“Money talks,” I say. It’s my comeback in a conversation about compensation. I’m past the stage in life when perks or praise persuade me to accept less than I’m worth on the market.
Of course, were I in the midst of a salary negotiation, “money talks” isn’t the phrase I would use. Instead, I would come armed with market data relative to my role, responsibilities and experience. I would frame my value in terms of supply and demand, contributions to date, and future value.
When it comes to people, work and motivation, I’m all for please and thank you, surprise signs of recognition, and an environment that encourages creativity, camaraderie and appreciation. Taking satisfaction in the work itself? Yes. Important. But the bottom line is the bottom line.
Right. Money talks.
Perks and Flexibility Fare Well at Times
I’m thinking of a software job I loved when I was in my twenties. We worked in teams, we put in long hours that included nights and weekends, and an on-site fitness center was just one of the advantages we enjoyed.
Not only could we walk across our building to lift weights or cycle — excellent for a boost of energy when you’re tired — but a casual environment and kitchen assisted in keeping us comfortable and motivated. Of tremendous importance: We all liked and respected each other, we exercised autonomy in how we accomplished our goals, and there was a promise of a bonus at the end of the rainbow. That bonus was, in part, tied to our efforts. And, we all felt well compensated besides.
At the time, we were single, childless, and still in the first decade of our career experience.
Flash forward a few years. I worked in software in a higher level position while juggling a hubby, a household, and two kids under three years old. I wanted to get out of the office at the end of the day as quickly as possible, even if I was burning the midnight oil from home after everyone else was down for the night.
As my family responsibilities and situation changed, my priorities shifted accordingly.
Mandatory “Work Play” Is NOT a Perk
Attend a group event on the weekend?
Chit-chat at a local hangout at Happy Hour?
My spouse at the time?
Sure, he could and did partake of those often required socializing events, at least in part because I did not. He also reaped the benefits: more face time, greater perception as promotable, insight into organizational politics and often, fun.
Advance the time line a few more years and find me managing two kids as a single mom. By then, I was working as an independent. Clients whose company I enjoyed? A definite bonus. The learning opportunities and advantages of working a diversity of jobs?
But the real driver in taking a gig and keeping it as long as possible was, is and must be… money.
Praise vs. Pay?
This article in INC on motivators other than money is intriguing. But I find it incomplete in representing the reality of more complicated living situations. When employer-employee loyalty is a thing of the past (as it is for millions of us), when you’re over a certain age (I’d put that at 40), when you’re responsible for kids — on your own or with a partner — money talks, money talks, money talks!
I will say that there are excellent ideas in the INC article, they are not suggesting that perks and pleasantries replace pay, but some of what is described makes little sense once you’re thirty-something, much less older and providing for a family.
… Be generous with praise… Give recognition and small rewards… Throw company parties. Doing things as a group can go a long way…
Hello? Work Life Juggle?
Let’s be real: When you’re 40 and running to pick up two kids at different schools, happy hour after work is the least of your concerns. Likewise, attending a company party on a Saturday afternoon if it eats into the little free time you have with spouse or friends, not to mention Janie’s soccer practice. Even if you’d like to show your face, you’re more apt to extend a polite “no thanks,” and potentially be perceived as not a team player.
As for the small recognitions mentioned? They’re great! Some years back when a (female) manager gave me a half-day spa certificate to show her appreciation, I was a busy working mom (as was she), still married, and we took the half day together. That made the experience far more enjoyable and enhanced our working relationship.
But the bottom line remains this: Beyond a certain stage in life and depending on our circumstances, responsibilities outweigh all else. We have to pay our bills. Without money there is no security, no health care, no food on the table, no roof overhead, no promise of dreams.
Not for yourself, and not for your family.
Working Conditions DO Matter
Naturally, if we feel financially secure, then motivation — and sources of demotivation — run far deeper than a paycheck. Let’s not forget that we all find ourselves struggling to stay motivated on the job from time to time, and the reasons may have to do with conditions at the office, relationships with team members, insufficient opportunity to advance, or boredom with the work itself.
They can’t hurt, but if they don’t resolve fundamental issues that weaken the desire or ability to get things done, you’re dead in the water.
Mothers, Money and Trade-Offs
Some claim that scheduling flexibility is more of a motivator to working mothers than compensation. My response to that?
Only if financial needs are met. I will say this to anyone who thinks that women don’t perceive compensation as a reflection of value in their employer’s eyes: Think again. Feeling appropriately valued is not a gender-based need; money to provide for family is a requirement for people, not people of one sex. Ideally we would say the same about scheduling flexibility when family responsibilities are in the mix.
Now, assuming that we like what we’re doing and job conditions are positive, we’re less likely to be swayed by money — if we don’t need it. For instance, if someone offers me a career opportunity that requires travel 50% of the time and I really don’t want to be away from my family to that extent, as long as my financial situation is secure, a pay differential of 20% won’t get me to budge.
Double my current income? My response will be different, at least for a finite period of time.
Motivations Change as Life Circumstances Change
Perhaps the key then is to pay attention to the circumstances of those who work for you and with you. To assume a single type of motivation that works across the board is unwise. Those happy hours may be an important element of the mix for the unencumbered twenty-somethings, but not those with childcare or elder care responsibilities.
And yet elements of the recommendations above — especially with regard to a thank you — encourage us to go the extra mile and make working that much more pleasant.
Nothing says you can’t provide flexibility and appreciation in a variety of ways, especially as so many of them cost little or nothing. However, I contend that money remains the primary reason that most of us work, and a more significant motivator than people, environment, perquisites, praise or job satisfaction.
Money is the bottom line. Isn’t that true in any business? Shouldn’t we think of ourselves as a business?
You May Also Enjoy