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Lucie Mitchell

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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Good relationships at work more important than salary, survey finds


Eight out of ten people would prefer to work in a happy environment and get on with colleagues than earn a high wage, according to a new report.

The study by the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) found that the people, enjoying the role, getting on with the boss and a good commute are all more important than bringing home a large pay cheque.

In addition, a third of the 2,000 people polled had actually left a well-paid job because the pressure associated with it wasn’t worth the big salary, while 75% would hesitate about accepting a job that came with a high salary if it meant more stress.

Work-life balance is also important, with just over a quarter stating they had turned down a promotion or a higher-paid job as it would have meant less time spent with family.

"When it comes to working happiness, money is far from the driving factor for most of us,” said AAT chief executive Mark Farrar.

"Of course, life dictates that we earn as much as we can to maintain or improve our circumstances, but most deemed working with good people or in a role they feel valued in as more important than the salary.

"Most of us will spend the biggest portion of our lives working and it’s important that any job we have enhances us both professionally and personally.”

If people were unhappy in their job, respondents were more likely to say it was due to the dull nature of the work, or feeling unappreciated, than because of low pay.

What Brits want in a job

  1. Responsibility
  2. Recognition
  3. My colleagues
  4. The pay
  5. Making a difference
  6. Achievement
  7. The job itself
  8. Learning new things
  9. Being challenged
  10. The work environment

Why Brits stay in their current job

  1. I have a good relationship with my colleagues
  2. I enjoy the job role
  3. I have a good relationship with my boss
  4. I don't have another job to go to
  5. The commute is manageable
  6. The pay
  7. I have a good relationship with my clients
  8. I feel I have the chance to develop my career
  9. I’m good at the job
  10. I am not under much stress

2 Responses

  1. Definitely

    At the base level, you have to be able to meet your financial obligations. If you can meet your financial obligations, then you gain access to a different level of thinking. In a survey like this, I think that 'the pay' refers to the psychological analysis of whether the pay is fair and just. So when people say they rank recognition as more important than pay, they mean that if they are fairly recognised they are more likely to tolerate a salary that – while meeting their basic needs – does not feel equitable.

    As a human being, if your basic needs aren't met, you aren't able to see the bigger picture. And recognition/work-life balance are the bigger picture of modern 21st century life.

    I once went to an introduction to Buddhism and for some reason the topic came onto poverty-stricken communities in Africa. One man said 'I just think that if these people banded together and started to work out how to improve their lives they'd do a lot better,' and someone else, quite rightly, said 'they don't know if they are going to eat that day, they aren't finding clean water, they are ill, working together as a community is not really on their mind.'

    Let's also remember that some people just want to come to work, work hard, then go home, and they don't 'go in for' recognition, reward, engagement, team-building. This approach should not be criticised. It is some peoples' preference and that's fine.


  2. I’m always interested

    to find out how much the people who constantly tell us money isn't the prime mover at work, actually earn.

    Mr Farrar, for example, received £219,000 a year as head of the CITB before moving to AAT and that was just basic salary.  At those wages, it's easy to say money isn't the driving factor.

    Go ask someone who's trying to live on £20K a year in Edinburgh whether money's the driving factor in their job – i suspect you'll get a very different answer. 

    All these other things are indeed nice to have – I'd hate to have a dull job, or rotten colleagues.  But the one thing that gets me out of bed in the morning is that I have bills to pay.  Recognition is a wonderful thing, but I've never managed to persuade Tesco to take it in exchange for the week's groceries.

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Lucie Mitchell

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

Read more from Lucie Mitchell