Do Good Employees Do More Than They Get Paid For?


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?


Real danger exists in embracing this Ziglar sentiment. People who sacrifice in hopes of earning a future reward become naturally disgruntled if their expectations never manifest. Employers who successfully sell this notion to their employees can forever appeal to it and defer any fulfillment of its promise. Just run a little bit longer on that treadmill and you’ll eventually get the carrot – promise.

Successful people do not do more than they get paid for, though they may get compensated through means other than money. In the writing business, many people donate their work in exchange for the opportunity to be published and read. Politics sees the exchange of many favors to mutual benefit. Businesses offer sales, deals, and freebies to attract customers. None of these transactions exchange a greater value for a lesser one. Each exchange is calculated to mutual advantage.

Fully consider the function of internship. An internship provides a value which is worth the time and effort of the intern. Once skills have developed to a consistently professional level, the intern becomes worthy of employment. As he improves further over the years, he may become worthy of more robust compensation. So long as he prioritizes his own self-interest, he will never get paid more or less than he is worth. No employer will pay more than they have to, and competing employers will headhunt underpaid talent. That’s how the market works.

A proper version of the Ziglar sentiment might read: when you invest for value, eventually you may see a return.