Exploring the term Emotional Salary

The term Emotional Salary is relatively new and has gradually started to become part of our language. When we talk about Emotional Salary at events,  training sessions, presentations or even in private conversations, we always find a strong interest from the public. People always want to know more about it, the elements that constitute it and the benefits of taking Emotional Salary into account,  generally in a positive way. However, some people have a more negative view of the term. Both reactions are normal, since work affects us all. We spend a lot of our lives working and when we are working we experience a range of and positive and negative feelings.

We began to research the term Emotional Salary after asking ourselves the following question: Why do we work? If we take the financial factor out of the equation, what are we left with? If we spend so much time at work and it has such a significant impact on our lives, isn’t there something else we get from work apart from the financial side? And when we talk about removing the “financial factor” we are referring to the entire financial aspect, including any flexible remuneration (restaurant vouchers, insurance, pension etc.) that is part of the whole compensation. These flexible compensation packages are hugely valuable to employees and in no way do we want to downplay them. Our intention in introducing the term Emotional Salary is to look at work from a purely emotional standpoint. When people think about their work we want them to take into consideration all the other possible gains that no one talks about, or takes into account because, due to their subjective nature,  nobody had dared to measure .

We think differently. We are of the opinion that we live in a wonderful time, which allows us to recognise the individual, unique and subjective aspect of Emotional Salary. Thanks to the digital era in which we operate, we can analyse data and identify patterns that indicate trends, problems, areas to improve and areas to celebrate. This is why Emotional Salary is already becoming more tangible and something that provides us with solutions to the objectives of our business strategies. We thus have a double-entry benefit. The employee grows and takes responsibility for their Emotional Salary and their future, and the organisation also grows, taking into account the Emotional Salary of the people who work for them.

Only “good to have” but not essential?

Many companies and leaders have gone so far as to say that measuring or knowing the Emotional Salary of their employees is an aspect that is “good to have” but in no way essential. These kinds of arguments are especially misguided because they ignore the following important dimensions:

– The possibility of seeing work as a platform for personal and professional growth;

– The emotional impact that the complex employer/employee relationship has on a person;

– The impact on health that work has as a result of the emotions we experience at work (such as lack of sleep, stress, muscle aches, back pain, etc.);

– That the employee needs or expects more than the purely financial aspect;

– The great advantages for the business that can be obtained if these aspects are taken into account.

These types of arguments also reflect the values ​​of a generation. Many of the people who are now in leadership positions are between 45 and 60 years old. Many of them grew up with the “success” values ​​of the 1980s-1990s, that is, the need to have profits at any cost year after year, in many cases cancelling or completely ignoring the cost or emotional impact that work has on people. With this philosophy we find a generation of leaders where, for many of them, it is normal to ignore the emotional impact that decisions such as mergers, leadership changes, forms of leadership, structures, etc. can have on individuals or teams.

Is a Low Emotional Salary Equal to an Emotional Tax?

The relationship we have with work is a complex relationship. It is a relationship where there are a number of emotions throughout the day, it has its ups and downs. The word salary refers to a remuneration that we receive when working. This remuneration has only been referred to so far in relation to the financial part, but the question is why not see, consider, weigh, measure and also value the emotional aspect? What is that emotional salary that we are receiving? Or, to look at it from another perspective, what is the emotional salary that we are not receiving and, therefore, are we paying an emotional tax for working?

Where do we go from here? 


Generally when we talk about the term Emotional Salary we mean to analyse and understand the benefits that we perceive we get  from working. It may be thought that in doing so we are being compulsively optimistic, that we are putting on rose-tinted spectacles and ignoring the reality of many people at work. But this is simply not the case. When we analyse Emotional Salary, we explore the following:

a) The factors that make up Emotional Salary;

b) To what extent we perceive that we have those factors in our work;

c) The opportunities that exist and are offered from work, that possibly we are not taking advantage of;

d) Those aspects that I am not receiving, that are important to me and that are affecting me emotionally and physically.

The understanding of all these factors, opportunities and aspects is what constitutes Emotional Salary. When we do this analysis, our perception of our work changes. we realise what we have, but we also realise what we don’t have and how that is affecting us physically and emotionally. Only when we carry out this analysis and this assessment of the positive and negative aspects do we realize that our work is our responsibility. We are the ones who will ultimately make the decisions we consider appropriate for us, for our professional future and for our general wellbeing.

As one person told us after taking the Barometer, “I was not aware that you could perceive this at work.” What is not visible cannot be changed. This is absolutely crucial when we talk about measuring Emotional Salary. You have to be aware of all the factors that can comprise your Emotional Salary and look for opportunities to find them. Because ultimately, the only person who knows what you want to get (or not get) emotionally from work is yourself. You are the only person who can and should weigh-up what you receive financially and emotionally from your work and decide if you are satisfied with what you are receiving or, if you want to to change it. This is going to be especially important when we talk about the future of work, particularly  when we see what has happened after the pandemic. The economic instability that is likely to continue means that organisations are going to be less and less able to offer their employees a secure career platform . Career and future decisions are in our hands. Emotional Salary is an essential aspect to take into account in the future, both for individuals and within organisations.

Some Final questions for you

When you reflect on your Emotional Salary, do you consider that it is high or low? What are the consequences of this and what can you do about it?

When you reflect on the Emotional Salary of your Team or Organisation, do you consider that it is high or low? What are the consequences of this and what can you do about it?

If you would like to find out more about your Emotional Salary or Emotional Salary in your team or organisation, you might be interested in the Emotional Salary Barometer. The ESB is a unique tool that measures an individual’s emotional salary and provides an overall score for emotional salary together with a score for each of the 10 factors and a detailed personalised report and action plan. You can take the Barometer here

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