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Commentary

The price of happiness in the workplace

Teresa Amabile Mar 9, 2012

A lot of research over the past few years shows that more money won’t necessarily make you happier, and being happy at work can be more imporant than you think. No question, it’s hard to find much joy at work if you’re distracted by financial worries. But raises that push pay levels to $70,000 and beyond, don’t yield greater happiness. Why? Well, it turns out that most good events in life give us just a few hours or days of elation before we settle back to our baseline everyday selves.

Don’t believe me?

Studies show that people may be drawn to a job by higher pay, but they often quit because they’re unhappy with the work environment. There’s only a weak link between pay and job satisfaction. In fact, the top half of wage-earners are no more satisfied than the bottom half. My research found that professionals reflecting on their work days almost never talked about pay, bonuses or raises. But they had plenty to say about things that affected their happiness. Relationships with colleagues, support from managers and progress in work they cared about.

But if you still think extra money is worth some suffering, consider the consequences. Your happiness at work affects your productivity and creativity. When you’re happier, you’re less likely to get sick. And I’m talking about everything from getting a cold to having a stroke. And at the end of the day, how happy you are at work carries over to how happy you are at home and in the rest of your life.

So that raise surely would be nice, but if you think it will turn your work life rosy, think again.

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