Stanley G. Dickinson
Business believe that the happily married man will occupy a bigger position in the business world than will the man who is unhappy at home. The young men and young women in Good Housekeeping's marriage-relations course have a right to know this, to know precisely the interest which business has in harmonious marriage and the extent to which home life is a factor when men are considered for promotion, employment, or transfer—any one of which means more income, more responsibility, and an opportunity to live more fully.
Business might very logically take another view. It might believe that the single man is the better employee, because single men are free to travel, are not burdened with the expenses of a family, do not run the risk of going home to trouble. It might believe that the home experiences and environment of the people it hires are not its concern. But business is concerned with these aspects and young people should know in what way and why.
While business negotiates with the husband, it has long since learned that both husband and wife are entitled to consideration whenever one is being employed or promoted. The more important the job, the more important it becomes to determine whether husband and wife have tried to keep pace with each other, or whether there is discord at home. Business can afford to place responsibility upon the mentally capable, energetic, and tactful man if his marriage relations are harmonious. It cannot afford to gamble with the man who is in trouble at home—not necessarily vicious trouble, but trouble arising from carelessness, maladjustment, and misunderstanding.
As a business consultant advising corporations upon their major objectives and policies, I attend several times each week conferences during which men are discussed for promotion, transfer to new work or new territory, salary adjustments, and sometimes demotion. The business consultant prefers to limit his counsel to such objective matters as plans and operating policies, but this cannot be done actually, because all business situations must be resolved into the persons in them. Hence our discussion is necessarily devoted to men—to what we can do to make them more effective, to how soon we can promote them safely, to how much responsibility they can assume, to what they are best fitted for doing, and the like. During the past fifteen years, I have discussed such lowly functions as clerkships at $85 a month and such exalted positions as vice-presidencies at $20,000, with the average running between $4000 and $10,000 a year.
The judgment of executives is not infallible, and some of the men we pick are unable to measure up to the increased load we place upon them. We try to analyze these failures even more carefully than we analyze the successes. Here is what we find: in the majority of instances, men do not fail because they do not know enough, or because they are lazy; they fail because business cannot always depend upon them—they break at the wrong times. We can find men who know their work and who are capable of learning the requirements of a better job. We can find plenty of men who are willing to work, and who will work even harder for the promise of a better job in the future. But we cannot find enough men whose emotional mechanism is dependable—at least not in sufficient numbers to carry on the responsibilities which business would like to place upon them.
Peculiarly enough, the results of emotional instability are complex, but the chief cause may be defined simply: trouble at home causes more emotional upsets, more instability in business, than any other single factor. By the same token, lack of progress in business causes trouble at home. No home can be run successfully without a degree of financial progress, and such progress cannot be made—except by a negligible few—without harmony at home.
All wives have, by and large, an equal stake with their husbands in their husbands' material progress. The increased income is a major consideration, but it is only the beginning in a chain of useful consequences. Business progress means mental growth, added intelligence to be applied to both working and living. Personal growth means a fuller home life, a finer environment in which to bring up children, an opportunity to become a respected member of the community. Business progress means greater responsibility, and this breeds the ability to take on still more responsibility, both at home and in business. Progress eventually brings more leisure, more culture, and more of the other refinements of living. Progress is accelerating, feeding upon and multiplying itself.
No one would deny the truth of all this, yet only a searching few have actually created at home the degree of harmony which has been the aim of this series in Good Housekeeping's course on marriage relations. If effective contributions from home to the consistent progress of breadwinners were universal rather than rare, half of our troubles in finding men for added responsibility would be over. The majority of men dissipate their energy in wishing and wanting, but restrict themselves to wishing and wanting the result, rather than the cause. These insist that they want to better their situations, but insist also that business is a thing apart, something to be shut in the office, something which need not be understood or supported at home, and certainly something over which a wife at home has little influence. These two points of view are not reconcilable; hence everyone loses who tries to hold to both at once.
If you say to a business executive, "Business is a thing apart," he will point out at once that your theory is true only in the least important jobs. The management does not worry much about the home environment of the beginner upon whom no real responsibility rests, but it frequently goes to unbelievable ends to get its more important employees back onto the track if they have lost their heads over a home problem. Again, business does this for no humanitarian reasons; it takes this attitude because its employees produce better where there is harmony at home.
The capable, intelligent, and progressive worker is almost invariably married to a capable, intelligent, and progressive woman. Each acts and reacts upon the other. Men are not so versatile that they can fill $5000 jobs during the day and then go home to become husbands of $1500 women in the evening. Neither are women so versatile that they will remain in contented harmony with husbands who are not their mental equals. Some look negatively at the problem, feeling that "I could have done better if I had had the advantages of so-and-so." The facts are that these envied couples were growing up together, keeping pace mentally, long before the promotion came which is given the credit for their present condition.
When a wife falls down on her part of the job, neglecting either harmony or her personal development, her husband's first natural reaction is to separate his business from his home life—to grit his teeth and go on, hoping to achieve the impossible. This usually sets up a vicious circle of events. Being handicapped in personal effectiveness, he spends more and more time at business. His home goes to ruin; he suffers the most dangerous emotional upsets; his work fails, and conditions get worse and worse. He breaks, in short, at the wrong time—a time inconvenient to business, to put it brutally.
It is dangerous to generalize here, because there is a fine distinction between harmony at home and bringing business into the home. Hasty thinking is likely to confuse the two. The man who takes petty troubles of the routine day home to his wife is a weakling, and business cannot consider him for increased responsibility. The husband who takes none of his problems home is frequently a mystery to his wife, but he probably feels that she is not sufficiently informed to be useful in helping him make decisions on purely business issues. Wives sometimes rebel against this, because they do not make the essential distinction between respect for them as individuals and respect for their information about a specific business question.
The soundness of the belief that wives have a specific and clearly defined responsibility here is verified by the fact that husbands want, and business demands, one and the same thing. The approach is different, because the husbands of America are asking primarily for harmony at home, while business is looking for an efficient producer; yet they both are seeking the same thing. The husband asks his wife for harmony at home and a progressive instinct so that she will grow concurrently with him. Business, when evaluating men for promotion, asks whether there is harmony at home so that this man will be free from the greatest single source of emotional unbalance, and whether this man and his wife have demonstrated the ability to grow in the past—the best available indication of their ability to grow in the future. These two questions take in a lot of territory, but the ground must be covered so long as business, in effect, employs or promotes both husband and wife.
Do not be misled for a moment respecting the importance of these two points merely because businessmen do not talk a lot about them. Their sense of good taste makes them hesitate to inquire bluntly into so personal a problem, and so their investigations are conducted quietly. Numerous confidential sources of information are used, and superiors take their own means to meet husband and wife together, generally under some casual pretext. If we could look behind the scenes, we would find that emotional stability—that elusive product of a satisfactory home environment—is regarded just as highly as knowledge, experience, or any of the other orthodox considerations. We would find executives saying, "We can count on Jones for Chicago now that we have seen his wife and determined to our satisfaction that she will measure up to the promotion" or "It's too bad we can't give this job to Smith, but you know how hard it is to succeed without support from home." Another would be saying, "Brown flew off the handle again yesterday; it must have started at the breakfast table."
Wives, if you can be the Mrs. Jones of these examples, and avoid being the Mrs. Smith or the Mrs. Brown, you will be removing for businessmen the greatest hurdle to promotion which we encounter. You will be doing your part as the wife of a man in business.
You may determine the extent to which you are doing these things now by testing yourself in the light of these ten questions:
1. Did my husband start for work this morning in a better frame of mind for having married me, or would he have been happier as a single man or married to someone else?
Remember, as you ask this question and apply your own answer, that we are talking about business; hard, practical business where intentions do not count. You may love your husband dearly, but if the results of your love are not constructive, you must write the word FAILURE across the record.
2. Do I always treat my job just as seriously as if I were working in an office for a monthly salary?
Some wives feel that it makes no difference if they linger so long over bridge or cocktails or shopping or whatever in the afternoon that they are unable to prepare a suitable meal for their husbands in the evening.
3. Have I grown in poise and interests like the wives of my husband's associates and superiors?
Wives who keep up with the procession are an asset; those who fail to grow are a liability.
4. Can I talk in the same terms as his associates and their wives?
This indicates how carefully you have maintained your interest in the source of your income, and how accustomed you are to expressing yourself.
5. Do I dress and act like the wives of the business associates and superiors of my husband?
You place a heavy handicap upon your effectiveness if your husband cannot be proud of you in the inevitable comparisons with other wives in his organization.
6. Do I entertain with reasonable frequency the people who are in a position to help my husband in business, or is our social life planned wholly for my own amusement?
Perhaps this question should read, "How long since I have entertained So-and-So?" You may be surprised to find that months have slipped away without your having done a single stroke of good for your husband socially.
7. Do I limit our social engagements during the week to those which will not take essential energy from the job, or do I feel that my husband "owes" me constant amusement when he is not actually at the office?
As employers pile responsibility upon your husband, more and more care must be used in the allocation of time to social affairs. You may be able to rest the next day, but business does not permit husbands to rest on the job.
8. Do I act as a balance wheel, cheering him intelligently when he is tired or discouraged, or do I rub him the wrong way on such occasions?
If your husband does not share with you his disappointments, it is almost invariably because you have not qualified yourself to share them.
9. Do I try to smooth things out after unpleasant discussions—as I would if a new dress or theatre party were at stake?
Many married persons have an uncanny capacity for making miserable the objects of their affection. It is said that the course of true love never did run smooth, but the wise husband or wife will not unnecessarily roughen it.
10. Do I carry my share of responsibility, or do I save up all the petty annoyances for our dinner-table conversation?
Wives who complain that their husbands are silent during dinner have usually good reason to overhaul the quality of their own conversation. Don't bore him with your fight with the grocer or the catty things Mrs. X said at bridge or afternoon tea.
Here are some actual examples of the way wives affect their husband's business:
We selected Blake for a branch managership at Chicago, and we thought that his wife could measure up. We took him out of a job where he had reached his limit and placed him in one where his developed ability might enable him to earn twice his salary. He failed. We who appointed this man took the blame for his failure, because business recognizes no alibis. As usual, it wasn't that he didn't want to be a branch manager, or that he didn't know enough, or that he wasn't willing to work hard enough. We found that the trouble was within his emotional mechanism. He was losing his head and his temper at the wrong times.
At last he wrote to his firm: "This town takes the heart out of my wife. She is terribly lonesome, refuses to make new friends, and reminds me continually of the good times we used to have back home. Her mother misses her and threatens to come to live with us here. I appreciate this opportunity, and I know that we have more of everything here than we had back home, but I want my old job back. I can't stand it here."
Business doesn't work that way, and so we persuaded another employer to "hire him away" without his knowledge, thus saving his face and helping to maintain his courage. He would have been branded for life if we had permitted him to crawl back to his old job. Blake will never go as far as he is entitled to go, because Mrs. Blake places her own feelings above any other consideration, and her husband is not strong enough to control his emotions where his wife is concerned. Few men are.
We do not in any way blame Mrs. Blake for the part she played in her husband's failure. She merely attaches more value to staying in her old groove, in the constant companionship of her mother, and in the regular contact with old friends than she attaches to promotion for her husband. We have no quarrel with her choice, if only she realizes that she has chosen something for herself, and is now living under conditions dictated by her own choice.
Take Smith. In the language of business he is a "whipped puppy." Again, there is no question of his ability, his desires, or his willingness to work. We have, in a certain corporation, a job for Smith which would mean a 50 percent increase in salary, a place of notice in the community, and a wider acquaintance among substantial people. We have considered him for this job a dozen times, but each time we have decided to postpone action, because we are afraid of the influence of his wife. On his present job, it does no great damage for her to be so possessive, demanding all his time outside of office hours, ordering him around like a child. On the new job, such a performance would ruin him before he was fairly started. Dare we depend on her ability and willingness to grow quickly into the person she would have been training to become? We dare not, for we are held responsible for results!
"Just as I thought," some will say, "business is inhuman." One who takes this attitude has an incomplete view of the facts. If business were to tolerate a repetition of mistakes, its general level of productivity—which, in turn, means income to its employees—would be lowered immediately. This would operate against the very thing we are trying to sponsor—increased responsibility and more full living for all as soon as they earn it.
This point of view frequently gives women no end of mental trouble, because they are more inclined than men to think subjectively rather than objectively. Business employs a man for what he can produce, other things being equal. So long as he is morally sound and honest, business cares little about his attitudes on other subjects. Wives measure their husbands by their helping with the housework or their thoughtfulness in little things around the home; all of these have their value, but not in the scale of production on the job. Sentiment counts heavily with the feminine mind, as it should, whereas business is more realistic. Business buys results rather than intentions.
Business did not have an inherent desire to consider marriage relations. Its interest in them began with the many examples of maladjustment to which it was compelled to give attention, in line with its age-old policy of believing that "everything is all right until it is proved otherwise." When the negative consequences were brought to light, and business really became interested, a constructive attitude was developed which gained its momentum from the countless examples where wives have been major reasons for the success of their husbands. Fortunately for every failure there are a dozen successes.
The Mortons, for example, are a couple who have found that it pays to live both harmoniously and progressively at home. Mary Morton is a convert to the constructive attitudes brought out by the ten questions outlined earlier. They have made it a custom to entertain at least one evening a week, always having in mind that certain people can be both good company and helpful in business. They try to reach up rather than down in the people with whom they mingle. When they were to be transferred to another city, the news was broken to them together in their home by a superior. Mary's first and genuine reaction was, "It will be fine to make new friends and to have the children see a new part of the country."
When they arrived at the new city, the old process, so successful in their home town, was begun again—new friends, new interests, new growth. If they were ever homesick, the firm never found it out; but I am inclined to believe that they were too busy on constructive matters to get homesick. Morton's salary is three times what it was ten years ago, and most of the credit goes to his wife. Likewise she is the chief beneficiary.
Another illustration of the extent to which business recognizes the principle of harmonious development of both husband and wife is shown by the experience of Parsons. He was a junior executive, capable in every direction but one. When a vacancy occurred higher up, he was the logical candidate; but the president of the company refused to promote him until he had had a chance to demonstrate his ability to meet the social requirements of his position. He conceded Parsons' brilliance, his energy, and everything but his capacity to become genuinely interested in the people who were both above and beneath him in the organization. Inquiry revealed that he was making the best of a situation in which neither he nor his wife had realized the importance of social activity. Bear in mind that we do not mean a playboy temperament or a mercenary attitude, but rather a genuineness in human contacts.
When the problem was laid before them, a program was laid out for them to follow. Parsons and his wife called on everyone they felt should not be neglected, later inviting to their own home those who seemed in a position to help them. During these second visits, the conversation was turned to what might be done by "people like ourselves" to prevent getting into a rut. Dozens of helpful activities were recommended, and they made it a business to explore the most valuable, so that they could tell others about forthcoming meetings of discussion groups, plays, lectures, and the like. Within six months, they had entirely overcome the president's objection, and a year later Parsons was promoted to the other position at a $2000 increase in salary.
Two facts will occur immediately to anyone who is an intelligent observer of such things: first, Parsons and his wife had a better time after the change than before; and second, business expects people to discover these things for themselves. This couple were more than usually fortunate to be led by the hand up to this new experience.
Business gave Parsons his chance when it permitted him to demonstrate his ability. Quick jumps in business are not made available to people upon the basis of their belief that they can qualify. Business would be guilty of rash speculation with its funds if positions were given to any except those who had demonstrated their qualifications in advance. Business has no time for or patience with those who do not recognize the importance of these things. We have no license to give responsibility to those who say: "I didn't know that this was important. Give me a trial, and I will do my best to learn quickly." The answer to that is: "We have another man who has been qualifying for many years. He saw the place of these things in business progress. We'll risk our money on him."
When a young man brings to business a reasonable amount of ability and energy, reinforced by the emotional balance which comes from the right kind of home life, he is likely to surpass both his own expectations and those of his employers. Business wants him to succeed. Business wonders, as a matter of fact, why more people do not succeed, with the incentives for success so generally open to public view. It realizes, just as you will realize when you analyze the situation, that the incentives have been understood, but the ways and means have been missing. This is a common mistake in human progress. We have all erred in making someone else want something, thinking that the process of arousing desire would insure intelligent action. Most humans realize that they lack the ways and means, a realization which accounts for the interest shown everywhere in better marriage relations and in the methods for achieving them. The desire to succeed is not enough. Desire has its place, however, once the ways and means are understood, because strong desire sustains interest in the ways and means.
Does this seem an idle theory? Not to business, the instrument through which most men and women work out their economic security. Business says: you must show us harmony at home and mental growth before we will believe that you are a safe candidate for promotion. Give us these along with the ability you have always brought us, and we will make it worth your while. We will increase your salaries. We will put you into jobs where you may live in better neighborhoods, mingle with more capable people in business and at home, give your children advantages you may never have had, and provide you with all the creature comforts for successful living, a base upon which you must build your own philosophy of happiness, but without which no genuine happiness is probable.
Being composed of realists, business does not paint these rewards in glowing colors. It merely says, without question or qualification, the happily married man will occupy a bigger position with us than the man who is unhappy at home.