Should Your Effort at Work Truly Mirror Your Compensation?

That's not a valid work email account. Please enter your work email (e.g.
Please enter your work email

Cashier bored because there are no customers How many people have come across a job ad that said, “Salary is commensurate with experience”? I’ve seen too many to count.

So, a candidate applies for the job with the experience-based salary, lands an interview, impresses the hiring manager and is ultimately offered the position. Now it’s time for salary negotiations.

The hiring manager tells the worker the company will offer him/her X amount of dollars per year to fulfill the required duties. *Translation* The duties and requirements associated with this position are equal to X amount of dollars.

You see, the majority of Americans work to be monetarily compensated (and I say majority because some people truly don’t care about, or need, money). Sure, we all want other things out of our jobs and careers, but a significant component is the amount of money we’re receiving.

Now, this isn’t to say all Americans are money hungry, but it’s more about time and worth. Let’s face it: Most people aren’t going to willingly work for free. People want a return on their investments of time and effort, just like a company wants a return on its financial investment (paycheck) into an employee.

More importantly, people should be compensated for their investments of not only time and effort, but expertise. Many people invest in going to school and receiving an education or learning a skill or trade in order to become an expert in their field. So, now that they’ve personally invested in building their expertise, they do deserve to receive compensation when someone or something utilizes this “service.”

So, back to the salary negotiation, the future employee will have to decide if the company’s offer of X amount of dollars is acceptable, i.e. are his/her skills worth that compensation or more? Salary negotiations are extremely important because no worker wants (or deserves) to be under-compensated for his/her services. If a company wants someone whose requirements and duties are commensurate with a $70/k role—management, senior-level, masters degree, 10+ years of experience, etc.—then it will have to compensate a worker accordingly. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”

So, this leads me to my initial question: Should one’s effort at work truly mirror his/her compensation? I ask this because of a friend. He’s been working part-time at a university for the past few months. Although the role (and compensation) is 20 hours of part-time on paper, he says that the workload and what the university truly expects is for a full-time role.

For months my friend has been working more than 20 hours to handle the required work load, while still only being paid on a part-time basis. On top of this, he has two other jobs just to make ends meet because the part-time role doesn’t cover all of his living expenses.

Recently, he made the decision to decrease his workload, only giving the university the 20 hours they compensate him for. He decided that he was no longer going to continuously offer them more effort and results than what they were willing to pay for.

This decision was quite interesting to me. Most people I know go above and beyond at work, even if they aren’t compensated for their “overtime.” Some people work extra hours—even putting in weekends or skipping vacations—because they want to get ahead or move up the ranks in a company. Others, like my mother who is a special education teacher, go the extra mile simply because, though not stated, it’s truly required to accomplish most things. But are any of these reasons acceptable?

If your company tells you that your time and effort at work are worth $50k or $10 per hour, should you strictly stick to that and not offer the business more of your “services” for free? This question is especially true for salaried part-time workers. The number of part-time workers has significantly increased, and many of the reasons aren’t because of flexibility but because this type of work (and compensation) is all that job seekers can find. If a company tells you your “services” are worth part-time salary or wages offering, should you give them full-time “services” at no extra cost?

Perhaps this isn’t a universal question, rather dependent upon one’s perspective. Share your thoughts below. As an employee, do you think you should always be compensated for your services?

By Shala Marks