Envy without green

Posted on September 3rd, 2007

From the ingredients in your hot dog to your mom's sexual fetish, there's some stuff you're just happier not knowing. How much your co-workers earn, for instance.

I've heard it argued that transparency begets equity, that confidentiality is a tool the management uses to keep underpaid workers docile. Well... yeah, probably. But are you equipped to handle the knowledge that the worst employee in the office makes more than you? I wasn't.

A few years back, Jamie and I worked with an Art Director who spent most of his days doing freelance work on company time. We actually lost a pitch because he put his day job on the back burner. It was bad enough that the rest of the department had to work harder to pick up his slack, but he was one of those guys who felt compelled to brag about the shit he got away with. Here's a handy tip for assholes everywhere: never, ever show your huge paycheck to the co-workers you're screwing. When I learned this idiot made $30,000 more than me, I became... upset. It made me question my employer's judgment and why I was working harder for less. Worse, a lot of the joy went out of my job. I have a pretty cool gig, but I lost sight of it for a while, preoccupied with what I wasn't getting instead of being thankful for what I had.

Mom always said "knowledge is power," but tell that to Oedipus. All he did was come to town, out-riddle a monster, fall in love, have a few kids and try to solve a murder. Learning he was adopted – and the identity of his birth parents – was the worst thing that ever happened to him. Sometimes it's just better not to know.

A short list of things you never want to know:

  • What the waiter did to your food.
  • The expired lottery ticket in your desk would have made you a millionaire if you'd found it sooner.
  • The face your dad makes during orgasm.
  • A big, hairy spider crawled in your mouth while you were sleeping.
  • Before your grandfather changed it, your family name was Hitler.
  • That creaking wasn't the house settling – it was a serial killer creeping into your bedroom before he decided to call it an early night.
  • What the baby would have been like if you'd kept it.
  • When you have sex, your partner pretends you're someone hot.
  • If your child had to choose between you and Barney, they'd choose Barney.
  • The cleaning staff had sex on your desk last night.
  • That pen in your mouth tastes funny because...
  • The guy you're shaking hands with bypassed the sink on his way out of the toilet.
  • The many, many ways your life would have been better if you'd made different choices.


P.S. For the record, Jamie and I make exactly the same salary.

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