Lessons in persuasion continued…

by Shari Graydon


What if you don’t have time to write an op ed but one of the issues you care most – and know lots – about is in the news?

Write a letter to the editor, instead; you only need to come up with 250 words. (This means, of course, that you’ll have to pick a precise focus, but getting practice at making very succinct arguments is enormously useful for anyone wanting to influence busy people.)

Last week, repeatedly inconvenienced by the postal strike, grumpy about having to pay more to send material by courier, and disinclined to scour the news coverage to learn more about what was at dispute, I was nevertheless arrested by a letter to the editor that provided some persuasive context to the bigger picture.

Writing in the Globe and Mail, Jim Young – like Governor Andrew Cuomo (see previous post) – put two values in opposition to make his point:

Thesis 1: In a fragile economy, companies must attract the most effective executives. To this end, they must be competitively rewarded (million-dollar salaries), lured by generous benefits (million-dollar bonuses), encouraged to stay (golden parachutes, gold-plated pensions).

Thesis 2: In a fragile economy, companies must become ever more competitive. To that end, workers must accept more competitive (lower) pay, more market-oriented (reduced) benefits, and more realistic (eliminated) pensions.

Since both theses are diametrically opposed, if either is sound, proven and effective, logically, the other must be faulty. Why then do we continue to apply this duality of reason to corporate compensation models? If rewarding executives is effective, surely rewarding workers will be equally so. If we really can’t afford to compensate workers and remain competitive, the lead in that direction should come from the top.

Mr. Young’s clear, rational appeal makes a compelling case for rethinking the indefensibly massive gap between many CEOs’ and workers’ salaries. (The ratio at Canada Post is no doubt much less stark than in the corporate sector, where the trend has increased significantly in recent years.)