What Would Your Employees Choose? More Money or a Better Boss?

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There was a survey done recently by Michelle McQuaid and the results were picked up by a number of media outlets and delivered as big news.

The basis of the study was, if given a choice, would your employee choose a better boss or a pay raise – and guess what they found!? Yes, 65 percent of employees say they would rather have a “Better Boss” than more money!

So, here’s my question to you — do you think this is true?

What if you went to your employees right now, today, and told them: “Look, we know based on this survey that you guys want a better boss, so we going to fire the idiot we have managing you right now and let you pick your next boss! And, because we are doing this, you don’t get a raise next year. But don’t worry —  you’ll be more engaged and happier because this next gal you pick to tell you what to do is really going to be that much better! What do you say? Are you in?”

A laughable survey?

Before you go cutting your budget for 2013 pay increases and start funneling all of that money into leadership development,  let’s look at a couple of things:

  • The person who did the survey — Michelle McQuaid – has a consulting business, and guess what she’s selling? Engagement!
  • The survey sample was a total of 1,000 folks from various demographics, and I’m sure was academically and statistically tested to be completely valid and reliable…

Unfortunately, the media outlets that pick this crap up never give the full story. That’s not their job – their job is to get you to click – and most people believe what they read. Put into context, this survey is almost laughable. One person, trying to sell her ideas, throws a survey together that just by happenstance validates what she’s saying. The Business Insider even tied Gallup into the article making it look even more valid – which causes great confusion!

Here’s how I would do this study

Here’s my real life study of this same subject. Do this for me and let me know how it turns out:

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  1. Take $2,500 cash, in stacks of $20 bills, and set them in front of an employee. Let the employee touch the money and pick it up.
  2. Then, ask this one question: “You can have a new boss – a better boss – or, right now you can have this money. Which one would you like?”
  3. Do this to 100 employees — or 1,000 (like it matters) – and tell me your results.

Here is my guarantee to you, and if it doesn’t work out this way, I’ll pay for your study: You will not have 65 percent of your employees chose a new boss! I guarantee it.

Look, I get what Michelle McQuaid is trying to do – we’ve all been drinking the engagement Kool-Aid – so now we’re supposed to believe that money no longer matters to people? Well, it does. It matters a whole lot, and don’t try and kid yourself.

Telling yourself that your employees will pick a better boss over a raise is fool’s errand and makes you look like an idiot to your executives, because they know reality. People want a better boss AND people need and want more money. More!

This originally appeared on the blog The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.