Proxy wisdom

Proxy wisdom

At the end of every scout meeting is a “scoutmaster’s minute” wherein the designated adult leader is responsible for closing out the gathering with a dollop of wisdom. I’ve struggled over this past year between not having much firsthand life advice to dispense and also wishing to not just regurgitate the same trite line items that were often given to me during my time as a scout. And now, beyond that, I have also realized that I’m responsible for the scoutmaster’s minutes that I don’t give as well.

As the troop was going around with announcements one meeting, an adult leader asked if he could give a guest scoutmaster minute. Not thinking anything of it, I agreed readily. The leader launched into a telling of why companies prevent their employees from discussing their wages; how it benefits the workers who would otherwise feel needlessly jilted for earnings they had happily agreed to, and how the goal of these policies is to prevent strife and dissension in the ranks. It’s outdated career advice, which I understand to be a generational difference as mostly younger people hold my view that pay should be discussed (besides it being illegal to prevent).

But this is also something I do have experience with. At my very first full-time job I saw how an open conversation on who was paid what laid bare the devaluing of a coworker that was doing a kickass job. We operated in an open floorplan office, and all of us suddenly knew that our coworker was doing the same amount of work with the same credentials for much less compensation. The higher ups in the building down the street, however, didn’t have that visibility. Only by knowing that there was such a discrepancy was my coworker able to negotiate to make things right.

I had the opportunity to bring my experience to these scouts, and instead deferred. Now the damage is done since attempting to correct the adult leader would lead to confusion at best, and doing nothing – as I have done – is tacit approval.