Just how important is salary level for job satisfaction?
When vetting a potential new job, determining the salary is often of paramount interest to a job seeker. Depending on the economic conditions where they live or plan to live, the candidate usually has figured out that there is a minimum salary level that will suffice. Anything above that is gravy.
Susan Adams, a Forbes columnist, concluded in ‘Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness At Work, New Study Says’ that for each person a certain level of money is critical for meeting expenses, saving, and making a life livable. After that ‘equilibrium’ has been reached, then other job satisfaction factors garner attention and importance.
Her conclusions were based in part on the results of a Glassdoor study that found that ‘higher salaries mean higher satisfaction’ but that there also is a ‘diminishing return to happiness for every $1,000 in earnings’.
My take on job satisfaction is based upon my actual experiences with career-change clients over decades of career coaching. Whenever I conduct career assessments with clients and ask them to prioritize their career values, compensation (salary) is often at the top of their list. Finding a job that meets their economic needs (and key wants) appears to be a critical determining factor in accepting a job and staying in it.
However, when I ask them to complete an assignment outlining the pluses and minuses in their current and past jobs, compensation is not always the make-or-break factor in deciding to leave a job. In fact, it is cited less than 50% of the time as one of the minuses.
As I dig deeper and unearth their top-ranked reasons for leaving, invariably factors including company culture and values, job flexibility, work-life balance, relationships with bosses and colleagues, leadership vision, career advancement, recognition, professional growth, job security, variety, challenging work, and manageable commutes edge out the compensation issue.
So salary as a key element in job satisfaction seems to be not an ‘either-or’ but rather a ‘both-and’ issue.
It is not a question of whether salary or other job satisfaction factors are more important. Instead, a salary level that can reasonably support the basic needs of a ‘good life’ is the minimum entry point for job satisfaction. After that, other tangible and intangible elements take center stage and can become compelling reasons for leaving a job and/or changing careers.
Was salary the main factor in your deciding to leave a job?
Or did something else drive your departure?