Why money should motivate you

Featured in Financieel Dagblad
I know, I know, I know… Controversial title. But I got your attention, right? And I freaking mean it.

This will be a bit of a surprise to all those that know me well, since I am a bit of a hippie. I was raised by parents who firmly held money low on the ladder of priorities. Serving others, focusing on the group, selfless-ness – messages my social worker extraordinaire mother gave my siblings and me. Wanting money is being greedy, being rich makes you a bad person – is the belief my extremely intelligent and hilarious father subconsciously held and transferred onto us.

That is all to explain that I haven’t grown up focusing on money in my career, ever. And neither have you, probably, even if you had less left-leaning parents.

If you’re like most women, we have been taught that, ultimately, we should work for love, not money.

Nobody ever said it in quite those terms perhaps, but ingrained in all of us is this idea that caring about your salary makes you greedy. Saying you want to be paid well is poor form, un-lady-like, not done.

And so when we go out into the big bad world of work, we’re not going to ask. We’re just grateful for the opportunity to work, we’re thankful for the chance to prove ourselves. Perhaps it didn’t even cross our minds that we could ask for more. (Only 7% of women asked for a higher salary in a study done amongst students from the well-respected Carnegie Mellon business school…)

And so we work our butts off, we kick ass at what we do, and we think to ourselves “Once they see how well I do, they will recognize me for all this work. They will give me the promotion, and the raise that I deserve.”

But then they don’t.

Of course they don’t.

It makes very little business sense for your manager to pro-actively hand out more money.

But your salary is more than what they transfer every month to your bank account. It’s an expression of the value they hold for the work that you do.

And so when all we get is a pat on the back after a glowing appraisal, we feel unappreciated, undervalued. We ask ourselves: “don’t they see how much I accomplish?” And this is how the downward spiral starts: the longer this lasts and the more undervalued you feel, the more difficult it is to do your best work.

And who loses out when this happens? You do, of course. It’s no fun not doing great work and feeling rubbish. The people around you are probably also not getting the best version of you, if this is how you feel about such an important part of your life.

And here’s the thing: your boss also misses out. They miss out on your most fabulous you and your most awesome work. They are not leveraging all your brain power, inspiration and dedication when you’re low key resentful, unhappy, negative.

And this spiral continues until either one of you decides it’s enough and you leave. Which is when both sides have REALLY lost… You because now you have to start somewhere else, losing everything you have built up in the other company and having to go through that exhausting process of proving yourself again at this new place. And if you don’t learn to negotiate so you start off well… the cycle of resentment continues, just somewhere else.

And the company obviously also loses out when you leave. The research varies, but on average, it costs between 150 and 400% of an employees’ annual salary to replace them (in recruitment, onboarding, training costs, lost network etc).

So that’s why you SHOULD care about money, why you SHOULD care about what you are earning. If you don’t, you lose out on a lot more than just the money (which, by the way, is nothing to sniff at.

We’re talking between hundreds of thousands and millions of USD over the course of your career – see my other rants on where this calculation is coming from and why it’s no exaggeration).

So what’s a girl to do? How do you stay out of this negative spiral? And – dare I suggest – turn it into a positive spiral where you are so excited about the work you do AND how you are valued for it, that your career progresses by leaps and bounds, since you’re showing up to work every day with massive excitement, inspiration and dedication?

Negotiate, chicks. Ask for more. Have the conversation with your (future) boss. Explain to them why and how it helps them if you’re performing at peak level, and how, in order to do that, you need to feel appreciated. And how your research shows that you’re currently underpaid (so yes, you need to do your homework!) and how that’s not helping anyone, least of all them.

Go on, you can do this.

Let me know if I can help; I do this with all my clients. Just drop me a PM.

Wies Bratby.

Negotiation Coach, former top Lawyer and HR Director, and unapologetic advocate for women in my tribe getting what they want and what they are worth.

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