Why your boss probably wants you to resign

8garth“You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”

So goes the line from Tyler Durden, the alter ego of the unnamed narrator of the cult movie Fight Club, which of course is based on the book of the same name by American author Chuck Palahniuk.

Now the vast majority of people don’t like to think of themselves as “unspecial”. It flies in the face of everything their mothers, school teachers and university professors have told them throughout their lives. But what if I told you that this is almost exactly what your boss – or at the very least their boss – thinks of you? To them you’re just another run-of-the-mill worker drone absorbing a chunk of the annual wage bill and whose productivity they probably feel doesn’t justify the expense.

Over the past nine years or so that I have worked as a financial journalist – during which I spent a lot of time believing that I too was a very beautiful and unique snowflake – I have often been struck by the number of times company CEOs have told me (off the record of course) that they wished they had more staff turnover.

I remember the first time I heard this sentiment. I was just finishing up a tour of a company’s premises with the CEO of a listed company when I casually asked what kept him up at night. Hoping to catch him off guard and get him to reveal some unknown risk facing the company, I was instead poleaxed when he calmly told me that he wished some of his long-serving staff would resign.

“Why on earth would you want that?” I asked incredulously, still clutching on to my treasured belief that hardworking employees such as myself were not only revered but treasured by our grateful employers.

“So that I can introduce some fresh blood,” he said, before adding with a conspiratorial smile: “And preferably cheaper fresh blood.”

Over the years I have heard other CEOs express very similar sentiments and I can confidently say that it no longer disturbs me. In fact, it actually makes perfect sense. You see, while most of us tend to look at the workplace almost exclusively in terms of our own performance, the CEO is regarding the company from the proverbial bird’s eye view. If your company can replace you with someone who will inject fresh energy for R500 less per month, the company will save at least R6 000 a year on their wage bill (even before taking into account pension contributions or productivity gains). If the company can replicate that saving with say 100 workers, the annual saving increases to R600 000. If your boss is the sole shareholder of the company that pretty little sum could wipe out a big chunk of the mortgage on his seaside holiday home. It’s when you factor in these cold hard facts that it becomes a little clearer why your boss might not think of you as being all that special. While company bosses like to state publically that their greatest assets are their people, the part they leave out is that they like their people hardworking but cheap.

Now I know that some people reading this will already be sharpening their knives, or readying their poison pens, for the evil capitalists who control their workplace destinies. But before you protest, take a moment and put yourself in their shoes. Or even better, put yourself in your own shoes and consider how you run your own mini-empire – your home.

If you’re a member of South Africa’s steadily growing middle class, there’s a better than even chance that you employ domestic help at least once or twice a week. Now imagine your domestic worker has been loyal to you for many years. She is hardworking, honest and you trust her enough to give her unrestricted access to your home on a weekly basis. Let’s assume you pay her at least R150 a day (incidentally more than twice the minimum wage) and even throw in lunch because you’re such a wonderful person. Now despite this benign treatment, let’s assume that your domestic worker asks for a pay rise to R200 per day. Assuming she works twice a week that will take your monthly domestic wage bill to R1 600 from R1 200 previously. Over the course of a year your wonderfully unique, honest and trusting domestic snowflake will now cost you R19 200 instead of the original R14 400. What’s more, that’s before you factor in the annual Christmas bonus and those free lunches you throw in out of the goodness of your heart.

Faced with these stark figures, I’d be prepared to venture that your first thought will be to find someone else who’s willing to work for a bit less. After all, what’s so special about a domestic worker anyway?


  1. In fact when someone doesn’t understand afterward its up to other users that they will help, so here it takes place.

  2. Charlie says:

    Garth, I think you’re kinda missing Darky’s point. . . Do you have a helper? Would you write/talk about her like this with that sarcastic tone? And giving the person who cleans your home “free” lunch “out of the goodness of your heart” when you pay her only R150 a day does make you sound as if you have no sense of the black reality in this country.

    I get that you were trying to make a point about home empires and whatnot but, ya know, have a little sensitivity and try to put yourself in the shoes of black South Africans who read this who have mothers and grandmothers cleaning the homes of people who think they should consider themselves lucky and be grateful to work for R150 a day and get a free lunch thrown in.

    • Garth Theunissen says:

      I think you and him are missing my point..i.e. most middle class wage slaves think that because they work hard that a company will automatically value their service and reward them accordingly. When the company doesn’t show its appreciation they are dumbfounded. Yet the same people act in precisely the same way towards the people they employ (i.e. their domestic workers). The sarcastic tone where I mentioned providing lunch out of the goodness of ones heart was directed not at the domestic workers, but at their employers. I think both of you need to brush up on your comprehension skills.

      • “I think you both need to brush up on your comprehension skills”. Seriously? Try to be a bit more mature when people are talking to you, Garth. Because last time I checked insulting your readers is not a way to get them to read your work.

  3. memento says:

    You are so right about the domestic worker cus so ppl take them to be cheap and useless but one thing we should know is we all help each other and this country has a long way to go about all the wages and salaries

  4. Bad example of the domestic worker. I have voluntarily increased my workers’ (house and garden) wages to what I feel comfortable paying them – way beyond minimum. To me, they are “unique snowflakes”…I have to trust them with my home (no, no babysitting involved) and I won’t compromise on that. Is that how employers are seeing their people? No, I agree with you, they don’t. So, they musn’t whine if their employees aren’t either loyal. And if you are treating your domestic staff that way and you aren’t getting the loyalty you think you deserve, well, tough.

    • Lynne, it was a hypothetical example used to illustrate a point i.e. that a lot of people moan about how they are treated by their employers yet never consider how they behave towards their own employees.

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