Golden Handcuffs

Joshua Becker defines golden handcuffs as the special benefits offered to an employee as an inducement to continue service. The salary. The benefits. Golden handcuffs restrain employees. Because of these benefits, it takes too much for many employees to leave as they would lose too much.

Becker then pitches that if we changed our lifestyle, we would be more free to escape that job we want to leave. If one lives in a smaller home, the money needed to run that home is less. If one downsizes the vehicle he drives, the money needed for transportation is lessened. And so forth.

I recall my father speaking of this. He spent 33 years in education, 31 of them, I believe, with the same school. He was a director. As explained to me, it was a way of rewarding him without paying him. The title of assistant superintendent would have meant more money.

When asked why he didn’t leave for another district, Dad explained that it would be difficult. He would need to be willing to relocate. We lived in an isolated part of the state, so lengthy travel would have been quite difficult. Relocating after 25 years would have been hard as well. He felt stuck.

My career followed a similar path. I was prepared to move up in my school district and kept running into obstacles. Recognizing that there was no up in my district, I would have had to leave the district to move up. Golden handcuffs kept me anchored.

Our home was modest as have been our cars. What kept me tethered was security. If I left for opportunity, I exposed my family’s security. When money is tight in education, the last hire goes, not the least competent. If I gave up tenure for opportunity, it would have been in a smaller district; one that is more susceptible to money woes. If it was bad, out of a job I would be. Mortgage be damned!

I was unwilling to take that risk. Less money, more security for the family was valuable to me.

Not everyone felt the same way. Less money for me, actually meant more money for the family as my ex-wife would still work. She wanted to remain at home and not work. While I do believe she understood the security viewpoint, she disapproved of me not moving up. Her fantasy dissolved at that and the marriage facade crumbled.

In the end, the security I sought was elusive. I held onto the golden handcuffs in my attempt for it, but security can be thwarted via other means. Golden handcuffs exist outside the workplace.

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