Did you see the story last month where Maryland commercial real estate company St. John Properties gave its employees a huge year-end bonus?
It was all over the national news because of the size of the company (198 employees) and the size of the bonus ($10M total).
A Laudable Move
There’s a lot to like in this story:
Bonus money was distributed by tenure, not position, so it’s not just the CFO who toasted the new year with dom perignon. The average bonus was $50,000, and a maintenance technician who started at the company in 1981 received more than $200,000.
Company founder and chairman Edward St. John, who is newly married to now-retired TV journalist Jennifer Gilbert, could have easily pocketed all the money for himself. Everyone knows how expensive it is to get married. 🙂
St. John Properties is a great corporate citizen. The Edward St. John Foundation has awarded more than $60 million to educational programs and nonprofits over the years. And the company really invests in its employees, offering an entry-level four-year apprenticeship program. A refreshing approach these days!
Icicles Hanging from My Earlobes
I was contemplating all of this while shivering in my jacket in my ice-cold office. My blue-tipped fingers tapped out yet another email to the administrative team to ask the landlord to come out again to fix the finicky HVAC system.
The emailed response I received back could have been a form letter by this point: “OK, I’ll ask St. John to come look at it.”
I work for a company that rents office space from St. John. I’m happy for its employees, I guess, but the bonus news made me more frustrated than ever. How could the company be partying and counting their $100 bills, while I perform jumping jacks to stave off hypothermia? I exaggerate a smidge, but you get the idea.
I mentioned the bonus to my boss, who also happens to be a part-owner of the business. He hadn’t heard the news. “That’s good to know,” he said. “I was looking for a reason to call them to talk about the rent.”
My advice to companies: By all means, share your wealth with the people who make it possible. Just don’t make a huge spectacle of it (you can watch their hype video here). For while it might help a tad with employee retention and recruitment, it will probably hurt more with customers, who wonder why rents are so high and why the roof still leaks.
Employees are important, but customers are important-er. 🙂 Big bonuses don’t happen if customes aren’t happy. And customer’s aren’t happy if they perceive a supplier is taking advantage of them.
Personally, I’d be happy if I could just remove my jacket in the office.