When You’re the Boss, but Your Employees Make More Money | Kanebridge News
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When You’re the Boss, but Your Employees Make More Money

Power dynamics get complicated when managers earn less than their employees

Sun, Aug 13, 2023 7:30amGrey Clock 4 min

When NFL quarterback Justin Herbert and NBA star Jaylen Brown signed contracts this summer worth $262.5 million and $304 million, respectively, they struck the richest deals in their leagues’ histories. They’re also out earning their bosses by millions a year.

Professional athletes often command higher salaries than their coaches, since it’s harder to find people to execute plays than diagram them. And individual contributors can earn more than managers in a lot of fields, from finance and tech to sales and media.

The sticking point is how bosses and their charges deal with those imbalances.

There are two keys to a functional working relationship when a subordinate makes more money than their manager, people in both camps tell me: The boss must possess the humility to accept the situation and the confidence to project authority. And the highly paid employee can’t be a diva.

Richard Reice, a labor attorney and chief people officer of a restaurant group, says fat paychecks can lead to entitlement and make a highly paid employee practically unmanageable.

“Some refuse to do basic things, like attend meetings, just because they think they’re silly,” he says.

When leadership doesn’t pay

It’s hard to quantify how frequently rank-and-file workers make more than their bosses, but Reice says he has observed a shift from his dual perches in employment law and human resources. Many companies are scrapping the old notion that bigger titles should automatically mean bigger bucks. Instead of promoting star employees into management, where administrative duties can siphon time from their true talents, more businesses are keeping top performers in individual-contributor roles—and paying them like bosses.

Leadership, in these situations, is considered like any other skill, and not necessarily one that is worth more money.

We’re more likely to notice now when someone out earns the boss. The pandemic-era rise of distributed teams was accompanied by cost-of-living adjustments, which meant a manager based in an inexpensive town might earn less than direct reports living in pricier cities.

Pay-transparency laws have given some bosses the jarring experience of seeing less-senior positions at their companies posted on job boards with advertised salaries that exceed their own. Market demand can explain some discrepancies; in other cases, racial, age or gender biases could be to blame.

Keep your ego in check

Nikki Barua, who runs the women’s leadership program Beyond Barriers, says her clients in managerial positions sometimes feel underpaid relative to subordinates and are unsure whether discrimination is a factor. Bosses need to recognise there are often valid reasons behind pay, she says, and advises managers to pay more attention to what their fellow bosses make.

“The star performer is not the right comparison,” she says.

Barua says that in previous roles at technology and consulting firms, her knack for bringing in business sometimes led to incentives that pushed her pay over her managers’. She kept her ego in check by viewing her skill as a blessing, remembering that others might be equally good at different jobs that the labor market rewards less generously.

Now, as an entrepreneur trying to conserve cash, she’s sometimes paid herself less than her employees. She admits that, at times, it was hard not to resent people making more than she did, feeling that she’d be able to draw a salary if only they’d work harder or do better.

Founders often draw modest salaries, or none at all, in companies’ early days, says Jeff Bussgang, general partner in the Boston office of startup investor Flybridge Capital Partners.

“Naturally, if they own a big chunk of equity, it makes it all more palatable,” he says.

Plus, owners’ status is seldom in doubt, regardless of pay. Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, who acquired a controlling stake in the company in 1965, has for several decades taken an annual salary of $100,000. His total compensation last year was $401,589, while two vice chairmen earned more than $19 million apiece. Buffett, the world’s sixth-richest person with a net worth of $122 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, derives most of his income from investments.

Bosses who earn less

Ellen Taaffe, who sits on the compensation committees of several companies, including AARP Services, says corporate boards often set pay by studying the going rates for similar roles in other organisations. Boards can ease potential tension by giving junior executives lower base salaries and enabling them to surpass more senior leaders only through bonuses for exceeding expectations. Usually the people with the loftiest titles make the most money, but not always, notes Taaffe, who teaches at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

For instance, the chief scientific officer of a biotech company—whose research might be the crux of the business’s success or failure—could be paid more than the CEO. George Yancopoulos, the chief scientific officer of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, has received almost $435 million in total compensation since 2012, according to securities filings, making him the company’s highest-paid employee over that span. (Regeneron may be best known for its monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid.)

At some universities, the highest-paid employee isn’t the president; it’s the football coach or the person who manages the endowment. The $2.2 million pay package awarded to Yale University President Peter Salovey last fiscal year was one-third of what the chief investment officer earned, according to tax filings.

Leaders who successfully handle higher-paid employees find satisfaction in helping others shine, Taaffe says.

Warren Cereghino, a retired TV news director in California, says he kept pride at bay by reminding himself that viewers tuned in to watch his station’s anchors, who earned more than he did as their boss. He says the on-air talent didn’t abuse their sway.

Still, being privy to their contracts, he knew that some had negotiated a measure of editorial control in addition to large salaries. If there was a disagreement, he wouldn’t necessarily win.

“Even though my name was on the door of the news director’s office, there was a limit to my power,” he says.

—Theo Francis contributed to this article.


Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

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AACCI’s Strategic Vision for Enhancing Australia-Arab Trade Relations

The Australian Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) is fostering robust trade relations between Australia and Arab countries.

Mon, May 20, 2024 5 min

In an era where global trade and international relationships are more crucial than ever, the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) serves as a bridge, for cooperation and growth between Australia and the Arab nations. Led by its Chairman, Mr. Mohamed Hage, the AACCI has taken on projects aimed at strengthening relationships and fostering development across borders.

This exclusive interview explores the initiatives implemented by the AACCI to expand its presence and influence in the region including the significant establishment of a new operational hub in Dubai. We also delve into how the Chamber embraces education through training and research, its participation in major international exhibitions, and its active support for both large corporations and small businesses.

Looking towards tomorrow, Mr. Mohamed shares his vision for broadening AACCI’s reach emphasizing the importance of the on-ground operations and cultural understanding in building business connections.

-Could you elaborate on the Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry, including its objectives and main areas of focus?

The Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI) plays a fundamental role, in promoting business partnerships and trade between Australia and the 22 Arab countries. As a member of the Union of Arab Chambers affiliated with the Arab League, AACCI focuses on strengthening trade and investment ties, across these countries.

To nurture these connections effectively AACCI has outlined four objectives: facilitating trade and investment activities, certifying documents, educating stakeholders, and offering marketing assistance.

Our initiatives are designed not only to empower trade and investment endeavors but to also ensure engagement with specific sectors that drive these activities. With an understanding of the characteristics, strengths and preferences of each country, AACCI prides itself on its specialized knowledge customized to suit the distinct business environments of these nations.

– As the AACCI approaches its 50th anniversary, what have been some of the key milestones and achievements?

I believe one of AACCI’s accomplishments is the opportunities it has opened up for numerous Australian companies to access markets, in the region. Moreover, the strong bilateral trade relationship that has developed between Australia and the 22 Arab nations over the five decades has led to trade transactions amounting to billions of dollars.

This extensive trade covers industries such as food and beverages, luxury hotels and many more services. Each successive generation, within AACCI has built upon the foundation laid by its predecessors enriching their knowledge base and expanding their range of services.

– How does the AACCI leverage its diverse leadership team to enhance trade and investment opportunities between Australia and the Arab region?

Since taking on the role of chairman, my main focus has been on expanding our presence in the region. This led to the idea of opening an office in Dubai, which symbolizes our dedication to deepening our engagement in that area. We have successfully secured the license to open our first office in Dubai after 50 years, which will serve as a gateway to the GCC and North Africa.

I strongly believe that building two-way trade and investment ties requires more than a degree of business connectivity; it demands having local representatives present in each region. With trends emphasizing strategies the value of face-to-face engagements cannot be overstated.

Setting up offices in the region is essential for the Chamber to truly serve as a link and support system for business activities. Ultimately this expansion will bring benefits to our members and partners by providing them with access, to dynamic markets and diverse prospects.

– Can you discuss the significance of AACCI’s role in cultural and business exchanges between the two regions?

The importance of understanding cultures in our operations cannot be overstated. To address this, we have included a training platform within the Chamber to strengthen our cultural awareness initiatives. This new program offers our members access to modules on our website focusing on global business practices.

Furthermore, we have set up a Center of Excellence specifically dedicated to researching areas like food security and cultural awareness. These research endeavors are essential for promoting knowledge between the two regions.

By combining the resources of the Center of Excellence, our training resources, and the forthcoming local office in Dubai, we’re providing cultural awareness not only in the region but also in Australia. This approach ensures that our members are well equipped and knowledgeable boosting their effectiveness and involvement, in markets.

– What is the objective of your on-ground presence at conferences and events?

Participating in conferences and on ground events is very important for increasing awareness in industries like construction where knowledge of opportunities in the Arab world may not be widespread. When we see projects such as NEOM or notice the construction boom happening in the region it becomes important for organizations like the Chamber of Commerce to highlight these prospects. By taking part in large scale expos such as the Sydney Build Expo we position ourselves at the forefront of these advancements.

Our presence at these events enables interaction giving entrepreneurs a chance to visit our booth engage in discussions and learn more about the region in an approachable and personalized manner. This plays a role in simplifying the process and making opportunities concrete.

– With such a diverse membership base, how does AACCI tailor its services to meet the needs of both large corporations and small startups?

When it comes to discussing business it’s important to grasp how influence and vision come into play. Businesses looking to expand are often motivated by a desire to achieve something whether they are big companies or small enterprises. Small businesses typically aim to raise their brands profile while larger corporations seek recognition and market dominance.

Standing out in this area can be tough mainly because the key driving force is the passion to showcase the brand and products on a platform. This determination serves as a motivator for entrepreneurs.

At the Chamber we make a point of recognizing the needs of both big and small players by understanding each members individual situation. We ensure that every member is well informed about the opportunities and risks that come with expanding. For small businesses, this means being aware of the financial demands, while large businesses are advised on the necessity of both financial and emotional resilience.

– How does AACCI plan to expand or evolve its services in the coming years to further support its members?

The importance of having resources on the ground cannot be emphasized enough. Having local staff is key to establishing connections with the communities we serve. Without a presence in the area staying updated on events and activities becomes quite challenging.

This is why, as I’ve mentioned before, we have established an office in Dubai, staffed with personnel dedicated to supporting our members. This local office will help us effectively bridge the gap between Australia and the Arab world. And our members will benefit from insights and assistance from someone who truly knows the landscape.

In Australia we have equipped offices throughout the country staffed by individuals who play a significant role in our operations. This strong domestic network complements our efforts ensuring that we provide support to our members both locally and globally. This strategic approach is crucial, for nurturing business relationships and fostering continental understanding.



Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’

Americans now think they need at least $1.25 million for retirement, a 20% increase from a year ago, according to a survey by Northwestern Mutual

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