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Do Good Employees Do More Than They Get Paid For?

Some motivational mantras prove dead on arrival.

by
Walter Hudson

Bio

August 10, 2013 - 9:00 am
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paidfor

Is the above quote true? Should you do more than you get paid for, hoping that you will eventually be paid for more than you do?

While it may at first sound like an expression of good work ethic, this quote proves not only incorrect, but dangerous. People who take it to heart could find themselves stuck on a path to nowhere.

Certainly, we make all manner of investments which do not produce immediate or guaranteed returns. Education and advertisement come to mind. Internships and apprenticeships involve work for little if any pay while students develop their skills in a practical environment. But none of that really amounts to doing more than you get paid for in hopes of getting paid for more than you do.

To truly do more than you get paid for is to sacrifice, trading a greater value for a lesser one. Investments in education, marketing, or the capital requirements of a business do not amount to sacrifices. Time spent studying for a big test or money spent trolling for new customers serves a valuable interest. Likewise, interning without monetary compensation provides an opportunity to develop both skills and a professional network. That has value. That value substitutes for a paycheck. Otherwise, if the value received was not perceived as greater than that expended, no one would agree to intern. Certainly, work done to produce a long-term value has virtue. But long-term value is still value, not “more than you’re paid for.”

The belief that you ought to provide a greater value than you receive in hopes of one day receiving a greater value than you provide stands on no principle. If doing more than you get paid to proves virtuous, then seeking to get paid for more than you do would prove wicked. Given that paradox, why would you do either? More to the point, why would anyone ever pay you more to do less?

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Top Rated Comments   
"In Obama's economy, we all likely do more than we get paid for"

From a macro view, this is because there are now so many people who get paid for much more than they do - namely government employees, entitlement groups and crony capitalists.

The free market, while not perfect, does a pretty good job of assigning value to one's energy, ideas ,skills and work ethic. When government coerces us to pay for things we don't want or need, sets wages and work rules and regulates the h*ll out of private sector activity, then the rest of us have to work harder for less in order to maintain a good standard of living for everyone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That may have worked for the America of old. If you live by those principles today you will be fired by your own boss who is 24-7 scanning the workforce to see who may have enough talent and skills to take his job next year. You can take this to the bank. When we ceased being an economy of production to become an economy of speculation, all of the old work ethics became toxic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you accept that as a promise from your employer you are a fool. If you take it as a personal tenet, though, there is a good chance it will come to pass. The more you work at something -- and I mean work as effort resulting in achieving an end not merely the expending of energy -- the more your skills will improve and the more you will learn about your workplace environment and the more your reputation will develop. You will, however, have to either ask for a raise at some point or seek employment at a competitor to get the money.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (27)
All Comments   (27)
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I put more into my work than required because I have high standards and answer (in that deep, Hebrew National Voice) to a Higher Authority, not because I expect to be rewarded by my employer. I disagree that you are not eventually rewarded, though. Sometimes the reward is other than money, which can be more valuable than cash.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't know. I think you get out of something what you put into it. I do think if the company demands that you do more than they're paying you for, then you are under no obligations. However, if you're the one making the choice to take on more in order to gain new skills and experience to make yourself more marketable either within your company or within your job market, then it will pay off if you are working at a place that's at all worthwhile. But then, my husband's company also prides itself on maintaining a certain kind of corporate culture, too, and they seem to be overall an ethical place with standards and they recognize and reward loyalty, work ethic, integrity and excellence in their employees.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Good employees do exactly the amount of work they are paid for: in current dollar compensation and future promotion prospect.

Good employees who are not paid their worth will become some other employers' good employees.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It depends. I once worked for a small company that was on the verge of going under. A a member of senior management, I and a few others worked 80 hour weeks to keep the company going and turn it around. We were successful. Why did I do it? I did it because there were 49 other people in the company and they would become unemployed if I failed, and they were depending upon us for their jobs. Is knowing I saved those jobs sufficient reward? you bet.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
A proper version of the Ziglar sentiment might read: when you invest for value, eventually you may see a return.

So there's no real disagreement here.

What you want to avoid, as an organization, as a culture, is the "It's not my job" syndrome where work never gets done. But that means you also have to avoid acquiring the internal parasites who dump all their work on a couple of eager beavers who don't even end up getting the credit. Those guys will be the first to leave, and suddenly the place will collapse.

Management is tough work, and I agree with many other posters here, the American corporate structure has deteriorated horribly over the past twenty years, and in today's world the odds that you will fulfill Ziglar's statement are just about zero.


1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Mutual benefit" - you hit the nail on the head with that phrase. When you value time over money, the mutual benefit of being expected to be available 24/7 is thrown out the window. The same goes for internships - recently, a film intern in NYC sued the production company he interned for because he "had to do work expected of paid employees" - and he won. Forget the learning experience and the hard knocks, all the kid was in for was cash. Once again, mutual benefit is thrown out the window. Great observations!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The argument, if I have gathered it correctly, is that certain industries are exploiting unpaid interns on a large scale that has nothing to do with the "apprenticeship" concept, and that they are often doing skilled work and not just scut work.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In the military, one mantra is that there is no such thing as 'bad' platoons, companies, brigades, etc. There are only good leaders and bad leaders.

iow, if you address the wrong problem, you'll never find the right solution.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Near universal doubt of Ziglar's aphorism and others like it is the reason for the popularity of Scott Adams's "Dilbert" comic strip and his books based on it. One year, when my annual review was overdue, I discovered my boss at the copy machine xeroxing my last year's review. Nearly everyone who has worked in a large organization has had an experience like that, the disconnection between what you do and what you get.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Do good employees do more than they get paid for? In Obama's economy, we all likely do more than we get paid for. We are afraid to take vacations, we come to work when we are sick, and we schedule doctor's and dental visits on our own time. Jobs are scarce and full-time opportunities are becoming very difficult to obtain.

Agree with Bill L below, as a personal tenet the phrase works. Expecting an employer to act this way depends on the overall economy and the financial health of the organization. Not too many sectors have the flexibility to reward employees now, annual increases are often delayed or fail to keep up with the increase in health care premiums.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"In Obama's economy, we all likely do more than we get paid for"

From a macro view, this is because there are now so many people who get paid for much more than they do - namely government employees, entitlement groups and crony capitalists.

The free market, while not perfect, does a pretty good job of assigning value to one's energy, ideas ,skills and work ethic. When government coerces us to pay for things we don't want or need, sets wages and work rules and regulates the h*ll out of private sector activity, then the rest of us have to work harder for less in order to maintain a good standard of living for everyone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That may have worked for the America of old. If you live by those principles today you will be fired by your own boss who is 24-7 scanning the workforce to see who may have enough talent and skills to take his job next year. You can take this to the bank. When we ceased being an economy of production to become an economy of speculation, all of the old work ethics became toxic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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