YouthZone: The pay cheque

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Director of Community Development and Citizens’ Engagement Division, Dale O'Brien
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“You get paid, so you should work!” How many times have we heard this statement or something similar? The 2021 Gallup’s ‘State of the Global Workplace’report indicated that only 20 percent of employees worldwide are engaged. Lazy, lackadaisical, and wicked are few adjectives that have been used to describe their antithesis. So, how does an employee move from being vigorously engaged to actively disengaged? Well, for many residents in Antigua and Barbuda, the paycheque is a major source of workers’ survival and deepening discontent.

National Youth Ambassador Reon King told YouthZone that a pay cheque can demotivate individuals “when there is unequal pay amongst people of the same rank, qualification and productivity.” It is important to note that work experience should influence the size of the paycheque. King believes that a pay cheque should empower youth and be a great incentive for them to “self-sustain, invest and provide.”

Underscoring the influential nature of the pay cheque, writer Frank Talarico Jr reminded us that the paycheque has the “power to lift and uplift”. He’s of the view that work not only drives our economy, but also our sense of self-worth and that “nothing feels quite as honest as being compensated for a job well done”.

Twenty-two-year-old King asserted that “in the pursuit of earning more and having a better socio-financial state, young people would be motivated to put in more work, or seek to pursue higher education.” However, he recommended that “modern day millennials should strive to have multiple sources of income…If you aren’t satisfied with your job, stick with it for now and simultaneously look into other avenues of employment. Don’t quit without a back-up plan or without having another opportunity lined up”.

Defenders of the pay cheque believe that it can suffice if moral empowerment is married with financial empowerment. “A youth who is empowered skilfully can squander the money he realizes because of the fact that his moral empowerment is poor,” noted Nigerian author Uzochukwu Mike. Although a skilful mechanic can generate a substantial amount of money, he may “spend the entire money” with ladies of the evening “for just one night,” said Mike. Hence the need for not merely skill acquisition and academic youth empowerment, but also for moral youth empowerment.

As financial mismanagement reigns, the hatred for the paycheque and job intensifies; sometimes it spirals out of control. Failure to take responsibility for Black Friday and Cyber Monday mania, as well as yuletide sprees, breed further discontent and covetousness, especially during the month of January when there is a clear distinction between the haves and have-nots.

“Financial management is essential to youth empowerment,” declared Director Dale O’Brien who spent three decades working closely with young people. The director of Community Development and Citizens’ Engagement Division encouraged parents and guardians to “involve children in the budgeting process so that it will become second nature to them. They can learn from an early age that money is valuable and should be spent prudently. For instance, youth must understand that putting food on the table should trump buying an iPhone in difficult times,” added O’Brien who underscored the need for modelling in the domestic sphere.

However, teaching financial management and empowerment skills should not be a task only for the family. Community builder Ernie Cortes once asked, “we know it takes a village to raise a child…but do we now know how to build a village?” Well, it requires embracing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 and 17—quality education and revitalising partnerships with the school, church and civil society organisations. “These institutions should play a pivotal role in reducing a culture of dependency and breaking the cycle of poverty,” emphasised O’Brien. “But it requires effective parenting, inclusion and a community effort to truly develop a positive financial mindset in our young people,” she insisted.

Recognising that some paycheques are indeed inadequate for services rendered, the director advised young people to “take one step at a time” and focus on skill acquisition and personal development. “At the same time,” she argued, “youth should not subject themselves to demeaning environments for the sake of a paycheque.” Hence, the significance of SDG 8 which promotes decent work for all and ties it to economic growth.

Young people settle too many times. We settle in meaningless relationships and abusive jobs because we believe that it’s better than nothing. As the European Commission highlighted, “The view that any job is better than unemployment has shifted the focus away from quality jobs, a dangerous approach that is leading to a race to the bottom, when it comes to labour rights and standards.”

Leadership expert Seri Staak maintained that “WOW leaders understand that employees need more than money for motivation and reward—the mind needs to be rewarded and appreciated as well as the wallet.” The psychological pay cheque, according to Staak, is “a quantitative measure of how you feel valued as a staff member that goes beyond the amount you’re paid in true financial wages…In many ways, the psychological paycheck is even much more significant than your actual wage, because it demonstrates your employer’s faith in your capabilities.”

Staak believes that leaders can utilise their employees’ emotional paycheque by listening actively, showing empathy, being honest, praising publicly, as well as providing positive feedback, reinforcement, and opportunities for self-development.

In his article “Does Money Really Affect Motivation?” Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic noted, “that even if we let people decide how much they should earn, they would probably not enjoy their job more. In fact, the biggest organizational cause of disengagement is incompetent leadership.” But at what point do employees take responsibility for their actions? Is it when they are no longer employed? And the prevailing question, can all employees be engaged?

Retired senior citizen Ulgar Benjamin said, “yes, it is possible. The leader’s personality and behaviour can motivate or demotivate, but at the end of the day, it is up to the employees to be productive. The size of the paycheque is a big factor,” she claimed, “but we all know of instances where the paycheque is big but the employee is still a disengaged clock-watcher.”

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