Workers Are More Happy At Work If Their Colleagues Make Less Than They Do


A recent interesting study has claimed that worker's happiness and job performance is affected by how much their peers make compared to them. It seems that a worker who is compared to others (as in his peers), who make more than he does, will be unhappier.Monehy.jpg

The study was published by Professor Eduardo Perez Asenjor. In his analysis, he also found that if a worker is in a situation where his peers make more than he does, the worker will work more hours. What causes this phenomena?  Most likely it is because of social comparison. Also, it could be because of the idea that if those peers make more than the worker does, the worker will work harder, because he might end up making as much as his peers or even more.


So is this effect a good thing or a bad thing. Is it a good thing that this "unhappiness" motivates those workers to work harder?

"I would find it healthier not to compare what we earn to what others earn and I think it would be 'better' if these things didn't affect our happiness," Professor Asenjor states.

Do you agree with the professor's opinion? Or do you think this motivation behind this "unhappiness" will cause the worker to become happier than he/she ever thought they would ever be? Because they will be motivated to work harder and most likely earning more.

This study analyzes the relationship between happiness and income, but can we trust the data? Could there be confounding variables? What if people in jobs where this study targeted are generally unhappy compared to other jobs? What if age plays a factor? What if the richer the worker is, the more important it is for him/her to compare themselves to others? What if it differs from males to females. Maybe females are indifferent to their peers salary?

What are your thoughts? Put yourself in the data as a worker. Would you be unhappier if your peers make more than you do? Would you start working hard to catch up to them?

Please share your thoughts and observations.



Let us assume that the effects of this study are at least greater than 80 percent true, should firms start taking this into consideration when hiring employees and assigning them to their peers?


I feel like this study is kind of obvious. If you work with people you know are making more money than you, why wouldn't you be unhappy about that? And if you know they are making more than you, why wouldn't you try to change your situation by working harder? I think the "unhappiness" is a good thing in terms of motivation, unless the unhappiness turns into depression or something of that sort. In a perfect world, a person's happiness wouldn't be influenced by money, but there's really nothing we can do about that.

You bring up really great points about other variables or other jobs being generally less satisfying than others. I know I have always heard that postal service workers are more likely to be depressed or more likely to be suicidal.

In regards to the difference between males and females, that could probably have a pretty large influence. Males usually care more about beating the other males, or even females, around them..not to say all females or all males wouldn't/would care. Personality could also be another factor leading towards unhappiness or striving to achieve more in the work place.

This theory makes a lot of sense to me. Just from my experience, we tend to be happier when we are doing better than the other people around us. I wonder if the same idea can apply to grades. Personally, after doing poorly on an exam, I tend to feel better when I know that other classmates performed worse than I did. I wonder if this is some genetic trait that is universally shared by all humans. We want to be better than everyone else so we feel better when we are. Maybe this natural competitive drive actually does affect our self esteem.

This blog is very interesting and actually raised a few questions about myself and my attitude in the workplace. Throughout the summer, I work in a restaurant as a food runner and a bar back. The waiters and the bar tenders make a lot more money than I do, so every day I continue to work my hardest to move my way up to become one of those jobs. Some would say this is pretty obvious, but some times people go into the workplace only because they have to make ends-meat. Also, I do not think that the gender matters hen it comes to motivation around their co-workers. Male or female, everyone wants to make as much money as they possibly can so they can have better and happier lives. I do not think it matters where these people work either. If they work in a bad job, working their way up or training will eventually lead them to better-paying jobs. To conclude, I would say that competition naturally leads individuals to do the best they can. Obviously, if someone you work with makes more money than you and you feel like you can do that job too, you should feel obliged to work harder.

"Also, I do not think that the gender matters hen it comes to motivation around their co-workers." Michael, a respond to that portion of your comment: The reason I mentioned that possibility of gender affecting the competition is because generally women tend to be less competitive than men. There is a lot of evidence that point out to men being more dominant/competitive. For example, there was an experiment done between men and women, the task was to answer as many problems as possible and both genders got paid certain amount for each problem solved correctly. In the next round, the subjects (men and women) were told that they would be competing in a tournament and would be paid a higher amount for each problem they answered. The experiment found that women were 38% less likely than men to choose to compete. EVEN THOUGH, MEN AND WOMEN WERE EQUALLY GOOD AT THE TASK!
Source of the experiment: here

There is a lot of other data, observations, and experiments done that show that women are less competitive. You could research it if you'd like.

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