Independent Thinking Blog

Can Money Buy Workplace Happiness?

I had a professor in graduate school who insisted that money could buy happiness. He was teaching a personnel course, and he was going through a silly exercise of putting plus signs before job “satisfiers” (i.e., good boss, challenging tasks, room to grow) and “dissatisfiers” (i.e., tyrannical boss, boredom, no opportunity for advancement). People were nodding their heads in agreement–except me.

I questioned the assumption that a good salary would make someone happy. Rather, despite a chorus of “I’ll be happy if I’m paid well” from many of my classmates, I insisted that this belonged in the other column in his little chart. (Golden handcuffs anyone?)

Business Week has a great piece on this topic. Author Scott Shane looks at what he calls

“a paradox in the data: On average, the self-employed make less money, work more hours, and experience more work-related stress than the wage employed. Self-employed people have higher job satisfaction, however, than those who work for others.”


The reason? Flexibility and freedom. It’s a short article, and worth reading. The data comes from the Pew Research Center, which looked at differences in how “self-employed” and “not self-employed” ranked their job satisfaction and answered the question “Why Do You Work?”

Today’s (April 6) Sally Forth comic strip is also on point.

Photo by Smile My Day (Flickr).

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