Support Thy Co-Worker As Thyself

If you had to sacrifice your salary to save a co-worker's job, would you do it? In Boston higher education, it's becoming standard practice.

The argument started at Harvard after its law school announced plans to lay off faculty. Cuts at the university with one of the country’s largest endowments galvanized students against the move who clamored for more budgetary discipline.

Neighboring institutions followed with alternative measures. At Brandeis faculty were asked to take a one percent pay cut to help save non-academic jobs at the school while the university’s Board of Trustees agreed to stop contributing to the staff retirement fund for one year. Meanwhile, executives at Harvard’s teaching hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, took a pay cut to secure staff jobs there.

The conventional wisdom is that most people would not want to take a pay cut even if it means helping their co-workers. But numerous recession disaster stories and President Obama’s overture that "everybody’s going to have to give" may be changing that. 

Told to cut expenses by 70 percent in March, the head of a Maryland recycling operation split her workforce into alternating shifts. While their net hours were reduced considerably, each worker retained their medical, dental, and retirement benefits.

A recent survey of 2,500 Brits found that 95 percent of respondents would accept workplace changes, including pay cuts and loss of benefits, to save a colleague's jobs.

From Wales to Boston, workers have agreed to pay cuts and furloughs to avoid layoffs. And while it all hopefully contributes to an improved economy, it could also help us become better people.

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