Museum asks workers to buy director a boat while suppressing wages
- UK museum employees were asked to donate money for a boat as a parting gift for their director, Quartz reports. The four Tate museums made the request in the midst of negotiations with union representatives over workers’ pay.
- According to Quartz, some museum workers receive less than a living wage, while others are on zero-hours contracts that don't allow them to work elsewhere even when there’s no work to be done at the museum.
- The Tate issued a notice defending the request that said the boat would be a dinghy, not a yacht, that donations are voluntary and that the museums had raised salaries during the past three years.
This situation is a classic case of a disconnected employer. Requesting that employees chip in for a boat as a parting gift for the director as employees negotiate for better wages is a nightmare situation for HR professionals striving to engage workers in their organizations. The tone deafness of the request is a clear sign that upper management isn't communicating properly with its employees or invested in the culture.
While full transparency can be challenging, an open communication policy may have assuaged some concerns in this case. Nonprofit organizations often struggle to pay their workers well, but in exchange offer a fulfilling opportunity to help others or further an important goal or cause. But a company that creates an environment of perceived antagonism will instead seem disingenuous and give the impression the organization cares little about professed values.
Employers should always be mindful of the bigger picture, and remember that culture is built from the ground-up. If an executive wants to be tuned in to the company and its culture — or have any hope of guiding it — they need to be open with their employees and listen to their concerns.