When employees ‘act their wage’ at the workplace, it means their behaviour and performance are aligned with the compensation they receive. In other words, the employees are only putting in the necessary effort required to produce results commensurate with the level of pay they receive. This kind of attitude/ mindset, where employees perform in accordance with their compensation, is quite prevalent in today’s workplace. What’s more, it is often explicitly communicated to employees through performance evaluations, job descriptions and compensation structures. It’s also unconsciously promoted through societal and cultural norms.
Why do employees ‘act’ their wage?
“Companies may also have compensation structures tied to job titles and responsibilities, with employees taking on more responsibility or possessing specialised skills often getting compensated at a higher rate.”
Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, advanced materials business, Aditya Birla Group
Many companies expect their employees to perform in accordance with their wage. That is, they expect employees to put in the necessary effort and produce results that are aligned with the level of pay they receive.
Employers often use performance evaluations to measure the performance of employees against the expectations of their job description and salary range. These evaluations can be used to determine the kind of promotions, raises and bonuses they receive.
According to Ravi Mishra, SVP-HR, advanced materials business, Aditya Birla Group, the practice of ‘acting’ one’s wage is rampant in the workplaces of today, with companies often considering a variety of factors while determining appropriate compensation for their employees.
“These factors may include market rates for similar positions, the employee’s performance and contribution to the company, and the employee’s skills, experience and job responsibilities,” enunciates Mishra. “Companies may also have compensation structures tied to job titles and responsibilities, with employees taking on more responsibility or possessing specialised skills often getting compensated at a higher rate.”
Societal and cultural norms can also unconsciously instil the idea that employees should perform work in accordance with their compensation. Many people grow up with the idea that hard work should be rewarded and that success is directly tied to effort. Such ideas lead people to believe that if they work hard enough, they will be rewarded with higher compensation and promotions.
What can employers do?
Help employees grow & develop: Mishra explains how important it is to recognise that different types of employees may have different priorities when it comes to compensation. Companies should strive to create a culture that encourages growth and development while also fairly compensating employees for their contributions.
“Employees seek a holistic approach from the job/organisation, which includes personal growth, wellbeing, health and overall balance (flexi hours, hybrid work model, time-off and so on).”
Mahipal Nair, VP – HR, APAC & MD, Trellix
Ensure job satisfaction
Mahipal Nair, VP – HR, APAC & MD, Trellix, believes that wages are definitely an important factor when individuals consider prospective job opportunities. However, he also points out, “Monetary compensation is not a key factor determining people’s attitude towards work. As people grow within organisations, there is an increasing focus on the level of job satisfaction they derive from the work they do.”
Nair further adds, “Employees seek a holistic approach from the job/organisation, which includes personal growth, wellbeing, health and overall balance (flexi hours, hybrid work model, time-off and so on).”
At Trellix, they have seen a similar trend, and therefore, one of their top priorities is to bring purpose and soulfulness into their work.
“Each one of us has distinct meanings for ‘acting your wage’. Each of our distinctions can have a profoundly positive impact on business performance and how we spend our working days, and, at the highest level, contribute towards a better world.” opines Nair.
Disadvantages of acting one’s wage
Underestimation of worth
When employees try to ‘act’ their wage, it can become problematic in the absence of a balanced and realistic approach. While it’s important to live within our means and not overspend, it’s equally important to avoid underestimating our worth and value as employees or individuals.
Culture of mediocrity
If employees are constantly told to perform work in accordance with their compensation, it can create a culture of mediocrity and discourage employees from striving for excellence. Employees may feel that they are not being fairly compensated for the work they do, leading to dissatisfaction and low morale.
Lack of diversity
The ‘acting your wage’ mindset can lead to a lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. If employees are only rewarded for performing work in accordance with their compensation, it can create a bias against employees who may come from different backgrounds or have different levels of experience.
It’s important to balance the ‘acting your wage’ mindset with a culture of growth and development. Employees should be encouraged to strive for excellence and be given opportunities to learn and grow in their roles, even if it means taking on additional responsibilities beyond their current compensation level.
Indeed, it’s important for employees to work hard and produce results, but it’s equally important for companies to create a culture that supports work-life balance and realistic expectations. By doing so, employers can create a more productive and healthy work environment that benefits both parties — the employers as well as employees.
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