When is Enough, Enough?- The Money Motivator

The other day I was watching Breaking Bad, which I believe is one of the smartest and best acted shows on television. The premise of the show is that Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, contracts cancer and begins cooking methamphetamines to help with the cost of his treatment. After his cancer goes into remission, however, he continues to put himself ,and his family, in danger by staying in the business. The last episode that was on AMC, had his wife showing him the pile of money he had made (which was more than either of them could spend in 5 lifetimes) and she asked the question “When is enough, enough?”

First thing first, this is just a show. I do not endorse anything said or done on this show. This episode, however, did get me thinking. As a recruiter, I talk to people every day about looking for new opportunities. People consider switches for a number of reasons. I originally came  from the agency world, and we would identify these reasons as “motivators”. People are motivated to make a change for a number of unrelated reasons. It is important to understand why people make a move to a different company.  There are six main reasons people change jobs.  These reasons are:

1) Money. What they are making today is not enough to pay the bills or have the things they want.  

2) They feel they need to be challenged and their skills are being underutilized. Usually these people feel they have more to offer and they are “underemployed”. They could also be looking for a new career.

3) Disagreements with current management.

4) Amount of time spent at work is not conducive to their lifestyle. They feel like they are working too much and would rather spend time with their family and doing things outside of work.

5) Their commute to work is too far. They may even want to work remote.

6) They have been laid off or fired and need to find another job.

I once worked as a sales person who sold new homes. I worked out of a trailer or a house and showed floor plans and model homes to potential customers. I worked every weekend and would often come in on my days off to make sales. I stayed in this business for much too long because of the money.  I wasn't having trouble paying the bills and I had all of the "toys"I wanted. I had plenty of money, but I was very unhappy. People called it the “golden handcuffs”. I was never laid off and I was consistently one of the top performers. When I did make the change, I can say that all of the other motivators were present. I actually took less money to make a change.

If you are a recruiter, know your candidates motivators inside and out so you can ensure that they will stay at their new company. If the single motivator is money (where they want to make more money), then you will find your candidate looking for a new job again in 6 months. Most likely there will be 2 or 3 motivators present.

If you are a candidate and money is your primary motivator, “When is enough, enough?”  Are there other motivators other than money?  Can you see yourself at this next company for 5 or more years?  How about until you retire? Are there opportunities for advancement? How is the management? How is the company doing financially? If you are staying in a job strictly for the money then ask yourself “how much do I really need”. Every person’s answer is different, but happiness far outweighs unhappiness.  Take a look at the whole picture and evaluate throughly when making a change.

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Comment by Steve N Odell on September 5, 2012 at 8:59am

Will- Some good points you need to be thinking about when qualifying a candidate. Another point , if it is all about money only it puts the possibility of getting a counteroffer and staying where they are. Money is the easiest thing to "fix" if it is the only issue. And in my world they are so much in demand they will get one it is just if they accept it or not. We start talking about that possibility early in the process with the candidate.

Comment by Will Thomson on September 5, 2012 at 12:29pm

I am seeing a lot more counter offers now.  Good call out!  You are right, money is something that is easy to fix, the other motivators are not.  

Comment by Malia Jorgensen on March 4, 2013 at 3:28pm

Great article, Will!  I have found that money is usually secondary compared to some of the other issues that cause people to look for a job.  What I hear most is they are not engaged with the direction the company is going and their job is not as stimulating as they had hoped.  People also want to know that they can contribute and have opportunities to learn new things or grow in an organization.  Work/life balance is also a key one that you mentioned.  

Comment by Will Thomson on March 4, 2013 at 4:43pm

Thanks Malia!  You know, we all have a number that we need.  Every person is different.  Then there is "wants" over what we actually need. Candidates can get wrapped up in salary, but do they actually need what they want?  Probably not.

In 2013 I have to agree with you, work life ballance is becoming increasingly important. The ability to work from home, to telecommute, to work later in the day trumps salary in most circumstances.


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