print and brandish values all over our offices, how many really follow it? Literally, no organisation offers appraisals on adherence to values every one of them will measure the value generated for the company. No company will say - hey you adhered to the values let me pay you more.
The world we have created is one where if your work offers a possibility of adhering to values you are forbidden value and vice versa.
Nurses, garbage collectors, cleaners, factory workers, primary school teachers, childcare, etc provide great value to society; whose jobs are often steeped in ‘values’ such as hard work and very often caring; they do not get to take any value out of the job. These happen to be some of the worst-paid jobs on the planet.
Whereas those, whose jobs often possess little or no values, traders, finance professionals, managers, telemarketers and myriad other white-collar workers capture a lot of value because their jobs are not steeped in values.
The society we live in has an inverse relationship between the societal good a job does and the value that they get for the work they do.
Between 1966 and 1976 there was a series of banking strikes in Ireland. People just handed around cheques and did not cash them. The cheques got passed on from person to person and acted as money. Ireland did not see a decline in its economy. Nobody was clamouring to get the bankers back to work.
In New York, in 1968 the garbage collections went on strike. For what? $12 a week in pay raise. For the first couple of days, nothing happened. The media had a field day demonising the unions and calling them greedy. By the fourth day, garbage cans were overflowing in the city. It took only 9 days for the mayor of New York to accept defeat and accede to the demands.
The work that a garbage collector does is of greater value than that which a banker does. But what we pay them does not reflect this. It is as if we are angry that they are doing actual good, that their work has meaning and punishing them by paying them less. Whereas those who are engaged in soul-destroying work are paid more.
How do we justify to ourselves living in a society where people, who arguably do work that we cannot live without, are often paid the lowest wages while those whose disappearance, would make no difference - perhaps make life better even - are paid the most?