I wrote weekly editorials for a boutique industry newsletter for several years, anxious for both audience and income. I learned a lot about coming up with ideas for the weekly grind, trying to be simultaneously opinionated and entertaining in a few hundred words, and not sleeping much because I was working all the time. They’re fun to read as a look back at what was important then (and often still important now).
I wrote this piece in April 2007.
Perk-less IT Peons: It’s Good to Be King (Or At Least Prince)
By Mr. HIStalk
If you’re a non-management hospital IT employee, I’ll let you in on a little secret: your bosses are benefiting greatly from your labors.
I’m qualified to say that because I’ve been on both sides of the fence: management and peon. I’m happiest not being in management, but there’s no question that it comes with secretive perks that mere software analysts, network engineers, and help desk analysts will never see.
Here are some management-only benefits I’ve seen nonprofit hospitals offer:
- Higher salaries. Duh, right? But you have to love that 50% or 100% premium for sitting in meetings instead of doing real work. IT employees are usually self directed, so remembering their names and smiling benevolently when you pass them in the hall is most of what’s expected.
- Bonuses. I’ve seen a roomful of people go deathly silent in a department meeting as my clueless boss went off-script in a moment of exuberant IT camaraderie and let fly with a chuckling, "We’ll do it because my bonus depends on it." Uh, boss, keep in mind that these folks get a magnanimous $200 or so of gain-sharing in those rare years where we make budget and move our ED satisfaction scores from "awful" to just "bad," so we don’t talk about management bonuses (the funny thing is that I’ve seen this happen at least five times, all with different people at the podium who should have known better.) Ordering employees to work harder so managers can pocket a $15,000 windfall isn’t much of a motivator.
- Reserved parking. I always said I’d never work someplace where bigwigs are too good to find a parking place like everyone else. Unfortunately, that eliminates about 80% of potential employers. Hospitals whose lack of money, brains, or real estate forces caregivers to schlep in on an offsite parking bus still manage to find reserved, close-in spots for the suits.
- On-call. Only employees whose roles are vital take it. Unless a Code Yellow signals an immediate need for a performance appraisal or offsite planning session, managers get a pass.
- Offices. Managers get private offices because they’re supposedly constantly supporting and coaching their valued team members, all of whom sit in ugly, Soviet-looking windowless cubicles and gripe about cube mates listening to voice mail on speakerphone. Managers can shut the door and check their stocks, make personal calls, or run an eBay business, especially since no one really knows what they’re supposed to be doing in the first place.
- Vendor goodies. Executives need never pay for their own lunches, fall short on sports tickets, or wonder if their Christmas stocking will be empty. Sure, it’s the position, not the person, that triggers the fawning and phony friendship, but it’s still fun.
There are many more: special retirement plans, memberships, unlimited travel and education budgets, sweetened medical insurance, car allowances, and many more. All pretty generous for an allegedly cash-strapped, nonprofit hospital that begrudgingly gives $10 an hour employees a 20% discount on bad, 40% overpriced cafeteria food.
The only thing I disliked about our benefits package is that it was a secret. Employees weren’t supposed to know (although the analysts running the payroll system certainly did.) Apparently our managerial excellence was so subtle that worker bees couldn’t be trusted to discern it. In other words, the people being managed would probably think their managers weren’t worth it.
Off the record, while sprawling back in my private office and musing about my peers and bosses, I’d usually agree.