Being Happy at Work: More Than Money

October 11, 2021

Louis Tay

It is often tempting to look purely at the bottom line when exploring different careers and jobs: How much money will I earn in this job?

We need to be fiscally responsible given possible college expenses and other possible debts. However, salary is not the only factor to consider when seeking to answer the question of whether one will be satisfied with one’s job.

For a long time, Industrial-Organizational psychologists have studied what makes people satisfied at work. And it has been found that while salary is related to job satisfaction, other work characteristics are even more critical.

Here are three dimensions to consider:

  • Positive nature of tasks: Jobs that encompass tasks with greater variety, significance, and autonomy provide greater satisfaction levels. Before you take on that job or new role, consider carefully the scope of tasks you will take on. Is there a variety of tasks you will be working on? Do you have independence when working on these tasks?
  • Complexity of work: Work that enables one to use and grow in knowledge, skills, and abilities are intrinsically more rewarding and satisfying. Take on work that can help you to develop in the direction you hope to grow in. Consider the extent that a job will develop new areas of expertise or deepen existing ones.
  • Social environment: Work that provides a positive social atmosphere and positive social interaction help employees find greater job satisfaction. While you are interviewing for a job or new role, it is critical to evaluate the social dynamics – are employees treated with dignity and respect? Is there a positive environment for diversity and inclusion?

In short, salary is essential, but it is no guarantee you will be happy at your job. When deciding on a job or a new role, consider other dimensions that strongly predict greater job satisfaction.

Be well,


Tay is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences. He has expertise in well-being, assessments, and data science.  Be sure to check back each week for another wellness tip of the week! 

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