Is A Higher-Paying Job Worth Extra Stress?

You love your job, but you’re offered a 50% raise to work somewhere with a stressful work culture. What should you do?

Is A Higher-Paying Job Worth Extra Stress?
[Photo: S. Charles via Unsplash]

It’s an unfortunate balance that many of us debate: a high paying job or one with a good work-life balance. In an ideal world you could have both, but that’s not the reality for most people.


Career expert Alison Green (aka Ask A Manager) helps a reader weigh the pros and cons.

I’m an executive assistant for a medium-sized nonprofit organization. I absolutely love my job, the organization, and my boss. Like most nonprofits, the salary is on the low side. Currently I am at $40,000 a year, but usually I receive a few enhancements, making my salary closer to $43,000 a year.

I was contacted by a corporation for an executive assistant position at $65,000 a year. While the job duties are very similar, I did some research on the corporation, and there has been recent management changeover, several key employees left, and one of the new executives had several sexual harassment allegations at a previous company. The allegations were settled privately. This would be the executive I would report to.

On top of this, I have some minor health issues that a stressful job could make worse. The idea of going from a laid-back organization to a large corporation with a potential for high stress is concerning to me. In my current job, my boss lets me come in late if I have an appointment, go during lunch, etc. Currently my job does not affect my health in any way and my job performance is not affected by my health. I need work-life balance, and I’m always worried a new employer may “talk the talk but not walk the walk” regarding “family comes first.”

I have a lot of college loans and the money certainly would be helpful. Does the extra money negate the negatives of changing jobs?

I believe pretty firmly that only you can decide that. The answer is heavily dependent on your current finances, your financial obligations, your savings and saving goals, what you want out of your career, and what you care about most in life. It’s also dependent on where you are in your life right now; sometimes that kind of trade-off makes sense at one stage of your life but wouldn’t interest you during another stage.

It’s certainly not unreasonable to decide that extra money isn’t worth giving up a job you love and a work environment you’re happy in, if you’d be trading it for stress, less flexibility, and possible health issues. On the other hand, a 51% salary increase isn’t exactly minor. It also has more of an impact when you’re starting at $40,000 than if you were starting at $100,000; the additional money is likely to buy you a bigger increase in quality of life and more financial breathing room. And plenty of people do decide that they’re willing to work long hours with less-than-pleasant people in exchange for the right amount of money.

It really just depends on what you value most right now.

I say go to the interview and keep an open mind. Do not go with the mind-set of, “I want this job” or “I’m so excited about this salary.” Go with the mind-set of, “I’m going to gather as much information as I can so I can figure out if this is something I’d even want.”

After talking with them, you might come away feeling like there’s no way you’d want to work with them (in which case, problem solved). Or you might feel more interested than you expected to. If that happens, take a brutally honest inventory of pros and cons, and what you’d really be selling them for the price they’d be paying. If you’d just be selling a few extra hours of your time per week, that might be worth it. But if you’d be selling your health or your quality of life, it’s probably not. The real answer is probably somewhere in between, and that’s where we get into “only you can decide what want from a job” . . . but the key thing is to figure out what the trade would really be, and then you can decide if it’s a trade that interests you.


This article originally appeared on Ask A Manager and is reprinted with permission.

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