Question time: Do you want respect or pay?

Published May 6, 2015   Posted in How to Think

Picture yourself in this scenario: You are at work sitting around a conference table with the CEO (or some other high level manager) and a few of your coworkers.  You are discussing something that will literally make or break the company.  Make the right decision and your company flourishes.  Make the wrong one and, well, you might be passing around your resume.

Aside from the CEO/manager, there is one person in that room that makes the most money – let’s say around $20,000 MORE than the others in the room.

Question markAfter two hours discussing ideas, the CEO/manager pulls one of you into his office.  He says, “Bill/Sally, I respect your opinion more than any other in this office.  You heard all the ideas.  You know what is at stake.  What do we do?”

Understand that the person who was pulled into that office was NOT the person who makes the most money from that meeting.

Now, it’s question time: Who would you rather be?  Would you rather be the person who makes the most money, but may not be as highly respected, or would you rather be that person whom the CEO/Manager respects and values more than anyone else in your office?

According to several studies, like this one, most people value respect more than pay.  That is, in this scenario, most would rather be that person who gets pulled into that office and asked to help make a decision with profound consequences for the company.

To me, this is a double-edged sword.  I, like many of my readers, have prioritized retirement.  In five to seven years, you and I will probably be retired.  Long careers are no longer desired.  If early retirement is your game, then maximizing your income and saving as much as possible during your working years is critical to meet your goals.

If I dreamed of retiring at 60 – like most Americans, I think this question would be quite easy to answer – I want respect.  I want to be the person who helps make critical decisions because I know what that experience is preparing me for (like that Director-level job that I quit last year).  That could turn out to be the single best (and most lucrative) opportunity that you may ever get at the office.

But then again, retiring in five years also means that I need to save as much as possible while I am still working, and the more I make, the more I save.  Maybe that highly paid person in that meeting is years closer to financial independence than the highly respected person.  Is that more beneficial?

What say you?  If you were in that meeting, would you rather be the highly paid, or more highly respected, person?

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15 responses to “Question time: Do you want respect or pay?”

  1. I want the money! My goal is financial independence! The fastest way there is more money. But then I sit back and think about it and in that moment of course you want the respect. I’m usually an glass half full guy Steve, so I’d like to have both! 🙂

    • Hehe, I’m right there with ya, Fervent. Honestly at this point in my life and my goal to retire early, I’d take the money any day of the week. Gone are the days where I want power and influence in the office, setting myself up for a long and possibly drawn out career. At one time I would have chosen respect, but these days I have goals to meet and retirement to achieve. 🙂

  2. Ryan says:

    I would be worried about my job if I was that higher paid individual and the upper management decided to ask for advice from someone who is knowingly paid less.

    If upper management looks to you, a lower paid employee, for advice over the higher paid employee, I would work that to my advantage and ask for a raise or seek employment elsewhere.

    • Thank Ryan, that is a perfectly reasonable element to pick out of this scenario. Why isn’t the person who gets paid the most respected over someone who gets paid less? Maybe that person should be in fear for his or her job.

  3. Chris Muller says:

    Actually, I’m good with neither. I’ve managed to learn how to live well below my means, so it truly doesn’t matter how much I make. Per your earlier post though, I do think it matters once you start comparing your pay vs. how much you actually enjoy your job.

    At the end of the day, I couldn’t care less about the level of position I’m in. There are two things that matter to me while I have to work – work/life balance and enjoying my job. If I don’t have those two things, I’m out.

    I know it doesn’t directly answer your question, but to me both of those things can drive the wrong behaviors in people – and lead to burnout and keeping up with the Joneses.

    Very intriguing thought though, and I think I might pose it to a few of my colleagues today!

    • I like your attitude, Chris. “I’ve managed to learn how to live well below my means, so it truly doesn’t matter how much I make.”

      That is a perfect way to look at life in general. Whether you may an extra $20 Gs or not, you’re still going to accomplish your goals before most people because you know how to live SMART.

      Love it!

  4. Mrs SSC says:

    Oh! I love the dilemma – great to ponder while I drink my morning coffee! OK – I think I would rather have the respect, despite my ER dreams. This is because while I have plans for the future, I don’t live for the future, and I would rather have the respect in my job that might make the next several years more pleasant and rewarding. Now, if it was a matter of $50,000… that might be another story… For me to pick the money, I think it would have to shave a good year off of my working time.

    • Excellent point, Mrs. SSC. You already know that you’re going to accomplish your goals, so you might as well enjoy the virtues of respect at the job site while you are still working. But I agree, the ability to shave a year off of your working life does demand attention. 🙂

  5. Mrs. FI says:

    Most of the time I’d vote for respect over money. With respect, money usually follows; whereas losing respect or having it to begin with with customers and/or coworkers can result in you losing business (and in turn money) in the working world. It can be fairly easy to build your savings, but it’s much harder to build respect. However, if the right offer of money came my way, and the respect being lost is by a people or company I myself didn’t respect, I’d definitely choose the money. 😉

    • Yep, there does seem to be a limit where, if given enough of a difference in pay, the salary would ultimately wind up better positioning you to meet your goals. I definitely agree, though, that money usually follows respect, but it can also take some time.

      Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  6. Vivianne says:

    After retirement, I’ll do research, which would pay a lot less than what I’m getting paid right now. But I think I’ll like it more.

    I took $10k pay cut to work for a hospital that I like, so my skills won’t go to waste. I feel $40k is a living wage. Anything above it are bonuses. So, going from $85k to $75k wasn’t much of a problem to me. It’s easier to make that kind of choices when is don’t have kids to care for. People might have different opinion when they factor in family.

  7. I want the money because money is respect!

    Having the nice toucy-feely respect without the pay is useless. Your employer shows you how much they respect you by giving you more money for your time. THAT is ultimately the only respect that matters.

  8. Stevie Wonders says:

    Respect is nice, but since that is hard to come by in today’s workplace, show me the money.

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