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Would You Work Harder for More Money?

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During a three or four month period last year, approximately 20% of my friends at my old employer, including myself, left the company in search of greener pastures. Some left entirely because of compensation, others left for job growth opportunities (that is to say, more compensation in the future), and others left simply because their job was boring and they had no opportunities for change. Either way, the question of compensation was always in the mix because, let’s face it, we all want to make more money than we do now, no matter how much we make now. If you made a million dollars a year, you’d want a million and a half. If you made ten million, you’d want fifteen million or even twenty. If you made twenty? Well, you’d want a hundred.

So, what’s a greater incentive to work hard, money or the potential for more money?

And, as a corollary, if you are paid more, does that make you work harder?

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14 Responses to “Would You Work Harder for More Money?”

  1. Rob Carlson says:

    I don’t feel that way at all. I would happily trade money for more fun and fulfillment at work as long as I can keep a roof over my head and food on the table. Compensation has never kept me at an unpleasant job.

  2. Jessie says:

    Good question. I think compensation does have an effect on what kind of people an organization will bring in. I think certain skill sets expect certain pay ranges. I am not sure if it is so much that people work that much harder for more money but rather that a salary range is set for a certain amount of effort and skill set. Mind you there are many people making salaries they should never get. BUT if I am truly unhappy at a job or if there is lack of motivation, money, as great as it maybe, will go so far. A ton of working hard is attitude and dedication to doing what you like.

  3. Greg says:

    Beyond someone who is specifically motivated by money (such as sales), there is a diminishing return on money-motivation. A person may very well take a job they do not like if it means keeping a roof over their head (thus some of my more unpleasant jobs). But if all the debts are paid off, the retirement and college funds are full, and income is play money, more does not make much of a difference.

    A boss told me one time that when an employee leaves for “more money,” it usually means there are unresolved issues.

  4. plonkee says:

    I wouldn’t work harder for more money. As I progress in my career I get better at what I do, and so I am worth paying (and am paid) more money. But I worked this hard when I was paid less.

    I agree that people don’t really leave for more money, but for other reasons. Its much more of a pull factor than a push one.

  5. I had an opportunity about a year ago to (maybe) make about half again what I earn now, but the job was not guarenteed, I’d have a longer commute, and I like my current job. I didn’t bother to pursue it.

    That being said, my company made some big mistakes last year in the whole review/raise phase, and I expect them to be more professional about it this year. If they try to pull the same stunts, then I don’t care how much I like the job I’ll start looking again.

  6. King Asa says:

    Greg, I think what you’re saying only applies after a certain point in ones life. If someone does not have all debts paid off and the retirement and college funds are not full (a situation I think most people in their 20s and 30s are in), then I don’t think what you’re saying would apply. Most of my friends have to worry about student lons, car payments, mortgage, saving enough for retirement, and saving for their children when the time comes… that is a pretty significant amount of money. A salary that can cover all that and still have extra “play money” is pretty significant and I don’t think most people are in that situation. For someone who is though, then I agree that “more money” is not a very big incentive.

  7. Jesse says:

    It probably has something to do with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but after a threshold, there’s a diminishing return on more money. A few years ago Gallup did a poll and asked people how much more they wanted to be content (incomes ranged from 30k to 150k, if memory serves me well); each of them said about the same percentage more…

    I think you have to make a concerted effort to find other ways to get fulfillment once your basic needs and wants are met.

  8. RootAnn says:

    So, what’s a greater incentive to work hard, money or the potential for more money?
    I think the greater incentive is the potential for more money. However, if I could choose (c) None of the above, I would. Would you work hard or harder for greater job security and the chance to move up in the company? That’s the reason I think most of the people I used to work with would at least try to look like they were working harder – to advance to the next level (= more prestige/pay).

    And, as a corollary, if you are paid more, does that make you work harder?
    In my opinion, no, because you think you deserve whatever amount you make (or more).

    Money, after a certain level, does not equal happy/happier employees. My husband’s employer recently has had some disgruntled workers. Rather than deal with the real root cause of the issues, they engineered a (hefty) raise for these particular people. The ones that were unhappy still left and the ones who did not get the raise are now grumbling. They only ended up making another problem. And the real base issues are still there. (And, I am sure the employer is not happy since they put out more money thinking they would keep the employees.)

  9. Clever Dude says:

    I can say that I don’t work harder even though I’m paid more. I’m paid what I am because I have the technical knowledge and skills that I’ve gained through experience. However, that makes me dependent on a certain market.

    I left my first employer after 4 years because morale was very low, they were cutting people left and right (while making record, RECORD profits), and they were shifting me to a non-technical position. This shift would quickly make me non-marketable. So I left.

    I got a $10,000 pay hike for switching to my second employer, and I got a wealth of experience, but I still didn’t work harder. They were bought out by another company, so I only stayed there for 5 months.

    I got another $12,000 pay hike when I switched to my third employer. That job was 2 miles from home, but there was a conflict of issues between my company and the client, so I was stuck in limbo with nothing to do for 7 months, literally. I lost skills and gained very little experience, so I left after 8 months with them.

    My latest job jump landed me a $5,000 jump, and after 8 months, a $3,600 raise (my first real raise without changing jobs for about 3 years). I’m very happy where I am because I’m busy, respected, and gaining valuable experience. However, I’m not loyal to any company if I feel I won’t be respected or gain experience. But, I need to be careful and not get in the rut of job hopping because it could bite me in the end.

    In total, over a year and a half from leaving my first job, I gained $31,000 and priceless experience (well, I guess it has a price). But, I’m afforded the luxury of being in a high-demand field. Others aren’t so lucky.

  10. I would only work harder for more money if it was worth my while. Example if I start working an extra 10 hours per week to get that $10k promotion it is not worth it to me.

    $10,000 / 520 hrs = 19 /hr which is a lot less than I make now. In those cases you are actually working hard/more for less money. Now if it was something like $50,000 I might be more inclined to work harder. All that being said in the long run time with my family is worth more than the extra money.

    I agree 100% though that you will never be satisfied with what you make. Which I think is a good thing

  11. Michelle Hope says:

    I think every Personal Finance blogger and reader should read the book, “Your Money or Your Life.” It’s not perfect – but it’s damn good. It takes a spiritual look at the role of money in our brief time here on earth.

  12. DLF says:

    Seems like your central assumption, that money (now or in the future) is the chief or sole motivator for work, is the problem here. Pure capitalism is based on that assumption, and that’s why the U.S. practices a modified version of it.

  13. NCN says:

    Shoot, I make MUCH more money now than I did when I was in high school… and I worked like a DOG to make 4 bucks an hour. I’ve mowed lawns, worked on a farm, moved furniture, cleaned toilets… all kinds of backbreaking labor to earn very little money. Now, I sit at a desk, do some speaking, network with folks, and get paid much more money… “hard” is such a subjective term… How about this? Will I FOCUS my mental energy so that I can make more money? YES!

  14. Matt says:

    I wouldn’t work harder at my current day job for more money, but I’d happily work way harder at my own businesses than I do for my W2 employer whether they paid me more money than W2 work or not. And if, in the time remaining between today and the day when I can quit W2 work forever, I find another W2 job that’ll pay enough to make the latter point come meaningfully faster, I’d work as hard as I needed to in order to get and keep that job…either until I found something even better, or until that day came.

    OK, I suppose, in theory, if my current W2 employer _doubled_ my current salary, I might put in some extra time for the year or so I’d stay…but nothing short of that would make me even hesitate to jump ship at the first decent opportunity. But at this point, given that they’ve already stolen almost everything that matters from me, I hardly think that a few more hours would make a difference.


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