Human Resources



Relationships or raises?

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Akankasha Dewan debates whether higher pay is worth foregoing opportunities to develop strong bonds with colleagues.

Recently, social media has been abuzz with reports about 64% Singaporeans preferring a better boss over a salary rise. Frankly speaking, I am not surprised at the results.

Having engaging relationships with bosses and colleagues that fulfill my basic psychological needs daily just seems to make more sense than getting a fatter paycheck.

Don’t get me wrong – I won’t mind making some extra dough, living in the region’s most expensive country (Aditi, are you listening?).

But at the risk of sounding clichéd, let me share why I would think twice before leaving my work family for a job that pays twice as much.

What’s more tangible…really…

Yes, earning more would let me buy more Michael Kors bags. And yes, a material representation of my hard work will make me happy (who can deny the comforts of a luxurious life?).

But, how long will that feeling last? A few days certainly. Maybe even a month.

But after a while, my raised income will also seem unsatisfactory, and I will feel limited by my desire to own more bags.

In other words: A rise in income really will make me happier, but that initial thrill doesn’t last.

Compare that happiness to being emotionally connected at work.

Surely a glass ceiling doesn’t exist here – the experiences I encounter, the stories I exchange and the skills I build don’t have a limit.

Surely a glass ceiling doesn’t exist here – the experiences I encounter, the stories I exchange and the skills I build don’t have a limit.

As long as I am emotionally engaged with my work buddies, I will keep growing and gaining more. That’s the beauty of the human experience.

Now doesn’t that seem like a more attractive and long-lasting deal? Sorry Mr. Kors.

Sense of self-worth

The point of this exercise is to look at what will make me, the individual, happy.

When science set out to answer this, it found that employees, specifically Millennials, would be happier working in an organisation that allows them to make a real contribution to it.

Simply put, when workers feel like they can make a difference, it leaves them more fulfilled.

I feel ecstatic when I see how big a role my columns play in hitting our editorial target (please share this great column, everyone!).

Isn’t that a deeper level of happiness than being paid for doing work in an organisation to which you aren’t really making a significant contribution? Or are not being challenged enough?

Sure, being highly paid for easy work would be a perfect situation. But perfection is, undoubtedly, boring.

Instead, earning those bucks after facing the most daunting challenges, and after learning new skills is much more fulfilling – all motivations which strong relationships with bosses and colleagues help to provide.

Earning those bucks after facing the most daunting challenges, and learning new skills is much more fulfilling – all motivations which strong relationships with bosses help to provide.

Solid relationships with bosses help in growing employees, giving them access to more challenging and rewarding work. Simultaneously, close bonds with colleagues help gain feedback on how to perform better.

The human individual is born to evolve, and no amount of money can replace the thrill when one realises one’s sense of self-worth and potential.


And this is also why recognition for hard work translates better when it comes from colleagues than via cash.

Man is a social creature, and even introverts can’t deny the pleasure they receive when they get a pat on the back for a job well done, especially coming from your colleagues – who are experts in your field, and can most accurately judge the difficulty with which you have accomplished it.

Additionally, we don’t just blindly seek out social connections at work. Close colleagues are people whom we respect both professionally and personally.

Surely, an opportunity to impress and be recognised by these people is quite valuable – perhaps even more than the opportunity to earn more.

In fact, a recent Kronos study found 40% of employees said a pay raise improved their motivation for upto six months.

However, 55% of employees said a “thank you” from their manager gave them high satisfaction at work.

At the end of the day, there is no denial that pay raises bring happiness, but perhaps not as much as the happiness one gains from relationships.

This isn’t a sobering fact, but one which is useful because few companies out there have the financial flexibility to give raises at regular intervals.

Nearly every organisation can do more to create rewarding workplace experiences. And they can do it without incurring losses.

Image: Shutterstock

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Akankasha Dewan

Human Resources Magazine Singapore
With a passion for the written word, and a deep interest in the wide-ranging secrets of the HR industry, Akankasha spends her time writing and conversing about the people dimension of the corporate world. She also fights criticisms against Fifty Shades of Grey by night.

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