Profit Sharing with Peter’s Principle

Just like the curious moth, which ends up with toasted wings, many of the jobs began as one seemingly spectacular thing and morphed to another, sinister cauldron of morass. I love the smell, look and feel of a brand new job. Once I got over the trains (not all go straight through) and the elevators (not all go straight through), I ripped the shrink-wrap off the pack of 500 and felt the raised thermal printing of my brand new business cards.

My first salaried (read: work as many hours as you can!) position, while not my favorite, did have most of the enjoyable essentials I have come to seek over the years. I enjoyed my work space and the work on the phone. Essentially I was there to verify insurance coverage. It would have been handy if someone had said to me “You are here to verify insurance coverage.” It took quite some time before I before I realized that was all there was to it. The days went by fast and the people were friendly.

Sometimes a call would come from an emergency setting, a woman screaming in labor, (often in an identifiable language), to try to get her benefits verified by me.  More Often I would deal with the insurance companies, and I got to know some “regulars” so it was fun to talk to them when they called. I didn’t know it at the time, but after that, any job I ever wanted, the first question would be “You worked in NYC?”

One day came a life-altering invitation to lunch. A woman I barely knew would treat me at the cafeteria.  It all felt odd and suspicious, but hey, free lunch where some of the grown-ups ate. Completely innocent of this meal’s purpose, I put my tray on the rack and selected some watery-looking ziti and a salad. We found a table and made some small talk regarding the upcoming internal audit in profit-sharing.  I had no idea what we were actually talking about, so I chewed my rubbery lunch and listened intently.  About the time I realized this was no ordinary Italian dish, I realized this was no ordinary lunch. My inedible chewy calamari was helping me keep my mouth shut, likely the reason I aced the interview.

Instead of “Employee Benefits Administrator” my business card now said “Profit Sharing Coordinator.”   I moved out of a windowless three-person office to a spacious two-person room with a view of the city and a coworker who actually asked me if she could do all the photocopying.  Loyal readers will be asking “Wait. Wouldn’t there be math involved in that?”  Fortunately the computers did all the math, and I was on to my next life lesson.

Ethics 101

On Day One, learned that one of the rules went something like this: You can only take money from your profit-sharing account for 4 reasons, for example, to pay for college.’  I loved rules, they created structure and, like etiquette, helped people know how to behave.

I went from being on a three-person team administering benefits to 300,000 employees on the phone to a two-person team administering different benefits in-person for the top-earning 400 employees. These employees felt pretty damned special, but I just didn’t’ get this. They felt that if they needed to put an addition on their house, they could SAY they needed the loan out of their profit-sharing for college costs.  After all, it was really their money to begin with, wasn’t it? So part of the job was nursing the highly compensated through the loan process. I do not recall a single female in the highly compensated group ever borrowing from their plan. Perhaps they didn’t borrow from their plan, or perhaps there were no women in this group at all.

I worked about 8 months after the departmental switch. I was leaving before the children got up and returning just in time to kiss them goodnight. I was missing my husband. I did love this job; it just came at the wrong time.

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