Does 25% hike in pay give 25% more happiness too?

Seeking increments does not really fulfil an employee’s need for true happiness


Is their a relationship between a pay hike and the happiness index? The common notion is that there is. People feel that happiness is a mental state that comes from satisfaction of material and physical needs. Most people leave a company and join a new organisation due to compensation gains, or rather, quick gains. Those looking for quick double gains, leave the organisation right after the annual increase and negotiate further with the new employers.

As a human resource (HR) leader and having interviewed hundreds of middle- and senior-level job aspirants, I have found that people are more interested in the pay raise offered at a new job. Very few seek challenges or better job prospects. Only a rare handful discusses the details of the job role and expectations from the management. Hardly anyone tries to find out whether room will be given to perform and whether there is scope for personal development.

A survey reveals that the majority of employees are not connected with the organisation and do not give their 100 per cent. The reasons for this disengagement can be many — poor working culture and lack of happiness quotient, which hamper productivity. An organisation, which cares about the happiness of its employees, in general, witnesses higher productivity and a happy mood among the employees. Companies that follow the rule of single man, double work and triple salary make employees insecure. In such companies, employees remain disconnected with the organisation and do not work with the passion required to bring their performance at par with their potential.

Why happiness matters the most

An unhappy employee is more dangerous than a weak performer. This is because, even while working, unhappy employees’ efforts go against the interest of the company. They will do merely what is told and not what is expected. They may influence the other employees and spread negativity. Even if such unhappy employees are given a 20 per cent increment, they will take it for granted and consider it merely a part of the employment norms.

True happiness is not limited to employees’ monetary benefits but extends to the emotional connection with the organisation. Therefore, efforts should be more focused on increasing the employees’ happiness than monetary benefits. Pay gains are always temporary and provide satisfaction to the employees for a short duration. Happiness, on the other hand, is long lasting and always refuelled by the consistent happy culture.

Being a temporary phenomenon, salary hikes decrease productivity and morale. However, passion for work increases productivity, as the zeal for performance increases output with consistent efforts. Happy people willing to work passionately to achieve laurels and recognition, create positivity in their own lives as well as others’. Their happy minds tend to infect those around them too, spreading positive vibes.

How is happiness measured?

Happiness for people comes with the authority to operate in their zones. It comes with a freedom to be decision makers and decide the pace of work with the desired outcomes. Employees who are expected to perform within the boundaries of autonomy, often fail to sustain productivity and find other ways, beyond their own work, to keep themselves motivated. Human beings do not wish to be controlled directly or remotely. They wish to perform at their own pace to deliver up to their expectations. If people perform as per their expectations, they are usually happy. On the other hand, if they merely perform as instructed or told, they end up as disgruntled employees because their autonomy is questioned and controlled. Constant interventions hamper the freedom of operation, which leads to low productivity curves.

Pleasure is temporary but happiness is long lasting

Getting an increment offers temporary satisfaction, which satisfies a person’s physical needs. With more money, people may travel in first class, go to the movies frequently, holiday in exotic destinations, buy branded clothing, and so on. These activities give temporary pleasure in life and do not provide happiness for a longer period of time. As and when temporary needs are satisfied, new needs germinate.

While a destination can provide temporary pleasure, the journey to the destination provides long-lasting happiness. Those who enjoy the journey to the destination are the ones with truly happy minds. Promotions and pay raises are often considered as sources of happiness in life, but this is a misconception. Pay hikes and promotions give temporary happiness, but attaining expertise and mastering the skills for the work one is performing is the journey, which gives permanent happiness. The journey of attaining experience along with knowledge gain provides the true pleasure of attaining happiness. It is common for many people to negotiate their designation and authority while taking up a new job. Only a rare few negotiate the role, which will be the actual source of happiness for them, and will help them achieve and live the position.

Work for happiness rather than pay

Money can give one the pleasure of buying material things to fulfil one’s short-term needs but cannot give long-lasting happiness. Seeking a pay hike becomes an addiction from the start of one’s professional life. One is always asking for more. On completion of a year in the job, people start crying for an increment. Why? Because the work has probably made them miserable, and they wrongly feel that more money can rid them of that misery. Demanding more money soon becomes their nature, because they are under the misconception that an increment will make them happy. Little do they realise that in constantly seeking this route to temporary satiation, they are only continuing to be miserable and compromising on being truly happy in life.

There are billions of people on this planet, and the meaning of true happiness differs for each person and so do the ways of attaining that happiness. We wrongly assume that everyone experiences happiness from a pay raise and a decent salary package. Only some people in pursuit of true contentment seek out happiness at work.

The souls of human minds seek happiness only when they fail in their pursuit of job satisfaction. When they resign due to disengagement and dissatisfaction at work, and then re-negotiate their salary to remain on the same job, they are not even remotely close to putting an end to their misery. What is true happiness and contentment? Sit back and give it a thought.

The author Sanjay Srivastava is the vice president-corporate HR (CHRO), Modern Insulators, Mumbai

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