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The Surprising Reason Workers Settle for Boring Jobs

What would it take for you to stick with a job that you found mind-numbingly dull? If you're like most of us, you probably answered, "Stacks and stacks of cash." But recent research suggests that money isn't the major reason workers stay with jobs that bore them -- or at least, it isn't important in exactly the way you'd think.

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(Photo Credit: stuartpilbrow/Flickr)

A team of researchers at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business looked at the decisions workers make when they choose jobs. What they found was that it wasn't that workers would do boring work for more pay, but rather that workers who were focused on pay would avoid interesting, challenging work if they felt the salary was too low for the effort.

In other words, given gigs with equal salaries, one interesting, and one dull, pay-focused workers would pick the dull one, perceiving that the money was appropriate for the level of commitment involved. The unfortunate thing, of course, is that choosing work in this way almost guarantees job dissatisfaction.

"Ask someone which of two jobs they like better, and they will often pick the more interesting job, even if it requires more mental or physical effort," says assistant professor David Comerford, a member of the team. "But ask them how much the two jobs should pay, and now that their mind is focused on wages, they often conclude that all that extra effort ought to be rewarded, otherwise they will take the boring job."

The study, entitled "Effort Aversion: Job Choice and Compensation Decisions Overweight Effort," appeared in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

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