Monday, March 06, 2006

Knowledge workers and executive compensation: a surprise ahead?

This was posted on Marginal Revolution: The best paragraph and a half I read yesterday. (some typos corrected and edits applied)
About that executive compensation you mentioned as an aside. I'm hoping you'll write about an aspect of this that I've not seen discussed.

Knowledge workers are usually said to be relatively unmotivated by money. So the creative types that power innovation are "willing serfs" -- happy to churn away given interesting problems, a decent wage, an occasional bit of praise and a good work environmnet.

I think there's truth to that belief, and probably even data. But what about the innate human response to unfairness? How will the knowledge worker react when they learn that their leaders, who they may or may not respect, are earning 20 times their salary? Will they continue to be happy as "willing serfs", or will our hard-wired response to unfairness kick in? Will they then be prone to sacrifice income or work perks to join a less unfair environment?

In the short term I agree that revealing executive compensation will increase that compensation, but I think the slightly longer term results are less predictable.

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