#7 Money Make Me Crazy: And It Isn't A Long Term Motivator

Salary was one of the few factors that made the top quartile of both lists. It kind of crossed through the brick wall between Hygiene factors and Motivation factors.  But, and I’ll spare you the details here, Salary was found to be PRIMARILY a Hygiene factor. It’s not a strong long term motivator. 

High pay, in the absence of challenge, achievement, and responsibility, will at best make you NOT DISsatisfied.  I’ve lived this one so many times it’s embarrassing to admit.

I abandoned my engineering degree and dropped my life savings on a Duke MBA.  I was off to become a Wall Street billionaire. Cocky and already cashing those imaginary bonus checks.

Crazy Money

Crazy Money

A summer internship at Goldman Sachs proved to me that I was greedy. But not greedy enough to play in that cesspool.

So, of course, I learned my lesson. Exiting business school I would take a more balanced approach to finding an employer . Not just look at the dollars.  


I took a job with the highest bidder - Oracle. It was the early 90’s and it was a disaster. The money was good but the culture was so shitty for me that it almost cost me my colon.  I’ll give you details some other time.

Two nasty strikes in a row for chasing money. Now what.  Well, I got an offer from a little start up that felt like a perfect fit. I'd be using my technical background and my business and sales experience.  BUT, they offered an unimpressive $20,000 cut in pay with next to zero benefits. Perfect timing since Joyce and I were also looking at starting a family and buying a house.  I didn’t have the balls to make the leap. I had a family to think about. I needed to man up and pay homage to the job that made me sick but paid the bills.  

"The least motivated I’ve ever been is when I sold myself to the highest bidder."

Now, with distance, it’s obvious that it would have been my third dumb ass money-dominated decision in a row. But money make me crazy.  

Thank God for Joyce.  She saw it, AND she was probably tired of listening to my whining. So she spoke up. She started sweet and supportive, but I was oblivious - in dumb ass land feeling sorry for myself. So she cranked it up a notch to get my attention. 

“Take the freaking job! You’re killing yourself. I’d rather raise our family in a dumpster than have you coming home sick and miserable every night.”

That was a big turning point in my career.  As the neanderthal male breadwinner type-A shithead I’d felt I had to subject myself to whatever it takes to be Mr. Provider.   Joyce gave me the permission I needed to set that aside. To find work that felt right and to just see what happened. I will forever be grateful to her for this little come to Jesus talk.

And, fortunately for us, the move worked out. That little startup turned out to be a rocket ship - changed our life.  And cemented for me that money cannot be my number one motivator.  

The least motivated I’ve ever been is when I sold myself to the highest bidder. The most motivated I’ve ever been at work is two later jobs where I took significant pay cuts on the way in.

MONEY is NOT a motivator!
MONEY is NOT a motivator!

Money is nice.  There’s nothing wrong with having nice stuff. But it ain’t a direct path to perpetual sunshine and fulfillment. Once you’ve got enough to feel some security, it’s more of a hood ornament.  Or as Herzberg would say, it’s Hygiene or context.

I have a feeling we’re going to eventually talk a lot more about the role of money, but that’s enough for today.

Next time I’ll do a review of a 1987 update to the original 1959 Herzberg work, and then we’ll finally start drawing our maps.

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