Does Money Motivate You?

Lazy Tech (LT) still talks to people who work at our previous employer, so he is always mentioning things he hears from them or Facebook statuses that are related to how crazy things are there. Well, today he told me that everyone there got cash bonuses–which that employer never used to give out–and that the guy who now fills his old shift got a raise, as well.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this here, but I told LT about how they gave me a raise after three months and he got pissed. I told him this right when our current employer was trying to interview me for the job I have now. LT worked at our old employer for two years, never got a raise, and at best made what I started out making and at worst made less the whole time he worked there. I have a feeling, though, that they started me out higher than they normally do with new people because LT told me what his replacement used to make and what his raise was. So LT probably made less than I did, and so did his replacement. LT never deserved a raise because he was, after all, lazy. And he was not a good worker at our old employer at all. But I was told that I’d receive raises as long as I worked there.

We figure that our old employer is doing these things as a way to stop the bleeding, because they seem to have a lot of turnover. Two people left while I worked there, and I worked there for about 7 months. And then I left.

LT seems to be someone who is motivated by money, and his decision to leave our old employer seemed to be motivated in large part by feeling he should be making more money. He had issues with the job otherwise, but he probably would have dealt with them if he made more money there. As far as I can tell, he didn’t make anywhere near enough money to deal with the crap that we dealt with there. But we make a lot more at this new place, and he seems pretty happy. He talks about money almost daily, and he says things that suggest the money should trump any crap at this new place. For example, there was a day last week, and I don’t know if we were just talking about our old job or if something happened at this new place. LT asks me at least once or twice a week if I miss our old employer, and that always prompts me to say something I am not fond of about our new employer. So that might have been what happened on this particular day. And then our paychecks came, and he picked them up. He handed me mine and said, “This ought to make things better” or something along those lines.

It had zero effect on me.

I’m not going to say I don’t care about money. One of the things I came to dislike about living in Chicago when I was there last year was I didn’t have the money to buy things when I felt the urge to buy them. I have always been able to just buy things when the impulse strikes, and I’m not happy when I can’t do that. This, ironically, means I feel that I have more freedom when I live with my parents. For example, because I pocket the money I make except for what I pay in student loans, if I want to spend $1000 to go to another city and watch a football game, stay in a hotel, buy some stuff…the only thing that will get in the way is my work schedule. It’s not going to be money.

Still, money does not make me want to work, it doesn’t make me like my job and it doesn’t make things I dislike about my job better (as mentioned in my last post, I think it might make me tolerate–at least temporarily–some things I dislike a little better, but I’m not sure). Money is also not going to make me run out and get a second job just because I can make more money by working two jobs, and it’s not going to make me be okay with or want to work overtime or crazy hours. There are people in this world who are like this, though, and I don’t understand them. I’m not saying they’re wrong–I wish I were like them. I would probably like my life better if I were, because most people do have to spend the majority of their time at work and it appears that I’m one of them.

At the same time, people who are motivated by money seem to think everyone else is, as well. LT clearly operates with that assumption. And when I did a little research to try to get a better understanding of why some people are so into money, I saw comments from those people who basically call B.S. when people say they’re not motivated by money or money doesn’t bring happiness. So they don’t understand people who aren’t motivated by money.

So, I’m still trying to figure this out.

I told my parents that I’m not motivated by money, and they kind of…reacted negatively, for lack of a better way to describe it. But I don’t think they were motivated by money when they worked. I think my mother was motivated by having kids to take care of, which is at least slightly different than being motivated by money. In that case, money is a means to an end–it’s not the actual motivation. By the way, she’s a huge hypocrite in tons of ways, but the job thing is the most annoying one right now. She gets pissed and/or lectures me if I talk about not liking my job, but she talked about not liking her job for at least 20 years and seemingly took off work every other day. I promise, she was always at home in my teenage years and my 20s.

I think my father is one of those people who needs to be busy all the time, and he uses work for that. My mother also says he likes his job, which I can’t fathom just in general but also can’t fathom for him since he “teaches.” And I say “teaches” because…well, I “joke” with him, and the joke is that he gets paid to talk for two hours a day to a bunch of people who aren’t listening.

But there might be something else with my father. I don’t know about LT’s background growing up. But I listen to a lot of sports radio, and there’s this one guy who is my favorite. He is another one whom you can tell is really into money. I read something about him online a couple of months ago, though, that discussed how he grew up poor and, essentially, vowed that he would work as hard as he had to or do whatever to keep from being poor as an adult. The article discussed how he had a lot of irons in the fire at a young age and, basically, was just really ambitious and worked his way up. Now he’s an elitist snob. My father also grew up poor and did stuff like play football, basketball and still work a job while he was in high school. That led to a basketball scholarship to college, and he was the first person in his family to graduate from college.

I didn’t grow up poor. I also didn’t grow up being taught that working hard was some sort of value and that something is wrong with people who don’t work hard, or that people don’t have anything or don’t get anywhere in life because they don’t work hard. To me, working hard has very little to do with being successful or gaining wealth. Frankly, I think you’re best off if you know the right people, have the right personality (i.e. the right people like you and end up wanting to help you), have the right body parts (if you know what I mean), have the right look (on several levels)…at least have one of these things going for you. But I think talking about “hard work” is almost like code. In other words, what are people really teaching their kids when they teach them the value of hard work? Are they really teaching them to work hard for hard-work’s sake or to build character? I think teaching “hard work” or valuing hard work is another way of valuing having or getting money. Nobody is going to work hard for a lengthy period of time if money is not at the end of the rainbow.

I was not taught this, was not taught about valuing “hard work.” I just grew up with a lot of security and still have a lot of it. I don’t fear being poor because I can’t imagine that I’ll ever be poor. I’ve never really had motivation to make sure I’m not poor. The closest I’ve been is living in Chicago, not being able to buy what I want when I want it, and that was very short-lived. Even then, it was like, “Hey, I can go home to my parents who have money, get a job there, pay student loans and pocket the rest of the cash.” And that’s what I did and do. So, why would money motivate someone like me?

I’m also female, and I think that matters. Everyone I know of for whom money cures all–in the job sense, not necessarily the gold-digger sense–is male. They’re the ones who will work outrageous amounts of hours and not complain, will work two jobs to make more money despite not necessarily needing the money (if you’re working two jobs to support a family, that’s something totally different), who look at a paycheck in their hands and say, “Oh, this makes all the crap all better.” I think this is for a number of reasons. For one thing, guys have that “breadwinner” mentality, even when they’re single. They think they need to make a lot of money to attract women, but I believe guys also think they’re expected to make as much money as they can. Women don’t really have these issues. We tend to have more security in the world one way or the other, although a lot of women are now head of household and have to bring in the money. My oldest sister works all the time and only makes more money than I do because she works overtime all the time–I actually make a higher salary, and you wouldn’t catch me dead in the office past my regular shift. She works OT because she has three kids, bills, rent, car notes and a husband who refuses to work.

So, my last employer assumed that they could keep me by paying me more and giving me raises, and they still seem to operate with the mindset that giving employees more money should keep them. Obviously, that’s not true for everyone. So how could they have kept me? They couldn’t have.

In my opinion, the answer for employers who want to retain employees is to find out what motivates them before even hiring them. That should be a job interview question–“What motivates you? If it’s money, that’s perfectly fine for you to say. I just want to get a better sense of what keeps you happy in a position.” My previous employer could have not even wasted their time hiring me if they had asked this question if they received an honest answer from me, and they could have kept LT and probably even gotten better productivity from him. See, all LT wanted was money. What I hated about that job was “trial by fire” training as opposed to a step-by-step “this is how you do absolutely everything”-type deal and dealing with jackass clients.

My situation would be tricky for an employer because it’d require honesty and self-knowledge, and a lot of people will take a position just because they need a job even if not everything about the position sounds good to them. But employers still need to paint as complete a picture of the job as they can to prospective employees and then try to find out if the employee fits that, as well as what matters most to the employee in terms of job satisfaction instead of assuming it’s money or just having any job in a rough economy. Not getting a complete picture of the job is a biggie, as well as the fact that employers never consider motivation when hiring–both lead to unhappy employees and turnover. If the prospective’s motivation is something the employer can’t handle, then the employer knows not to hire that person. If I had said, “I don’t want to deal with difficult people”–and I did basically say that to my new employer during the interview and currently hardly deal with difficult people–then I could have been mercifully spared. I probably now under most circumstances would not take a job that, training-wise, doesn’t provide enough hand holding vs putting me in stressful situations right off the bat and making me look stupid, and that would be something that an employer would need to see if they could satisfy me on before hiring me.

My former co-worker who I hated, FTG…you can tell, for example, that money isn’t her motivation so much as having a secure job with flexibility. She knows she’s not going to lose her job, and she can take off work pretty much any time she wants. She leaves early whenever she needs to, and she has no problem making whatever arrangements she makes for her kid. Making a lot of money is not much good to her if she can’t get off work early enough to pick up her child or take off with no problem when her kid is sick.

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