May 25, 2019

Show me the money!

Jerry Maguire
Jerry Maguire

In the 1996 hit film Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise plays a sports agent who makes a stand against what he considers is the exploitation of sporting stars in the crazy world of sports management.  For his stand against the corporate culture he is duly fired by his employers. He responds by starting up his own agency but soon finds himself under great pressure to retain his clients.  In one of the most memorable and funny scenes in the movie he ends up repeatedly shouting the phrase “Show me the money” to his one and only very demanding client.  By the end of the movie the character played by Tom Cruise has justified his stand against exploitation and has demonstrated that his relationship with his client is both close and flourishing.  All is well with the world….cue the credits.

Now don’t get me wrong, Jerry Maguire is a fun film, and to watch it is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours, but while we all go to work in order to pay the bills I am sure that having a career is about so much more than just the money.  Consider this; according to Ask Jeeves we each typically spend around 30% of our lives at work. That’s on top of another 33% that we spend sleeping.  It therefore makes a lot of sense for us each to understand what we are seeking from work by way of reward, recognition and personal fulfilment. We must understand how we will be compensated for our efforts, and what motivates us in the first place.

Different professions tend to attract types of individuals who are in turn seeking differing rewards.  As a Professional Development Manager at IBM I was responsible for a number of graduate sales professionals.  All of them were motivated by financial bonuses, a smart company car and the prestige that sales success brought.  In contrast to this my wife has spent her entire working life working within the NHS where the perks are far fewer (unless you count free germs) but the fulfilment found in restoring the health of an individual is hard to beat.

Some organisations build their reputations on the way they treat their workers.  Consider the reputation of John Lewis where all employees are partners of the organisation, that’s 91,000 of them!  At the same time they have an excellent relationship with their customers, many of whom are extremely loyal.

Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream were a company built on the freewheeling hippy values of the two founders. It attracted a committed and satisfied workforce to match (who wouldn’t be with all that delicious free ice cream on tap).  Money it seems is just one component of what can be a very complex formula to retain a workforce.

Ben & Jerry
Ben & Jerry


Over the years I have developed my own formula for finding the right balance between reward and job satisfaction.  I have two guiding principles:

  1. Work for people who value your skill and contribution.
  2. Seek out organisations or departments that are expanding. They are more likely to offer opportunities for career advancement and invest in the skills of their workforce.

So it turns out that whilst we all like to have plenty of cash in our pockets, money by itself does not bring job satisfaction.  The only guarantee it really brings is that we can be “miserable in comfort”.

Show me the money?  Well yes, but actually we all want so much more.

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