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Are you paying attention to your emotional salary?

Colourful umbrellas hanging across a street

Earlier this year (in March 2022), after much flapping and faffing, I packed for a weekend away to attend my friend’s long awaited wedding. I only forgot cotton buds which I thought wasn’t bad considering how little I have been away these past couple of years due to Covid and lockdowns. 

I was very concerned that I wouldn’t have access to enough food (I put it down to slight hysteria induced by lockdowns) and spent so much time trying to choose some snacks in a Tesco Express that I thought the security guard might think I was trying to decide what to pinch. However, I got out, unscathed with paid for food: a very large Spanish tortilla, olives, and mozzarella balls with sun dried tomatoes. I know, not much in the way of vegetables or fruit but I did resist buying Lindt chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs.

For once the English weather didn’t disappoint and the sun shone all weekend which made the different legs of the journey almost relaxing. On the way to the hotel I sat next to another friend on the coach (that had been very kindly provided for guests) and she began telling me about her new job, mentioning the importance of the emotional salary she is receiving.

Emotional salary is about the emotional gains work offers. 

I hadn’t heard this term before, although a quick Google search shows it has been around at least a few years (I’m always behind the times when it comes to labels, music, the latest novels to read. I catch up eventually though). Anyhow, label or not, I knew what she was talking about and it got me thinking about an exercise I like to do with clients to discover more about what motivates them when they work, besides money.

This is not limited to paid work, it can be an exercise that illuminates some of the elements you need as part of your emotional salary when undertaking a passion project, a new initiative, volunteering, getting curious and trying something new (you know how I encourage following your curiosity…), setting up your own business – anything that constitutes you contributing to the world through what you do.

Understanding your true motivators helps you quickly identify if a new opportunity is really going to fit what you want, so you don’t have to compromise.

This is a fun, slightly quirky approach which I think helps your brain access your motivation information differently. Let’s see what you observe as you undertake it*.

  • You will need approximately 15 mins.
  • You have £20 to spend on yourself (or $20/€20 – pick your currency!).
  • Spend it on the items listed below that really motivate you in your work (remember, this is not just about paid work).
  • You might spend £20 on one item, or spread your money across multiple items.
  • The smallest amount you can spend is £1.

Motivator items

Status – my work is recognised in my job title/pay level/car/responsibilities.

Recognition – I am recognised for my skills and contribution.

Feedback – I know when I am doing a good job.

Skills balance – my opportunities and skills are well matched.

Challenge – I like to take on new projects and problems.

Leadership – I enjoy opportunities to lead others.

Personal development – I have continuing opportunities to learn and stretch myself.

Variety – my work is varied and interesting.

Responsibility – I am responsible for important things/people/projects.

Intellectual challenge – I like to be stretched and to improve my expertise.

Independence/freedom – I have some control over how I spend my time at work and where I go.

Fun – I like lively, companionable groups that enjoy working together.

Team membership – I enjoy being part of an active, supportive team.

Making a difference/contributing – I can see what my contribution adds to the whole process.

Helping others – my work contributes to others, or to society as a whole.

Meaning and fulfilment – I find my work meaningful and fulfilling.

Security – knowing what I will be doing and earning in a year’s time matters to me.

Fringe benefits – the job has interesting perks.

Now it’s time to employ your keen skill of observation:

  • What surprised you?
  • What did you already know?
  • How have your motivators changed over time?
  • How well are the motivators you have identified being met in your current work, passion project etc?
  • What would you like to change?
  • What can you change?

Feel free to revise how you have spent your £20 once you have answered these questions. When you are comfortable with your list of motivators pick out the 5 most important ones. 

Use these motivators as a checklist for your emotional salary as you explore new opportunities.

You can thank me later.

*Exercise originally published in ‘How To Get A Job You Love’, by John Lees (McGraw-Hill).  Used with permission.

Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash.