The Advantages of Being Overworked & Underpaid

September 5, 2018
“Come work with us, and in a short time you will find yourself overworked and underpaid.” Not many companies would use this as their slogan when they’re recruiting new hires.

In a recent study conducted by LinkedIn, over 40% of millennial workers reported being stressed in their jobs. The 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed the millennial generation places value on workplace flexibility, opportunity, inclusion and a number of other factors. Nowhere, however, was mentioned this generation’s desire to be overworked and underpaid in their jobs.  

Arguably, very few of us enjoy the feeling of being behind in our work, constantly struggling to catch up, with not nearly enough time or resources to get what needs to be done, done. Pair this with the perception that others around us are doing less work and exerting less effort, but receiving equal or greater pay, and the frustration really sets in – many times leading to resentment of the company and its managers.

But here’s the less than hidden secret: high-performing employees are typically given more responsibilities, greater challenges, and consequently an overwhelming workload compared to those around them that perform at an average level. The increase in job requirements and expectations often precede a promotion or additional pay.  And for many young managers still early in their career, this is perceived as a problem and not an opportunity.

The reality, however, is that opportunity doesn’t always present itself in appealing packages. More often, it is surrounded by challenges and struggles, requiring not only extra work, but also a change in mindset. When an opportunity arrives with the baggage of being overworked and underpaid, it’s important to remember the following.

1.    Keep the communication lines open and honest.

When the job responsibilities become greater and the stress level increases, don’t make or rely upon assumptions, but have open and honest conversations with management. Seek to understand the perspective of the business, the expectations and requirements of the additional responsibilities, and any additional resources which may be available to alleviate the additional workload. Then communicate any concerns due to the additional job responsibilities, specifically related to the possibility of resentment or burnout. Finally, openly discuss methods or strategies to reduce an unbearable workload.

2.    Embrace the management experience and skill development.

High-performing executives understand and accept that throughout their career, management responsibilities will continually increase - more people to manage, more tasks to perform and more expectations from the business. Since the days don’t grow longer, the only alternative is to improve upon management skills. As with any skill, improvement only occurs through experience and practice. Therefore, embrace the opportunity of an additional workload to learn as much as possible, gain greater exposure to the business, and to hone the necessary skill of being resourceful and efficient.

3.    Use it as a personal advantage.

Go beyond the emotional perspective, and consider the logic and facts that accepting a greater workload may provide the opportunity for more pay or a promotion. It’s highly expensive for companies to recruit and train new employees, and much more efficient and less costly to increase pay to an existing, high-performing employee. If the company can further ask that employee to take on more responsibility, then it’s a win-win for both parties. Furthermore, if it does become necessary to switch companies, the experience gained as a manager and the increased skillsets of managing a greater workload will be attractive to other businesses. Practice patience, and consider the long-term advantages of taking on more responsibilities and a greater workload.

Feeling overworked and underpaid isn’t black and white. Every successful, experienced and well-paid business leader I know has been often overworked numerous times throughout their career. But each would say they didn’t get to where they are today without continually seeking more opportunities, greater workloads, and relishing in the challenge of accomplishing more today than they did yesterday – even when additional pay was an uncertainty.  

Embrace the advantages of being overworked and underpaid with a mindset that it’s a long-term game that can significantly pay off in the future.


Brian T. King is the founder/owner of multiple businesses encompassing design, construction, real estate and manufacturing. A well-respected construction industry CEO, Brian enjoys offering guidance to young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs on a variety of topics – from personal and professional growth, to work/life balance – through his bi-weekly blog, national podcasts, and speaking engagements around the country.

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