Emotional Salary is the non-financial or emotional gains we obtain from working that motivate us, change our perception of work and lead to personal and professional development.

Top 3 Misconceptions About Emotional Salary

Emotional Salary is a concept that arouses strong interest and the majority of leaders agree that it is important for organisational success. More and more the concept is becoming part of our language and discussions about our work and professional wellbeing. In some circles, it is even related to happiness at work. However, it is a new concept and misconceptions still exist. Sometimes it is still confused with flexible remuneration and benefits or we fail to see the benefit of introducing such a concept in our teams or organisations. These misunderstandings sometimes make it difficult to ensure that it is viewed as a constant part of our working lives.

Emotion management is an important part of life. Emotions are not only influenced by the job we have and the social roles we occupy but they also impact on who we are, how we see ourselves and the way others see us. 

At work, success in many areas has been attributed to emotional intelligence and research also shows that the ability to be emotionally intelligent can impact positively on organisational performance. This is understandably so, as self-awareness is one of the most important components of emotional intelligence. It is also attributed to success because through Emotional Intelligence you clearly know how your feelings impact your performance. If you know what your emotions are and you are in control of them, you can more easily avoid situations in which your emotions control you.

Emotional Intelligence can be defined as “the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection and influence” (Cooper and Sawaf, 1997; xiii; emphasis in original). Having said that, what does Emotional Intelligence have to do with Emotional Salary? Well, both concepts are strongly interrelated. When we become aware of all the non-financial benefits that we get from working (Emotional Salary), and how these benefits influence ourselves and our wellbeing, it allows us to stretch our emotional intelligence in such a way that through it, we have the opportunity to become aware of what we are receiving, change our current perception of work, take ownership and responsibility of our emotions towards our work and take action when necessary. This awareness and acumen of emotions will be a source and opportunity for further personal and professional development. 

woman in woods self-awareness

The ability to adopt a mindset where there is always a possibility to grow is a prerequisite for our time and age. The future of work and work as we know it is changing and will continue to change even more. In order to survive and thrive in this uncertain environment, we all should aspire to keep evolving and growing. The more resources we have to do so, the better, and this is when awareness of your Emotional Salary becomes key. 


Some misconceptions and beliefs that we have faced through our research and our work are the following: 


1 | The belief that your Emotional Salary completely depends on external factors and there is nothing you can do about it. 

We know that not everyone feels content in their work. We all know people and friends who are trapped in a job they hate or have a salary below their financial need. Parents may be forced to work more than they would like, job requirements can be physically and mentally demanding, bosses can behave in unprofessional ways or you may work alongside challenging team members. The damage that such a situation does to a person can be considerable. It’s toxic and can weigh you down. Yes, external factors are of great importance, but also your decisions towards these situations are equally important. Your work situation may be less than desirable, but what are the things that are great? According to our research, ten factors constitute  Emotional Salary, not only one, two or three. Being aware of those elements that you are lacking and which ones you are happy about is the first step to taking action and changing your situation to feel in control. If we start adopting this attitude, our Emotional Salary will belong to us and not external factors: we start being in control of it. What are those elements of your Emotional Salary that are working right now? How can you take those elements into account to make the first step toward a desired future? What would be the first step that only you can take to change?


2 | The belief that your Emotional Salary is set in stone and static. 

Everything you do and say at work, and I literally mean everything, will have an impact on your Emotional Salary and the Emotional Salary of others. Some days it will be high and other days it will be low. It will fluctuate depending on the day, your work demands and how you view and perceive these demands.

Think about it. You spend from 4 to 12 hours a day at work, depending on your position and your work requirements. During that time you go through an enormous amount of feelings, emotions, experiences. You interact with others in various situations and normally you react impulsively to those situations without giving it a thought on how a particular situation affects your feelings or emotions and that of others. We’ve all been in a certain situation that went bad and after honest reflection sometimes we don’t know if we unconsciously created that situation or it was beyond our control. If I am honest with myself, I am sure that most situations that went wrong, I also put my grain of salt so that the situation turned out the way it did. 

So, taking this into account, be aware of how every decision you take will be influencing your Emotional Salary and that of others. Every career move, change in management or country you work in will have an impact on your Emotional Salary. So, by being constantly aware of how your Emotional Salary fluctuates,  you can be more proactive into steering it the way you desire. 

sitting women in happy place at beach


3 | Cynicism with the term Emotional Salary

You may think that Emotional Salary is a nice buzzword and that it is the new “topic” to increase profit or to stop increasing financial salaries. “Employee wellbeing programmes” are now ubiquitous, with workers regularly offered benefits as yoga, gym subscriptions and free or subsidised fruit for breakfast. These programmes are appealing and I am sure that they were created with a good intention. After all, they cost resources that could have been allocated somewhere else. Nevertheless, much writing on the topic also focuses on “workplace performance”, which sends the message that basically employers are only investing in those programs because employees will work more, spend more hours at the office and in turn, make the company more profitable. So, in the end, it gives the feeling that the intention was not that good after all. 

Though some of these arguments may sound true, let’s start on why we are cynical about these programs. Cynicism is a defence mechanism or a posture that we take to protect ourselves from something, whether it’s our own impotence about a certain situation or a repetitive behaviour that we know didn’t work in the first place. This attitude is typically triggered when we feel hurt or angry at something, and in some workplaces, there are way too many situations that make us angry. It can also be that our work experience has made us distrust any of those programs because they were wrongly communicated or implemented. However, instead of dealing with these emotions directly, we allow them to fester and skew our perception of our work. 


The Emotional Salary Barometer was created as a counterforce to:

  1. Deal with those benefits that you get from working (or don’t get) that will help you gain ownership and give you an objective outlook about those benefits that will allow you to be in charge via making an action plan towards creating your future.
  2. Fight against the negativity bias that we normally have as we will always pay more attention to negative experiences. As we are surrounded by negativity in the news, politics and basically everywhere, it becomes a psychological imperative to fight against this custom that has an effect on our health, happiness and overall personal and professional wellbeing.


So how can we fight against this? Firstly, by putting cynicism aside and starting to make an action plan for our Emotional Salary and sticking to it. After all, we will be the primary beneficiaries of doing so. If it doesn’t work on the first try, change the plan until you find a strategy that works for you. Because basically, it is YOUR Emotional Salary, and what is important for you will be different to someone else. And what works for you may not work for somebody else. So, your action plan should be unique to you. It is your work, your future. And if it works for you, why not share it? Maybe someone else can benefit from your experience. 

Let’s start considering Emotional Salary as a highly sophisticated radar system that gives you a meta vision of your work in general. And this vision will allow you to view your work more objectively so that you can take the necessary and correct decisions to pave the way for your future. Remember it is YOUR future, so the more tools you have that help you to gain awareness and to ease the path towards taking that opportunity, the better. Don’t waste it.

If you are interested in discovering what your own Emotional Salary score is currently, you can take the Emotional Salary barometer here.

Redfine YOUR work!

Marisa & Clodagh

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