Is one of the main reasons you’re in your current job because the money is good? And is one of the main reasons you are reluctant to leave your job because you can’t imagine taking a pay cut, or the profession you really want to pursue has limited earning prospects?
I ask people these questions in my Brand YOU workshop. And every time at least 50% of all participants raise their hand. This response isn’t surprising since choosing a career and a job for its monetary rewards is the oldest and most powerful motivation in the world of work.
However, overwhelming evidence has emerged over the past two decades that the pursuit of wealth is an unlikely path to achieving happiness and personal wellbeing. The lack of any clear positive relationship between rising salary and rising happiness has become one of the most powerful findings in the social sciences.
And that’s because we get caught on the hedonistic treadmill – as we get richer and accumulate more our expectations rise, so we work harder to earn more, and then our expectations rise again, and so we work harder to earn more, and so it goes. It’s never enough as we shift from one car to two, from a small house to a big house, from a holiday on The Gold Coast to a holiday in the south of France.
To live without regrets, we first you need to know what the most common ones are. Daniel Gulati at Harvard Business Review discusses his informal study of people’s biggest regrets about their career. He talked to professionals who ranged in age, and represented a variety of different industries. And the #1 career regret:
I wish I hadn’t taken the job for the money.
Every survey shows that when asked what gives them job satisfaction, people NEVER put money on top of the list. In the Mercer global engagement scale – developed with thousands of workers in the UK, US, Japan, India, Germany, France and China – ‘base pay’ comes in at number six out of a list of twelve key factors. What really matters is ‘RESPECT’, the number one factor that drives job satisfaction.
Now ‘respect’ is a word that’s thrown around a lot, with a lot of lip service being given to it. To my mind ‘respect’ is like a basic human right. It means being appreciated for who you are, what you personally bring to the job, and being valued for your individual contribution. And it has has nothing to do with social status: I don’t respect someone just because she’s the CEO or because he earns millions of dollars.
Respect enables us to feel like a human being whose presence matters. So that may mean avoiding large bureaucratic organisations where individual efforts are barely acknowledged, and finding a workplace where you are treated as a unique and valuable human being.
Few people will ignore money when it comes to making career and job decisions, I get that: we all have bills to pay. The real issue is how much weight should you assign to money?
And if money is coming at a personal cost – that feeling of “I’m just another brick in someone else’s wall” – perhaps its time to evaluate your priorities and make some hard decisions. You’ll be happier in the long run.