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Interesting work vs. bigger paycheck

Q: I work in an intellectually-stimulating, but low-paying job. I really enjoy my work, and intended to have a long career contributing to the common good at the expense of a substantial paycheck.

When my job situation looked a bit shaky a few months back, I applied to a job in a more corporate environment on a whim, and I just received an offer. This job would more than double my current salary, but I don't really find the actual work that interesting, and I think I might get bored very quickly. Also, I would no longer contribute to the common good, but rather to a company's profits. However, this job would allow me to pay off debts, potentially move to a nicer apartment, and have a nicer lifestyle.

How to you balance the vast improvements to lifestyle with the serious decline in quality of work? Is it worth it to change careers for a bigger paycheck?


A: Interesting work vs. a bigger paycheck. It is a difficult question to answer because it is different for every employee.

However, there do seem to be some universal motivators for employees. If you and I reviewed the truckloads of data available on employee satisfaction, we would find many commonalities. Most of these motivators are universal. There is little variation between industries, company size, geographic location or level within the organization. When asked, employees consistently value the following:

- Employees want to feel connected to a mission or a purpose. In your question, you used the term “common good.” It sounds like you are connected to your employer’s purpose.
- Employees want to be in a role where 1. they can do their best, 2. the expectations are clear and 3. they will be recognized when they produce good results.
Recognition should be fair, consistent, meaningful and appropriate. What do
I mean by appropriate? A pat on the back is appropriate for a well-crafted
description of a product. A new car is probably overdoing it!
- Employees want to have positive and productive relationships with co-workers. Most of us spend a lot of our waking hours at work. Unproductive and unpleasant work relationships can erode a work environment.
- Employees want to feel included, welcomed and safe. Ask employees for their opinions and suggestions. A “command and control” style of supervising employees is a demotivator for most. Listening, really listening, is a powerful management tool. Really listening says to employees, “I care about what you are saying. You are important. You have a voice here.”

Finally, I am not stating that money is not a factor. Money is a factor. Most of us face financial realities like rent, car payments and utilities. However, it is one part of the job offer puzzle.

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