Compensation: Mitigate Money Stories

While money is fictitious paper, it’s reality as energy is undeniable.   It empowers Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.  Money spurs self-determination and autonomy. It provides a roof over our heads and food in our bellies. Money nurtures security, health and well-being.  It expands generosity, nourishes dreams and personal missions.

Money is emotional.  By association, compensation is emotional.

Keep in mind, every individual has a money story through which they filter their compensation.

Here are just a few common money stories:

  • Money is the root of all evil.
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • The best things in life are free.
  • I can’t hold on to money.
  • There’s never enough money.
  • To want money is greedy.
  • There’s more of where that came from.

While you can’t control these stories, under the umbrella of career development and financial literacy, you can suggest thoughtful consideration of these questions to create self-awareness:

  1. What was your childhood experience of money? How did your parents handle money?  What did they tell you about money?  What was modeled for you?  What money messages did you receive?
  2. What are your beliefs and thoughts about money? What do you assume about people who have money?  What do you assume about people who don’t?  What do you believe about your current financial situation?
  3. What words do you associate with money? What do you say to your kids or to your friends about money?  What advice do you give?
  4. What are your habits and actions around money?
  5. Of these beliefs, words and habits, which serve you? Which don’t?
  6. How do you define financial freedom?

When an employee understands their default money framework, it allows them to actively choose a different one.  Especially if they take compensation as a concrete measurement of their worth. One of the best benefits you can provide any team is personal financial literacy and mastery training.  Find a good non-profit resource. Don’t lean on your benefits provider, mutual funds investor, banker or anyone who would seek to sell your team a financial product or service.

Also consider, for some, psychological compensation is as strong as monetary compensation.  Flexibility, alignment of values, appreciation, daily joy and humor, and camaraderie figure heavily in how an employee determines the value of working for you.

Lastly, know employees will naturally share their money stories with their colleagues.  Whatever you do, don’t discourage employees from sharing their pay with one another.  It suggests you have something to hide or that the system is not fair.  Your employees will talk to one another. By trying to suppress those conversations you will undermine your culture.

While you can’t shape your team’s money stories, you can control how your organization defines value, the process by which compensation is determined and how raises are given. 

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