The Relationship between Work and Money in Your Head

The ideas of this post have been rattling around in my head for a very long time, going back into childhood in many respects.  Now they’ve gelled into a post after reading My Encounters with Organized Labor by fellow blogger Dan Albion.


His post reminded me of one of the first money and work influences, a story that my mom told about her father regarding his first days as a clerk at one of the larger employers in Peoria.  He had a strong sense of duty and whisked through his work every day.  His coworkers were cool toward him, until finally it was made clear to him that he was making them look bad.  He needed to learn to pace himself and not produce at such an ambitious rate.  This was against grandpa’s nature, but he understood their sentiment.  What is an appropriate level (or standard) of productivity in relation to the amount that employees are paid per hour?  Your level within the organization will greatly affect your response to that question, most likely.   Also the way that you associate work and money.


Public domain image

Over the long term money cannot be a motivator unless it is somehow tied directly to your output, like piecework.  Quality has to come into play too.  Otherwise that acceptable raise that you might have gotten months ago no longer is part of the consideration for your productivity today.  (And if you haven’t received a raise in some time, well… now money is a de-motivator and engagement can be greatly affected.)


We all develop a mental relationship of money and this affects our work effort to varying degrees depending on our other characteristics.  Some people assign some sort of mental value to everything that they do at work and once that value has met their pay for that hour, they act accordingly.  These people have closely related work and money.  Effort should be rewarded monetarily.


Other people, while appreciating a steady paycheck and expecting to be paid decently based on their skills, have a different set of criteria that they apply to their output.  Like my grandfather, who wanted to be busy and just happened to work at a faster pace.  He valued that his paycheck provided for his family, but also expected other benefits from his working hours.  His relationship between work and money included more variables.


There is no right or wrong, and my thoughts today aren’t going to touch on appropriate pay levels, more on getting you to actively think about your own relationship between money and work – what experiences created it?  Is your work-money standard helping or hurting you?  How aware of your work-money opinions?


Work is part of our lives and money is necessary, these are intertwined needs.  Awareness of our work and money biases helps immensely.


© 2013 Practical Business | Reasonable Expectations, All rights reserved


Filed under Job Search, Personal Growth, Work Life

4 responses to “The Relationship between Work and Money in Your Head

  1. Thanks for the pingback to my blog, You raise an interesting question. I am more like your grandfather (and my father) in that I want to be able to feel good about the job I am doing without worrying about making others look bad. On some level, that has always been a consideration in my decisions about where I have worked.

    • I got that impression in reading your post, that you share that sensibility. I have a very strong work ethic myself and I think that I have previously touched on how my father influenced this ethic here in my blog. As I develop my entrepreneurial muscles, I have to keep myself aware that there is a relationship between work and money. This aspect deserves more attention that a single blog post can give, but I wanted to put it out there to see what others think.

      • It is interesting that you mention the relationship between work and money when working for yourself. I owned a cabinet shop for a brief period in the 80’s. I haven’t written about that experience yet (I’m still trying to parse it into the stories worth telling) but one issue was the fact that I worked too hard for the prices I charged. I don’t mean that the work was too hard, but I spent too much time, which meant that other projects (and my profit) suffered. But, I was reluctant to let something out the door without getting it the way I thought it should be (even though it was often more than the customer expected).

      • Ah, then you will like today’s post… The work to money ratio seems to be just as common a problem for entrepreneurs if all the advice out there is necessary – I just read a great piece about calculating your cost of doing business. This is the root of many small business failures, it would appear. We all need to figure out the correct value of units of our time when working. And the answer will vary greatly.

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