A CEO raised everyone's salary to $70,000/year. The backlash against him doesn't make sense.

Back in April, Dan Price, CEO of Gravity Payments, announced a plan to cut his own salary in order to raise minimum pay at the company to $70,000/year.

Photo by Jimmyjay525/Wikimedia Commons.


And there was much rejoicing. At last, a CEO gets it! Finally, someone at the top is putting their money where their mouth is and striking against inequality!

And the best part: Everyone wins and no one loses!

But apparently, Price's announcement actually made some people feel like they had lost...

...including two higher-ranking employees at Gravity Payments, who said the blanket raise minimized their contributions to the organization, according to a July 31, 2015, report in the New York Times.

"Two of Mr. Price's most valued employees quit, spurred in part by their view that it was unfair to double the pay of some new hires while the longest-serving staff members got small or no raises."

Predictably, the story of the employee backlash began trending on social media almost immediately...

...fueled largely by the gloating of America's uncles.

"I told you so. Economics. Natural selection. The Fountainhead." — Your uncle. Photo by Matthew G/Flickr.

"This is why you can't reward laziness," your uncle probably posted on Facebook. "It's bad for business, and it disrespects the hard work of hard-working people."

According to some economic theories, it's human nature to think like this.

Equity theory, which was developed by psychologist J. Stacy Adams in 1963, claims that if one group of people within an organization discover that a second group of people within the same organization are being compensated similarly for work they perceive to be less valuable, the first group of people get — to use a bit of social science terminology — "pretty pissed."

And look, if I were a disgruntled employee and a bunch of my colleagues who I didn't think deserved it got raises and I didn't, I might feel like quitting too.

But here's the thing: We're not economic theory. We are human beings. With free will! We don't have to act the way obscure social science texts predict we will.

In fact, in many cases, it actually makes more logical sense not to. Even though it feels unfair.

If you think about it that way, the backlash against Price really doesn't add up.

Let's break it down, point by point.

"It's unfair that people who aren't doing as hard of a job as me are getting a lot more money, and I'm not."

B-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-b-but. But. But ... ... But. ......... But. Image via Thinkstock.

You're a software engineer at a credit card processing company. You're making $150K/year. The guy in the boiler room makes $35K/year.

Then, boom. Your CEO makes a random announcement on a Monday morning, and suddenly the guy in the (figurative) boiler room is making $70K/year. And you're pissed! "What did he do to deserve that?" you wonder. "Why does he get so lucky and I don't?"

Here's the catch: Nothing bad has happened to you. You're still doing great! It's just ... some other people are making less-not-as-much-money-as-you than before.

Yeah, the other guy just ran into a boatload of cash, and that feels unfair. But the important thing to remember is that you are still making the same amount of money as before.

Is the guy in the boiler room only worth 20% what you're worth — or half as much? Not so long ago, the latter seemed fair. Now, no one blinks an eye when CEOs make 373 times more than the average U.S. worker. But when it comes down to it, it's ... kind of arbitrary.

Either way, economic theory states you're only mad because someone else is doing better than they were last week relative to you.

That seems a little ... I don't know. Just ... I don't know. Just think about it.

"But my salary isn't just how much I get paid. It's a measure of how important I am relative to other people."

I'll give you 50,000 reasons why I'm better than you! Image via Thinkstock.

Look, I totally get it. Many people, myself included, derive tons of satisfaction from earning a lot of money and knowing that other people don't earn as much. Not only does it feel completely amazing, it's only natural to tie the number on your paycheck to how valuable you are as a human being.

But what if ... I don't know — we didn't.

Like, what if we didn't measure our self-worth against how much money we made?

Just ... as something to try.

It's not that hard, actually! Here, for example, are some other ways you can measure your self-worth:

1. How good you are at basketball.

2. Whether you can build a boat.

3. Whether you're kind.

4. Whether you've eaten at all the restaurants featured on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives."

5. How many celebrities you know.

6. Whether you are a reliable, dependable friend, and/or you call your mother at least once a week.

These scales may not be as obvious. But they're really useful! Because there may come a time when you stop making a lot of money. For most people, it happens eventually.

And when that day comes, we'll be glad we had one of these bad boys in our back pocket. And that we called our mother all those times.

"But the work they do is not as hard as the work I do."

Not-hard work, apparently. Photo by Alfred T. Palmer/Library of Congress.

True, many of the people who received the largest raises at Gravity Payments fill traditionally "blue collar" roles in the company. People who, as one of the departing Gravity Payments employees artfully euphemism'd to the Times, clock in and clock out:

"The new pay scale also helped push Grant Moran, 29, Gravity's web developer, to leave. "I had a lot of mixed emotions," he said. His own salary was bumped up to $50,000 from $41,000 (the first stage of the raise), but the policy was nevertheless disconcerting. “Now the people who were just clocking in and out were making the same as me," he complained. “It shackles high performers to less motivated team members."

And, sure! For someone who spends their days doing the essential work of sitting in front of a computer screen debugging Java C++ or whatever, it must be really upsetting when your boss signals that your coworkers who spend their days lifting really heavy boxes are also important members of the team whose jobs contribute real value.

It must also be hard to see them get raises that make a real, material difference in their lives. Here's the Times, again (emphasis mine):

"Mr. Price has undoubtedly made an immediate difference in the lives of many of his employees. José Garcia, 30, who supervises an equipment team, was able to afford to move into the city and replace the worn tires on his car. Ms. Ortiz, who was briefly homeless as a child, can now visit her family in Burlington, Vt. Cody Boorman, 22, who handles operations out of his eastern Washington home, said he and his wife finally felt financially secure enough to start a family."

There are a few ways to react to this.

One way is to resent your coworkers and feel superior.

Another possible way is to be happy for them, instead of resenting them.

You could also try being more stoked that you are getting a raise than upset that someone else also is.

You could understand that, while your job is hard and one they probably wouldn't be able to do, their jobs are also hard, also important, and ones you probably wouldn't want, or even be able, to do.

You could consider that maybe the kind of work our society values and doesn't value is kind of arbitrary, and why shouldn't an equipment manager make the same salary as a web developer?

And you could realize that the financial security of your newly well-compensated colleagues will ultimately allow them to spend more of their brain space on improving the company and less on how they're going to feed their family night to night, thus benefitting the whole team.

It's asking a lot. But you could view it that way if you wanted to.

Here's the good news.

What, this isn't how you react to good news? Image via Thinkstock.

For all the commotion, all the articles, theories, and social media blowback, only two employees quit Gravity Payments as a result of the mass raise.

Two.

In a company of roughly 120.

That means 118 people stayed.

Gravity has its share of troubles. They're facing a major lawsuit (unrelated to the pay bump), which, combined with the pay increase, has created cash flow problems for the company.

Change is hard. And feelings can get complicated. It's human nature to compare yourself to others, and that gets even more fraught when money is involved. That seems to be what's playing out post-announcement. It doesn't mean anyone is a bad person — even the two people who quit.

But at the end of the day, 118 employees either benefited from the salary increase or felt that their own happiness wasn't dependent on the continuing relative misfortune of their coworkers.

It may not seem like much, but it's a decent start, at the very least.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!