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Do You Feel Overpaid For the Work You Do?

I'm back from a very long, self-imposed hiatus. Long story, too many words, and you don't come here to hear me complain. No, you come here for quirky workplace insights that are either priceless or worth a dime a dozen, depending on the day.

On the topic of worth, you might be interested in a new report from staffing firm Robert Half that surveyed more than 2,800 U.S. workers about their paychecks. Perhaps not surprisingly, 46% surveyed feel underpaid by their employers, while 49% feel paid fairly for the work they do.

But these two numbers add up to 95%. What's going on with the remaining 5% of employees? Well, they think they are -- wait for it -- overpaid!


Yes, there are those texting and typing among us who think they earn too much money for what they do. These few-and-far between co-workers come to work and think, "The money's too good around here!" as they phone it in on their new iPhone, or whatever. You may not know this co-worker, except maybe for the Jaguar in the parking lot and the $72,000 monthly pay stub he nonchalantly pulls from his briefcase upon request at the local diner.

The Paycheck Trap
You may think these overpaid co-workers have it made, but a quick Google search (please don't tell Trump) reveals that feeling like they're overpaid can cause some employees to worry!

Why on earth would somebody worry about having a high salary to super easy work ratio, especially if they don't have to tell their co-workers? Well, some employees who feel overpaid can begin to feel quietly guilty, because there's not much challenge in the work anymore. They might begin to feel like they're just going through the motions when they're actually very good at their job. It's a very human reaction, really. We all need a challenge to stay motivated.

Even worse, employees who feel overpaid might begin to feel like a fraud. What if they get promoted tomorrow and it becomes obvious they've been promoted a step above their competency level? What if their colleagues figure out they aren't worth what they've been paid all this time? If the work is too easy, employees who think they're overpaid might even begin to doubt whether they could perform at a higher level for a new employer.

Ultimately, employees who perceive themselves as overpaid in a job can begin to feel trapped. A 2017 Aon Hewitt survey titled "Actively Disengaged and Staying" found fabulous paychecks can make employees lose the motivation to ever leave an employer -- even as they grow ever more demotivated in their jobs over time! They might day dream about greener pastures and research current job openings, but it's too hard to leave. So they'll just keep going through the motions of this job.

It doesn't help that a good percentage of jobs these days can quickly begin to feel highly rigid, and repetitive. If your employer won't let you ever color outside the lines, then you eventually give up on creativity and sometimes, even thinking at work. Which, in some ways, can make the work even easier.

The good news? Feeling "trapped" in an easy job with a high salary isn't nearly as common as wishing an employer would finally see our worth and pay us more given the work on our plate. It's a measly 5% of employees who feel like they can utter the phrase "I think I make too much money for what I do." Besides, you might be a part of this 5% of employees, and you wake up every morning feeling blessed to feel guilty about making too much money! Life could be much worse, and you know how lucky you are.

But if you ever feel a tad guilty (or even demotivated) about being overpaid for the work you do, then it's okay to own the emotion. It's definitely cheaper than the sports car you could buy.


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