Tuesday, November 29, 2011

How does your salary affect your overall job happiness?

These days, doctor salaries are under scrutiny because of the public perception that highly-compensated physicians are driving up health care costs. The reality is that there are some physicians who work full-time and don't even generate a six-figure salary. Of course, there are also medical specialists and subspecialists who generate well over $300,000 to 400,000 each year. I also know some physicians who essentially work 2 jobs (a standard job + moonlighting so much that they're over 80 hrs/week). They make a lot of money, but they're always working.

How does your salary affect your overall job happiness?  If you feel underpaid, that's one thing. If you feel that your salary is a "fair" salary for the type of work you do, then how much happier would you be if your salary went up? How much higher would it need to go up in order for you to feel a sense of greater happiness?

Happiness is very subjective, so there's no magic formula that will answer this question. Some people are under the assumption that everyone wants to get paid more. Others may feel that once employees reach a certain level of compensation, then a standard deviation above/below that number won't make a dramatic impact on overall job happiness.

In the business world, a higher income may be associated with more interesting jobs that are likely to keep employees happy. However, in medicine that may not always be true depending on a variety of factors. Some high-income specialties are associated with a higher risk of malpractice or even overall work-related stress. Other high-income specialties require you to work a high volume of hours.

Most of the physicians I know are fairly satisfied with their salaries and money is not a key motivator for them. I don't get the impression that a higher will lead to greater job happiness. They could earn more if they wanted to by moonlighting or possibly working more hours/shifts. However, most value a healthy work/life balance and they're content with their current income so they don't feel the urge to work more.

Those physicians who are burning out are likely to be the ones who are overworking, so they may be making more than their peers, but they're also probably experiencing a lower level of job happiness.

How much does money motivate you? Are you looking for that next opportunity or promotion so that you can reach a higher income level? Are you constantly looking for opportunities to supplement your current earnings? Are you looking for ways to increase your salary? At the end of the day, how much happier will you be if you're making more money but working more hours? These are key questions to consider if you're thinking about a career transition into the business world. The notion of work/life balance takes on a whole new meaning when you're traveling, dealing with international clients, or when you have a fast-paced working environment.

As we get ready for the last month of the year, consider the salary question. If the proposed Medicare cuts get approved, then some physicians may experience a 27.4% reduction in reimbursement. Due to the increasing scrutiny around physician compensation here in the United States, we're likely to see a decrease in physician incomes in the future. Will that have a profound impact on your overall happiness?

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