life is not fair.
This is a phrase that is repeated so often that it has become a cliché. But studies have shown that humans, like other people, are hard-wired to get their fair share. animals Those who have cooperative relationships, such as monkeys, birds and wolves.
In a famous experiment, researchers trained two capuchin monkeys to give tokens in exchange for a snack of cucumbers. At first, the animals were happy with this arrangement – that is, until one of the monkeys received grapes instead, which are considered far more delicious. The other monkey, who kept taking the cucumbers, became angry, shook the walls of his enclosure and threw the cucumbers out of reach.
It seemed that she would rather receive nothing than receive a lesser reward.
In the workplace, psychologists call it effort-reward imbalance, Effort is the time, energy, and emotional labor devoted to completing a task—and rewards are what you get from your workplace, such as compensation, benefits, recognition, and opportunities.
In humans, the perception that you are paid less than others for similar work may contribute to the symptoms associated with burn out and the risk is higher Depression, Sarah Brosnan, a professor of psychology, philosophy and neuroscience at Georgia State University, who co-led the Capuchin study, said the need for fairness is likely a biological tendency to avoid exploitation.
“We should care about what we get compared to others,” he said. “We do best if we can work well with others, but that only benefits us if we are working with someone who is not taking advantage of us.”
If you feel that your efforts in the workplace are not commensurate with your rewards, here are some steps you can take to examine the situation and hopefully find greater balance.
equity theorywhich was developed by a behavioral psychologist in the 1960s, states that to feel motivated, employees need to be confident that the rewards they receive are fair and similar to the rewards their counterparts are receiving.
But first ask yourself: Is my company, team, or manager really undervaluing me?
“You may have a different perspective than others about your skills and your marketability,” says Ben Dattner, an organizational psychologist and executive coach in New York City.
If you are represented by a labor union, have a conversation with one of the leaders to better understand how your compensation or other types of rewards compare to union members in similar roles. Also consider consulting a career coach who can help you think about how to overcome potential inequities
Think of it like a scale where effort is balanced with reward, said Dennis Stoll, senior director of applied psychology at the American Psychological Association.
Also consider intangible rewards – are you learning a lot, getting meaning from your work or making useful connections? Do you have a great boss or flexible hours? Do you get recognition for your efforts?
Sometimes the grass isn’t greener when you tally those benefits.
Once you identify your priorities, think: “What can I do constructively about this?” Dr. Dattner said.
Have a direct conversation with your manager about your goals, Dr. Stoll said. Are they realistic? Are they in line with the company’s needs and wants? During negotiations, be as concrete as possible about what you want, he advised.
If you’re looking for more compensation, take an unbiased look at the value you’re adding to the company. This type of information will help your manager advocate on your behalf, Dr. Dattner said.
Dr. Stoll said that when it comes to less tangible rewards, such as the opportunity to advance, “there is more room for miscommunication and hurt feelings.”
She gave the hypothetical example of a young woman starting in the marketing profession who eventually wants to be asked to attend client meetings. However, her supervisor is not aware that this is expected to happen in her first year on the job. Talking about her goals allows her to set a more concrete and realistic timeline.
Some people have difficulty switching away from work, especially when technology enables us to be constantly connected.
But this can lead to what psychologists call over commitmentWhere people throw themselves into their work, even when the rewards don’t commensurate with that level of effort.
Excessive commitment with low rewards can make workers especially vulnerable to emotional exhaustion, one of the symptoms of burnout, Dr. Stoll said.
“When you’re emotionally exhausted, you’re too tired to control your emotions,” Dr. Stoll said, which can lead to tears or bursts.
If you’ve tried your best and still aren’t being treated fairly, “you don’t have to live that way,” he said. “There are certainly other opportunities. “It may not happen tomorrow, but you can start looking.”