6 things employees REALLY think about their pay


“Cash is King.”

“Money walks, the rest talks.”

“Money makes the world go ‘round”

We’ve all heard these sayings hundreds, if not thousands, of times. Money is important, period. Even those not motivated by money need it and recognize its value.

So when it comes to their paychecks, what do employees really think, and what does that mean to you? Read on to find out six things they really think about their pay.

  1. Pay structures are more fluid than you’re letting on.
    Regardless of your pay structure, employees know that pay is a point of negotiation. For example, they know (and for the most part accept) that so and so was given a new job title without new job duties to justify a pay increase, that thus and such is an acquaintance of the boss and doesn’t really earn his big salary, and that this one (who recently joined the company) is making a heck of a lot more than that one (who’s been with the company for years) despite their similar positions, because someone likes this one a whole lot more than she likes that one. In other words, employees understand that pay discrepancies are a fact of life. Be warned, though. This also means a request for a pay increase needs to be met with something more than “Sorry that’s outside the pay grade” to be credible.
  2. Their pay is theirs to do with as they like.
    While this seems an obvious point, it’s still important, because it explains why your employees don’t always participate in your charity drives, United Way campaigns, and book bag giveaways—they don’t like being told by you how to spend their money. So by all means, do what you must to sponsor good community citizenship. Just don’t take it personally when some employees choose to opt out.
  3. More pay should mean more headaches.
    Despite managerial protests to the contrary, employees understand that, generally, the less they’re paid, the lower you regard their function’s worth to your organization. And that’s okay. What’s not okay with employees is expecting more accountability and more responsibility from them than someone with a bigger title and a bigger paycheck. Employees definitely don’t like that and will rebel against that idea at every opportunity. And yet …
  4. Under the right circumstances, working for below-market rates is fine.
    There are all kinds of reasons why someone might agree to accept less than the going rate, such as a desire to gain a new skill, a desire to break into a different field, a desire to cut back on stress or hours, a desire to give back (as in the case of work that aligns with a particular worker passion), or the desire to claim gainful unemployment. In none of these cases should you assume your employee is unaware of the bargain he’s struck, and by no means should you undervalue your employee’s talents and skills. The employee may have agreed to work for less than she’s worth, but she didn’t agree to be treated with less dignity than she deserves.
  5. Pay can’t compensate for a toxic work environment.
    You might not believe this, because loads of people continue to work in harmful environments week after week, month after month, and sometimes even year after year. However, the paycheck may not be the reason why. It’s more likely these individuals become overwhelmed when considering the alternatives, or they’re too mired in inertia to look for another job. Either way, however, your company isn’t getting 100 percent of their effort. Toxic workplaces are draining, and that’s energy that could have been better spent on improving your business. So your employee will take his paycheck, because he’s earned it—just not how you’d hoped.
  6. Over time, pay can feel like an entitlement.
    Over the months and years (and especially if the work environment is troubled) that weekly, biweekly, or monthly paycheck begins to feel like remuneration for coming in every day and less like compensation for performing certain duties well. That’s why it behooves employers to appoint good and talented managers who can encourage employees to stay engaged and productive, because as time passes, money loses its ability to motivate.

Your employees think about money a lot, probably each time a bill comes due. And like it or not, their attitudes about pay will have an impact on your business. All the more reason, then, to make sure you have some idea what those attitudes might be.

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