In last week’s post, “Stealing… It’s Such a Strong Word”, I talked about my family’s inclination toward petty pilfering: Just your average, run of the mill pocketing-Sweet-‘N’-Lows-at-the-neighborhood-diner type of thing. (I was once in a supermarket with my father when he saw boxes of them on the shelf and said: “People actually buy these?”)
At a job it’s different. I feel no guilt or remorse for anything I’ve done. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Still, I won’t give too many specifics, because, well, you know… statute of limitations and all that.
Naturally, everyone likes a job with good benefits. I mean health and dental coverage are fine. So are 401Ks. But for me, at a job, just like in life: It’s the little things that matter. For me, the best work place perks that a company can provide are the unintentional ones: The benefits they have no idea they’re providing.
All the “up & up” benefits are published. They’re right there for everyone to see. They’re in the employee handbook. They’re in the handouts at the orientation. They’re on your bi-weekly pay stubs. But if you go into the main employee restroom, hold your pay stub up to a mirror, turn it upside down 3 times and take as many steps backwards as you can without falling into an open stall, you’ll clearly see your “other” benefits revealed.
It’s called the law of inverse reciprocity. (Don’t look it up. You’ll be sorely disappointed.) This means that the stingier the company, the more “other” benefits you’re entitled to.
For instance, if I get a job and I think I should be paid $50,000 a year for doing what they’re asking of me, and they only offer me $35,000 a year, then it stands to reason, I’m in a $15,000 deficit. So while I appear to be working diligently for them all year, I’m also working for myself figuring out creative ways for them to make up that 15 grand they owe me.
And it doesn’t matter where you work. The law of inverse reciprocity still applies. When I worked in a fast food place, according to them, I received minimum wage. According to me, I also won a raffle for a lifetime supply of plasticware- Not to mention salt, pepper, and ketchup packets. Granted, I never put salt or pepper on anything, and it would take 40 of those ketchup packets to fill a tablespoon… It’s the principle of the thing. And I’m nothing if not principled.
I’ve worked for some pretty generous places that gave holiday bonuses, incentives, Thanksgiving turkeys, umbrellas… something. Coincidentally, they were never missing office supplies. But the only thing worse than a company that offers you nothing is a company that offers you nothing and thinks they’re doing you a favor. If you think you’re going to cater a smorgasbord for a meeting with the big-wig, hoidy-toidy, grand puba, company honchos and then, when they’re done mauling at it, you’ll toss the plate like a Frisbee onto the break-room table for us commoners to fight over… Watch your back… and anything else not nailed down.
Most jobs are the same to me. They’re really just glorified office supply stores. I’m a writer. Writers need lots of paper… and copies. We need to print things: Double-sided things… in color… and collated. We need those giant staplers, paper cutters, markers, envelopes in all shapes and sizes. (You can keep those ones with the windows. We have no use for those.)
To these companies I ask you: “How else could I possibly afford those things? You know better than anyone how much I earn. You don’t want to stand in the way of my dream. Do you? Don’t look at it like I’m stealing from you. That just spreads negative energy. Instead, consider yourself an investor in the career of a budding “young” author. Doesn’t that feel better?”
Surely you’ve heard of silent investors. Mine are not only silent, they’re totally oblivious.
So if you ever work for a job where they give you a polygraph before you’re even hired, and they have cameras every three feet of the building, keep the copy paper, ink cartridges, and paper clips in a locked cabinet that you need a combination to open, and have all the pens and staplers chained to the desks… I am so sorry… I take full responsibility. I probably used to work there.