There are two elements of every job that can make it worthwhile: nurture and pay.
Nurture is: the boss appreciating the work and person who did the work, it is the act of providing a clear track for advancement, it is open communication between the boss and the employee, it is helping the employee grow and learn, and it is recognizing accomplishments. In short, it is recognizing and honoring the universal human need for inclusion and appreciation.
Pay is: money that allows the employee to live a certain lifestyle outside of the work environment (the other 128 hours per week).
These elements interact in the following ways:
High Nurture Environment – If you nurture and appreciate your employees, provide them with a clear path for growth and include them in the company vision, then pay can be less. Think of Google – known for paying employees less than the average salary (still good money) but giving them a high nurture environment. In a high nurture environment you can get away with low to average wages because of all the other ways you are fulfilling an employees basic needs. I’m not saying you should… just saying that there are more ways to measure wealth than money and nurturing is one of them.
High Money Environment – Sometimes a job isn’t all sunshine, but the money is great so the balance works out. You hear these stories all the time – “I took it for the pay but I’m not inspired.” In these cases, people often justify the work because the money is good and here you’ll find the opposite of above. People will tolerate low nurturing if the money is great.
Vampire Environment – This is where both the pay and the nurturing are low. In this case, essentially the company becomes a vampire for the souls of its employees (think of the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair). I have seen these companies – they definitely exist. Look around at the places where everyone looks drained of color and spirit and most likely you have found yourself a Vampire Environment. Beware.
It’s worth noting that all of these things are relative for the line of work and the location. So what might be a lot of money for stuffing envelopes isn’t for a lawyer. And pay in San Francisco will be higher than a village in India. However, the feelings underneath the actual numbers are the same feelings all humans share. The feeling of being paid fairly for the line of work, and the feeling of being nurtured – those are universal.
As a builder of companies or an employee of them – Beware the Vampire Environments. Should you find yourself in one with no way out, consider peaceful mutiny. The world will thank you.