It’s my birthday this week. Nothing unusual about that. I tend to have one around this time every year.
Also celebrating a birthday this week was a Mr Yaya Toure of Manchester. In case you don’t know Mr Toure, he is a professional footballer of some repute and plays for a team just crowned champions of England. Mr Toure is apparently the highest paid footballer in England earning in excess of £220,000 a week plus bonuses based on success. He’ll be getting a big bonus this summer I fancy.
Now, let’s just let that hang there for a second.
Mr Toure has now decided he might like to leave his club because he feels unloved and disrespected by his employer. Why does he feel like this? Because no one from the club gave him a hug or a birthday cake on his birthday if his Twitter stream and agent are to be believed. At the time he was on a celebratory club trip to Abu Dhabi where he no doubt travelled first class and stayed in a luxury hotel.
This is the same disrespectful employer who gave him a new extended four year contract just 12 months ago.
Mr Toure and many of his ilk are the reason I no longer feel the same obsessive love and passion for football that I used to, and why the badge kissing antics of these appalling mercenaries leaves me cold. And why I can’t respect or admire these people despite their undoubted talent.
But isn’t this just an extreme example of what is now prevalent in our workplaces? Are we not making a rod for our own backs by providing more and more to employees in the way of benefits that never used to be provided?
Amidst all the fuss about Mr Toure and his cake, no one has mentioned that actually a man who earns 12 million quid a year should probably be shouting the whole club and all its employees to a piece of cake or even a party, or think it odd that he should react that way. Is it really an employer’s job to recognise the birthday of a very expensive hired gun?
Most companies in this country now provide free fruit for their staff, they might have monthly or weekly Friday drinks, they provide wellness programmes, they offer paid volunteer leave, perhaps an extra day of leave on your birthday, subsidised or reduced health insurance. Some provide many more and increasingly attractive benefits.
We’ve done it over the years to create a competitive edge, but the more employers give the more employees take and it becomes an expectation. So by doing all this have we just created a culture of entitlement? Are we getting a return on our investment? Staff are arguably less loyal than they’ve ever been.
I have worked in both the public and private sectors. I know what it is like to pay for my own work Christmas lunch, buy a ticket to the staff party, hand over any freebies given to me by a supplier because it is unethical to take them. I know what it’s like to bring my own tea and milk to work because my employer didn’t provide that. I also know what it’s like to have all that and more provided for me, including an on site barista.
The world of work is generally a much better place than 20 years ago, and I’m all for employers treating their staff in a more humane and respectful way. After all, we demand and expect a lot more of them these days than we did back then and we try to create more of an inclusive family culture in our workplaces.
But have we gone too far? Have we crossed the line between not giving enough and giving too much? Are the lines between work and home becoming too blurred, or are we simply doing what we have to do to attract an increasingly mobile workforce not retain them?
Most would argue that football has created an obscene culture in which this sort of behaviour is not considered unacceptable and where the best players often hold their clubs to ransom. Common sense, loyalty and ethics disappeared with terracing, rosettes and black football boots.
Are we now busy creating the same legacy for business? Will we look back in ten years time and wonder we why offered so much to those who come and go in the blink of an eye?
I would love to know what you think. Go on, it’s my birthday. Show some respect.