Happiness at Work: Hourly vs. Salaried

by Michael Haberman on March 9, 2010 · 2 comments

I saw an article today on CareerBuilder, unfortunately I can no longer find the link. It dealt with the subject of hourly workers being happier than salaried workers. (My apologies to the author for not providing a link or the proper attribution.)

The premise of the article was that hourly workers are happier than salary workers because they see the direct result of their efforts in their paychecks. The ultimate “line-of-sight” connection. The author also mentioned that when you become salaried you start working more hours and thus your “hourly wage” decreases, hence you are unhappier in your job. As an hourly worker if  you work overtime you get extra compensation for hours worked over 40 hours in a week (or 8 hours in a day in California or under union contracts.) Supposedly you are also happier because you don’t have to make decisions.

Of course the downside of being a non-decsion making, hourly employee is that often in an economic downturn you are the first to have your hours, hence your pay, cut and often are the first one to also lose your job.

So what are the upsides and the downsides of being hourly? Here is my list.
The upsides include:

  • Lower personal cost of entry. You don’t have to spend as much time getting educated. So you get into the earning catagory 4 to 5 years sooner than someone who goes to college.
  • You get to leave your work at work.
  • Don’t have to make too many decisions at work.
  • You have the potential for overtime.
  • That direct tie of amount of time work = amount of money made
  • Easier to replace an hourly job when one is lost (depending on economy)
  • You have to punch a time clock.
  • You are often the first to go.
  • Job is probably not high on the Maslow/Herzberg “self fullfilment” scale.
  • You don’t get to make any decisions at work.
  • You eventually don’t make as much money as a salaried exempt employee.
  • You get labeled as “non-exempt” and have to have that explained to you.
  • Your self worth is based on what you make rather than what you do.
For the Salaried positions just reverse these lists. So what do you think. Can you add to these lists? Or would your lists look different?
 (BTW, some of this is tongue in cheek. There are days …..)

Sign up for free HR Solutions updates via email

Omega HR Solutions, Inc. uses creative human resource solutions to provide answers to time, money and service issues with employers and their employees. Visit our Products and Services page for more information or contact us to learn how we can help your organization.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann Bares March 9, 2010 at 2:16 pm


I wonder if the study that CareerBuilder was referencing is the same one that I posted on last week – see below. If it is, my post does include a link to the original paper (avail for free download) which is pretty interesting!



Michael D. Haberman, SPHR March 9, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Thanks for the link. It certainly sounds like that is where the material come from. Your statements were well made and thoughtful on your blog post.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: