Money, Money, Money

Previously, we discussed money as a motivator, explored its meaning and the importance ascribed to money. Today, lets take this discussion further because, let’s be honest, money is a hot topic!

Jessie J goes “it’s not about the money money money…” in the song Price Tag

In fact, many studies support this notion that indeed, not everything is about money when it comes to work. A study aimed at exploring the relationship between pay and job satisfaction also found that employees earning high salaries only reported similar job satisfaction with those who earned much lesser (Judge, Piccolo, Podsakoff, Shaw & Rich, 2010). The same can be said for employee engagement, as research shows that there is no significance difference in employee engagement by pay level (Blacksmith & Harter, 2011). Even in sales organizations, money is not the main motivator for the top performers who earn the highest commission. Rather, it is beating the competitor that drives them. In addition, higher financial rewards actually lead to lower or worse performance. Surprisingly, paying an employee too much have a negative effect on their work performance (Sundheim, 2013).

However, when Meja goes “it’s all about the money….” in the song All About The Money, one cannot help but to think that using money as a motivator has its merits too.

Firstly, money is easily the most ‘far-reaching’ option in the sense that it appeals to every one and motivates the lowest grade employee all the way to the highest-level CEO. Therefore, many companies give out companywide bonuses that apply to all employees every year. It is simple, fast and serves as a good motivator for all. Secondly, money also offers a wide variety of options in terms how to use it. It can be given out as cash rewards, gift certificates, special bonuses, and commissions etc. Hence, money, with its flexibility and versatility, is one of the best options from the company’s point of view (Belcher, n.d.). Lastly, it is noted that money is the only factor that can motivate people to work in a harmful or toxic environment.

After exploring both the pros and cons of using money as a motivator, the only song that resonates with me seems to be ABBA’s “money money money, must be funny…”

Indeed, we have a “funny” relationship with money. As soon-to-be graduates, when someone asks us what do we look for in a job, we will think of career prospect, job nature and salary. While the other factors may change, salary seems to be always a point of consideration. In a world where capability is pegged to salary, one cannot help but to see money as a form of motivation. People like to be paid what they’re worth. We want to be rewarded for our work and also work for our reward. Many a times, reward cannot be separated from money. Money is the easiest way to reward a person and it also provides instant gratification. As compared to things like ‘autonomy at work’, ‘mastery’, ‘creative freedom’ and ‘purpose’, money (cold hard cash!) is much more tangible and visible. It is no wonder that money remains as the most “tried and tested” way to motivate a person.

However, I also do agree that money can only motivate a person to a certain extent. For example, Arnold Schwarzenegger once mentioned “money doesn’t make you happy. I now have 50 million but I was just as happy when I had 48 million.” Even though this is an extreme example, it brings out the point that money only works until a certain level before its effectiveness plateau.

Despite all the studies showing that money is not the best motivator, many companies are still using it as the main form of reward and compensation. Therefore, I think the essential question we have to answer is not whether money is a good motivator, but rather: what are some other ways a company can reward or motivate employees fairly?

Personally, I think that even though money is not the main and sole motivator, it is definitely one of the essential components that will keep people motivated. And now, I’m ready to write the next hit single entitled “Money is something but not everything”.


Belcher, L. The Advantages of Using Money to Motivate EmployeesSmall Business – Retrieved 25 February 2015, from

Blacksmith, N., & Harter, J. (2011). Majority of American Workers Not Engaged in Their Retrieved 25 February 2015, from

Judge, T. A., Piccolo, R. F., Podsakoff, N. P., Shaw, J. C., & Rich, B. L. (2010). The relationship between pay and job satisfaction: A meta-analysis of the literature. Journal of Vocational Behavior77(2), 157-167.

Sundheim, K. (2013). What Really Motivates Employees?Forbes. Retrieved 25 February 2015, from

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