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.

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How to be a better leader by focusing on Emotional Salary

In this blog we’re going to explore how focusing on Emotional Salary can make you a better leader. We’ll look at what Emotional Salary is and share some free resources to help you understand more about the concept. We’ll give you some great ideas for you to understand more about your own Emotional Salary and how it might be impacting your leadership and your team. Finally, we’ll take you through some practical things you can do right away to start increasing Emotional Salary in your team.

What is Emotional Salary?

Our Emotional Salary is the emotional or non-financial gains we get from our work and work environment. Whilst they are not emotions per se, they do provoke an emotional response or feeling in us. These emotions or feelings will have an impact on our behaviour and performance at work. For example, if I consider that my work is appreciated and valued by others, then I am more likely to be motivated and engaged and my performance and behaviour will reflect this. This emotional benefit that I get from the knowledge that my work is worthwhile is likely to affect my attitude towards my work significantly and change the perception that I have about myself and my relationship to my work.

In our research we have identified 10 different factors that constitute Emotional Salary – Autonomy, Belonging, Creativity, Direction, Enjoyment, Inspiration, Mastery, Personal Growth, Professional Growth and Purpose. The manifestation of these factors in our day-to-day work will have a fundamental impact on our relationship with our work. Some things that are important to consider when talking about Emotional Salary:

  • Our Emotional Salary is subjective, so the role each of these 10 factors plays depends on how important they are to us as individuals. This is why a personal awareness of how these 10 factors play in our work is crucial.
  • Our Emotional Salary is also fluid and changes over time depending on what is happening in our lives and in our work. Changes like a colleague leaving, a new system or process, or a change in manager can have a substantial impact on our Emotional Salary. So a regular revision of our Emotional Salary through time is also important to consider.
  • If only one of the 10 factors of Emotional Salary is being negatively affected, this can change the way we feel about our work. One factor can permeate our overall feeling that we have towards our work. If we perceive that we are lacking opportunities in several of these factors, then our work life can feel miserable, our performance is likely to suffer, and we can start to disengage from our work.

The good news is that by developing an awareness of Emotional Salary, we can identify what we need to do to improve motivation and engagement.

Why focusing on Emotional Salary makes you a better leader

Focusing on Emotional Salary is beneficial for you as a leader both from the personal perspective of your own fulfilment, professional growth and career development, and from the perspective of enhancing the Emotional Salary of your team.

To be an effective leader and develop your leadership career, self-awareness is vital. As well as knowing what knowledge, skills and abilities you need to improve, you also need a clear idea of what you want from your future career and a plan to help you attain that. An awareness of your own Emotional Salary will assist you in identifying what elements to focus on in building a fulfilling career. For example, if you discover that you struggle to see possibilities and opportunities when it comes to your work then you can brainstorm what you can do to increase your inspiration at work and become aware of the multiple perspectives, possibilities and opportunities available to you.

Once you can identify the emotional benefits you are getting from your work and you start to appreciate these, it will increase your motivation and performance, improving your leadership and offering more opportunities for your own career development. By the same token, once you can identify those emotional benefits you are not getting from your work, you can start brainstorming and taking the first steps to take control, change your situation and again, improve your leadership.

When it comes to your team, the ability to inspire, motivate and engage people is a fundamental leadership skill. Integrating practices to improve your team’s Emotional Salary is an effective way to increase motivation and engagement in your team. Because our Emotional Salary is directly linked to how we feel about our work, identifying any missing or low factors of Emotional Salary can indicate the causes of demotivation and dissatisfaction in your team. Using Emotional Salary as a diagnostic framework can facilitate meaningful and positive conversations with your team members. You can demonstrate to your team members that their career development and wellbeing is a priority for you, at an individual and team level.

How to integrate Emotional Salary into your leadership

Integrating Emotional Salary practices into your leadership does not need to be difficult, costly or time-consuming. We have a range of tools and resources that can help to support you in the process. Below we set out our ideas for what you can do.

1. Improve your understanding of Emotional Salary

If you’re going to introduce more of a focus on Emotional Salary in your team, then you will need to have a thorough understanding of the different elements of Emotional Salary and the impact they have on our work life. Our Emotional Salary Awareness Quiz is an excellent free resource you can use to develop your knowledge in this area. The first part of the quiz takes you through the 10 factors of Emotional Salary and why they are important. The second part of the quiz is designed to help you understand the key principles of the factors. It’s a really fun way to learn more about Emotional Salary. It’s also a great resource you can use with your team to start exploring the concept with them.

2. Explore your own Emotional Salary

Remember the safety briefing on a plane when they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help others? The same applies to leadership! If you want to support your team in increasing their Emotional Salary, then you’ll need to be willing to explore your own Emotional Salary too. Even if there are some areas in your work where you’re not feeling fulfilled, having that awareness of what they are and what might be contributing to that will be useful when it comes to supporting your team.

Here are three ways you can start exploring your own Emotional Salary:

  • Take the Emotional Salary Barometer, which will give you a comprehensive report and action plan on the ten different factors of Emotional Salary together with tips and advice on what you can do to improve it;
  • Download our calendar which has some useful prompts to get you thinking about the different factors of your Emotional Salary;
  • Get curious – start thinking about situations at work through the lens of Emotional Salary, explore what factors manifest in specific moments at work  and what opportunities you have to increase your own Emotional Salary.

3. Think about your team’s Emotional Salary

Once you start to become familiar with the ten factors of Emotional Salary and how your own Emotional Salary is being impacted on a day-to-day basis, you’ll naturally start to recognise how your own behaviour as a leader might be affecting your team’s Emotional Salary. Whilst it is important not to make assumptions about your team’s Emotional Salary, there are a couple of important points to keep in mind:

Career development: A lack of career development opportunities is one of the biggest drivers for dissatisfaction at work and is often a key factor when Emotional Salary is being negatively impacted. Even if there is very little you can offer your team members in terms of promotion opportunities, you can still help them to develop. For many feeling supported on their career goals and being able to have a conversation about career development can make a huge difference.

Behaviour: There are likely to be some indicators in your team’s behaviour of what is impacting their Emotional Salary. For example, are they struggling to see possibilities and opportunities? If so, it’s likely that they are lacking inspiration and you can start to explore what you can do in the team to inspire one another. If team members do not support and help one another, then there may be an issue in the team in relation to their sense of belonging and feeling valued or recognising the contributions of other.

Perspective: You must remember that you are in a different position to your team members so you will need to change your perspective in order to see things from their position. We strongly recommend that you have an open attitude and listen carefully without interruptions to what your team members are trying to say to you. There may be some aspects of your leadership that are having a negative impact on your team’s Emotional Salary, and it will take courage and emotional intelligence to explore your leadership from your team’s perspective.

4. Talk to your team

Although it might seem daunting, one of the most valuable ways to get some great insights into how you can improve Emotional Salary in your team is to talk to them. You can introduce the topic in a team meeting, or you might decide to talk to each team member on an individual basis. You might even want to share our Quiz with them. The important thing to remember when you do talk to your team is not to put them on the spot – give them some time to think about it. It is also worth bearing in mind that Emotional Salary should never be considered as an alternative to paying a fair financial salary and it might be worth reassuring your team in this regard.

If you don’t know how to approach talking to your team, then our blog on the topic has some great insights.

5. Take Action

There are plenty of small steps that you can start taking right away to integrate more of a focus on Emotional Salary in your team. Here are just a couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Ask for suggestions from the team on how and in what ways team members individually and as a group can work better.
  • Actively acknowledge individual and team achievements and communicate how they contribute to the organisation’s objectives and mission.
  • Expose people to different working practices to help them see things differently. So that employees can see things from a different perspective, helping them to come up with totally new insights and ideas.

If you’d like to integrate more of a focus on Emotional Salary into your leadership, then our latest eBook, 100 Leadership Practices to increase Emotional Salary, is a fabulous resource to support you in the process. You can purchase a copy for just 19€ here.

The good news is that you can start to make a real difference to your team’s Emotional Salary without having to commit a large budget to it. Why not start with one small action a week and see what impact it has on your team’s Emotional Salary.


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