Skip to main content

A guest blog post from Clodagh Beaty

Why do you work? What do you gain from your work? Aside from the obvious (earning money) there are non-financial or emotional benefits we get from working. These emotional benefits or “Emotional Salary” have a direct relationship with our happiness at work – much more so than our financial salary. The higher our Emotional Salary, the happier or more satisfied we are likely to be with our work. Emotional Salary is different for everyone. Two people doing exactly the same job in the same organisation with the same manager for the same pay will value different things, so their Emotional Salary will not be the same. By the same token, Emotional Salary varies with time. As with happiness, if we want to have more of the things that we cherish, we have to take responsibility, take action and do our best to make it happen.

So what exactly is Emotional Salary?

Here are some elements that are likely to make up your Emotional Salary:

  • Having the freedom to manage your working style, projects and time
  • Feeling connected, appreciated and valued at work
  • Exploring developing and expressing original ideas
  • Being able to co-create a fulfilling career path
  • Having fun and authentic social interactions at work
  • Being inspired by people or environments
  • Being able to pursue excellence or mastery in your work
  • Gaining self-awareness and developing as a human being
  • Developing your professional talents, skills and abilities
  • Feeling that you are contributing to a greater purpose

Why should I pay attention to my Emotional Salary?

We’ve talked about negativity bias in a previous blog. We tend to focus more on the negative than the positive, meaning that when we think about our work, we may be more likely to spend more time thinking about what’s not going so well, rather than what is going well. This can lead to us feeling unhappy, disengaged or demotivated.

Another psychological theory, the hedonic treadmill, suggests that over time we become accustomed to, or take for granted, positive things that happen to us which may create the internal perception that we are less happy with the same things. This means that, over time, whilst our work situation may not change, our satisfaction with it may decrease. Having an ongoing awareness of our Emotional Salary will help us to appreciate and value the emotional benefits we get from working and therefore, keep on striving to get more of what we value.

How can I gain awareness of my Emotional Salary?

One simple way is to take a pen and a piece of paper and write down all the emotional benefits that you get from working. If you’re struggling to think of some, look at the elements listed above and think about how they relate to your work. Here are a few more specific examples to give you some ideas:-

  • Travelling to different countries and visiting places I wouldn’t usually visit which helps me learn and grow as a person;
  • Working with people I consider to be friends and having great social connections with people I might not otherwise have met;
  • Helping our clients solve their problems which, in turn, makes their lives easier so I know I’m making a difference to many peoples’ lives;
  • Having a structure during my day that allows me to develop my strengths, talents and skills.

How can I improve my Emotional Salary?

Look at your list – is there any way you can get more of the things you have listed? Look at the list of different elements of Emotional Salary above. Give yourself a score out of 10 for each area. Take your three lowest areas and think of one thing you can do to increase your Emotional Salary in each.

Here are 10 ideas if you get stuck:

  • Set yourself an objective that you would like to work towards in the next six months.
  • Ask your colleagues what they appreciate about you and write down what they say. Look at it any time you want to feel appreciated. You can also do the same for your colleagues.
  • Think about how your role or your department’s role is connected to the purpose of the organisation. How many people’s lives do you positively influence through doing your work?
  • Talk to someone in another department or a client or supplier organisation and think about what you can do differently in your work.
  • Review what the different options are for you to develop your career (not just vertically!)
  • Organise or take part in a fun activity with your colleagues either in or out of the workplace.
  • Identify someone in your organisation or profession who has inspired you and think about how they have inspired you and what difference it has made to you. Tell them!
  • Identify someone in your profession who you consider is excellent. Connect with them and try to find out more about them. You could also ask them to be your mentor.
  • Analyse your interactions at work over a day. At the end of the day think about what you could have done or said differently to be a better human being.
  • Identify a task at work that will stretch you and speak to your manager about how they can support you to do it.

We spend so much of our time working, it’s important that we make the most of the time and opportunities we have at work. Gaining an awareness of our Emotional Salary and that of our colleagues is an essential part of this. Once we have identified what is important, we can take action to get more of what we value, increase our Emotional Salary and make our workplaces a happier place.

This blog was written by Clodagh Beaty, Co-Creator of the Emotional Salary Barometer –



Author Fennande

More posts by Fennande

Leave a Reply