Spreading Out Pay Raises Could Make You Work Harder

February 22, 2016, 6:58 PM UTC
McDonald's Workers, Activists Protest McDonald's Labor Practices
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 18: Women hold banners during a protest for higher wages for fast food workers on March 18, 2014 in New York City. The protest, arranged by the group "Fast Food Forward" accused fast food corporations of corporate greed and withholding wages. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Photograph by Andrew Burton—Getty Images

When it comes to getting a raise, the amount may not motivate you as much as how frequent those wage increases are.

According to a new study from the University of Cologne in Germany, quantity beats quality in the area of salary hikes, and acts as the more important motivator for employees in the workplace.

In a study of library workers at the university, researchers found that those whose wages were hiked in two steps rather than one performed “substantially higher” in their work, even if the total wage increase in both instances was the same.

One reason could be because workers get used to their new salary quickly, and the positive effects that come with it don’t last long. “It doesn’t matter as much how big the increase is,” Dirk Sliwka, an economics professor at the University of Cologne and a co-author of the study, told the Wall Street Journal. “What was generous yesterday seems normal today.”

In fact, a surprise factor in a wage hike leads to another interesting outcome: Workers end up being more honest and are more willing to do voluntary extra work, when compared to a traditional, expected increase.

Increasing the frequency of wage increases wasn’t likely to happen soon, however. “It’s hard work to convince firms to split [raises] up,” Sliwka told the Journal, because of the added administrative work it would necessitate.