The Big Secret That Could Make You Unhappy at Work

Here's a good reason not to go nosing around in your co-workers' business. Knowing how much money your co-workers earn could make you a lot less happy at work.

Research from the University of Carlos III of Madrid shows that when a worker's earnings are less than that of their peers, they can end up working more hours in an effort to catch up, which leads to a feeling of unhappiness.

"The effect of others' earnings on my happiness is negative, because I compare myself to them and it makes me unhappy to earn less than them," said the study's author, professor Eduardo Pérez Asenjo. "So I work more hours so that I can earn the same as, or more than, them."

The most likely explanation of the study's results lies in social comparisons, Asenjo said.

Asenjo said businesses should take the research into consideration when trying to keep their employees happy.

"It might be a relevant criterion to keep in mind, when setting salaries, that an employee is concerned not only with what (he or she) earns, but also with what those around them earn," Asenjo said. "My personal opinion is that employees' happiness is not really taken into account in work environments."

One area Asenjo believes needs further analysis is whether the effects of relative income on happiness vary with income level or age.

Asenjo said that if money were everything, eventually the highest earners would stop trying so hard because they had no one to compete with.

That's not happening, however, which Asenjo attributes to the social comparisons that employees make to others around them.

The research was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Population Economics.

This story was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow Chad Brooks on Twitter @cbrooks76 or BusinessNewsDaily @BNDarticles. We're also on Facebook & Google+.

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