Why are people almost never satisfied with their pay?

We’ve all been there – working hard all month long only to glance at our pay cheques and wonder what it was all for. It seems that no matter how much of a pay increase we receive, we still feel like we are not adequately compensated at work. Does this sound familiar to you?

If so, you are certainly not alone. This is a psychological phenomenon that has stretched across space and time – people all over the world report feeling unsatisfied with their pay.

Does higher pay lead to higher life satisfaction? No!

A recent study followed more than 18,000 individuals across a nine-year period in both Germany and the UK. The researchers asked the participants about their income level and how satisfied they were with their lives. The study concluded that those who had higher salaries were not any more likely to report high life satisfaction than those who made far less than them.

So, clearly we can see that even when our employees do receive more money, they may not feel a big boost in their overall happiness. This may cause them to look down at their pay packet the next time and think that maybe the actual solution is just another zero added to their salary. This then becomes a never ending cycle, and no one is ever satisfied with their pay.

How can you fix this problem?

To be honest, this is a problem that stretches across so many different people and industries – there does not seem to be a simple fix.

That said, you need to assess whether your employees are just feeling the same financial stresses we all feel, or if they have a valid complaint.

Your employees might feel that they:

  • Are not paid as much as their colleagues who do the same job.
  • That they do more than what is listed in their job requirements.
  • Are not permitted to take their lunch breaks.
  • Are working more hours than they are being paid for.
  • Are being discriminated against for their gender, race or religion.

If any of these issues are at play, you need to address them immediately. Ask an impartial third party to assess the problem, and find out if you are in fact the one to blame. If any of the above points turn out to be true, you need to address this financially and potentially pay your employees back wages.

Another good strategy is to issue pay rises that are in line with your industry and that follow any and all applicable labour laws. While we all might feel underpaid, ensure that you are not actually underpaying your staff!

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