Money and ‘Me, Too’

Reports about GM pay and sexual-harassment settlements—even if misleading or unfair— only further highlight the need for club managers to have heightened awareness about the spotlight they’re under.

A few months back, as part of noting the increased scrutiny that club managers seem to be coming under these days, I mentioned a newspaper article I’d come across where the seven-figure salaries of several GMs of prominent Florida properties had been published.

In that case, the salaries were revealed as a secondary aspect of reporting on the taxes being paid by those properties (the reporter had dug into public records filed by the clubs). But apparently, including the salary figures in that report generated enough reader interest to convince the newspaper that club GM salaries were a big story on their own—because recently it was back with a new report that compared what the GMs of properties in Palm Beach County, Fla., were making vs. the “foreign workers” they employ.

“Mind the gap,” the headline of this report screamed. “Country club GMs make 33 times as much as foreign workers.”

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Using 2015 data, the article then compared the salaries of the GMs of four nonprofit clubs in the county that make their tax returns public to the pay of “the low-wage foreign workers who cleaned tables in their dining rooms.” The GMs’ reported salaries were divided by the amount of hours they reported that they work each week, to come up with an “hourly wage” for the executives, ranging from $295.53 to $341.66/hour. That rate was then compared to the reported starting pay, ranging from $10.25 to $11/hour, for the clubs’ “lowest-paid front-line workers.” (The reporter seemed to make an assumption that all of these workers were “foreign” and had been hired through the H-2B visa program.)

Buried in the analysis—in much smaller type than the headline—was this paragraph: “As pay gaps go, 33 times isn’t a huge ratio. By some measures, CEOs of large publicly traded companies make 300 to 700 times as much as their front-line workers.”

But that didn’t stop the paper from not only publishing the article, but also using the headline it did, pulling out a file photo of one of the GMs to run at the top of the article (conveying the impression that he was insensitively oblivious to the horrible “33 times” disparity), and ending with this conclusion: “The pay gap could widen: While country club GMs typically negotiate robust raises for themselves, hourly wages for H-2B workers have flat-lined in recent years.”

It’s pretty easy to point out the unfairness and faulty reasoning contained in reports like these (my favorite online comment posted under the “gap” report said, “So now let’s compare the Publisher’s salary [of your newspaper] to that of the [paper’s] lowest entry-level position. Hmmm…what would we find?”). But the fact is, they continue to surface—and stand to have a misleading influence on not only the general public, but also club members and staff who lack full understanding of, or appreciation for, all that a club GM’s duties and responsibilities entail.

Our industry has also been caught up in the “me, too” wave of sexual-harassment charges that have dominated the news in the past month, with a prominent golf resort property having to settle a case brought against its GM and management firm. All of this only further highlights the need for club managers to have heightened awareness of the spotlight they’re under—and to all of the factors that can impact their ability to earn what they work all of those hours for, and deserve.