Work/Life: Death Benefits...You've Passed Away, Now Get Back to Work!

  • Okay, so you’re dead.  No big deal.  Here’s a few million to tide you over.  New federal rulings require companies to be more upfront about the "golden coffins" they are providing to their already-wealthy CEO’s, so some of the figures that hit the news this week include one oil industry magnate whose death severance will be more than the first quarter earnings of his firm; a media company set aside two million a year for five years for its executive committee chairman upon his demise; and in the ultimate surreal decision, one engineering company is paying its CEO a $17 million non-compete benefit after he croaks!  "Ashes to ashes…dust to dust…and if you even think about going elsewhere, you’re DEAD, do you hear me?"    
  • We live in a system whereby the richer you get, the more things you get for free.  From company cars and boats to football tickets or front row seats at the Stones, things get handed to those who need it the least.  In keeping with this line of thinking, life insurance is now an investment for which some of the richest people in the world also do not need to shell out.  Death benefits have their proponents, and they stress the altruism of making sure the heirs of their valued employees are taken care of.  This is all well and good, but no matter what side of the argument you come down on, the fact is that even the well-meaning aspects of insurance and death benefits come up against a disturbing philosophical work/life issue at the heart of our programming as a society.  Man, I love it when I’m deep.  
  • See, every day, the overworked and stressed out corporate climber rationalizes his or her work addiction by believing that he or she is killing their quality of life on behalf of their family.  ("I’m doing this for them.")  How is anyone expected to grow out of that thinking if, embedded in our very expectations as a society, we are told going in that we not only have to make sure all the bills are paid now, but after we’re gone, too?  I’m not saying we don’t want to leave this vale of tears knowing our family will be okay, but it’s not an easy burden to be imprinted with, that one’s responsibility goes on and on and on even after we are worm food.  That’s an enormous amount of pressure to carry around subconsciously our entire lives: to feel that one has to keep bringing home the bacon even after one is dead meat.   
  • Like everything else, the key lies in knowing you can only do so much, and can only do your best.  But when fat cats are making sure their families are well off to the tune of many millions, it only creates a further drive to succeed in order to get to that one higher rung on the ladder.  Not to mention the allure of free Stones tickets.  Before they die, anyway.

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