Choosing a Job for Your Financial and Mental Health

Choosing a Job That's Good for Your Financial and Mental Health

The last two years have seen a huge shift in how the world does business. While it provides many opportunities, it has also exposed some serious social and mental health concerns for employees. Although some issues stem from the reengineering of the workforce, transitioning to a remote environment has also brought many issues of toxic work cultures into the spotlight.

So, if you are feeling burnt out, lonely, or undervalued, you’re not alone. Many of us have been taken advantage of and suffered through the day-to-day drudgery of a toxic workplace. But, this could be harming you more than you realize.

Here’s why it’s important to choose a job that’s good for your financial and mental health.

The Financial Strain of the Underpaid

When you are first starting out, you should expect to be on the low end of the salary spectrum in any field. Even if you have the right certifications and are highly qualified for the position, you must gain hands-on experience. Once you have put the time in, your salary should increase to reflect this.

However, stingy companies and penny-pinching CEOs will be hard-pressed to give their employees the compensation they deserve. In my experience, this meant denying raises, forgoing end-of-year bonuses, and canceling events or festivities on the company’s dime. Meanwhile, the top executives usually don’t have to make the same sacrifices.

Not only is it unfair, but it is a major red flag that you have a toxic work environment. Unfortunately, it is a widespread problem which I have seen around the world. I have worked for several employers in multiple countries where it has happened. Companies under-value their staff who have few options and have no choice but to accept the low wages.

In addition to lowering morale and reinforcing an unhealthy dynamic, it creates a huge financial strain for these employees. Although inflation and the cost of living continue to rise, employees’ incomes remain stagnant. This makes it harder to stretch the budget and nearly impossible to build savings.

The Mental Health Toll

In addition to the financial impacts, a toxic workplace takes a heavy toll on your mental health. Employees in these environments report higher rates of chronic stress, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and burnout. Furthermore, health professionals also warn that these factors can also lower your immune response and cause you to get sick more often.

At one point in my career,  it was so severe that I showed all of these symptoms simultaneously. The worst part was how long it took me to recognize the signs of a toxic workplace. I continued to push through, believing that I was the problem. Instead of trusting my abilities and training, I felt like my work was never good enough.

I can recall one manager, in particular, that would micromanage menial tasks and force employees to redo them as a way to exert her dominance over everyone. While I’m sure she justified it as a means to establish her authority, it created a hostile workspace.

Although I’m no longer there, the truth is that I am still dealing with the repercussions today. It has taken me years to rebuild my self-confidence and understand my own worth after years of verbal abuse from my superiors.

10 Signs Your Job Is Affecting Your Financial and Mental Health

I overlooked several red flags early on that led to a decline in my overall well-being. While there are several indications that you work in a toxic workplace, these were the 10 signs which told me that my job was affecting my financial and mental health:

  1. An unhealthy work-life balance
  2. Unrealistic expectations and demands from my superiors
  3. No respect for personal boundaries
  4. No encouragement for input from employees
  5. Lack of acknowledgment or appreciation for employee efforts
  6. Every task is micromanaged
  7. Work is affecting your sleeping habits
  8. No opportunities for professional advancement
  9. A general lack of enthusiasm for the job
  10. Regularly thinking about quitting

This list is by no means all-inclusive. However, it provided me with a tangible checklist that made me realize that I was in an unhealthy situation. For me, all signs pointed to one conclusion: it was time for a change.

Finding a Job That’s Good for Your Financial and Mental Health

Once I realized I had had enough of the verbal abuse, it became easier to enforce boundaries. For months, I received extra tasks, was bullied to work for free, and berated in front of my coworkers. After yet another one of temper tantrums, I simply told my supervisor I was done and walked away. I maintained my professionalism and gave my two-weeks notice, but checked out from her mental gymnastics.

Determined to have a fresh start, I decided it was time to go into business for myself. Never again would I subject myself to abusive bosses or toxic workplaces. Instead, I could create my own professional atmosphere and job that promoted positive financial and mental health.

However, starting your own business is easier said than done. I needed to find a viable career path for my skill set. So, I performed an honest self-assessment to see what my options were. With a strong background in communication, grammar, writing, and copy editing, I began researching what it would take to become a freelance writer. Since I already had acquaintances who had made the same career move, I discussed my situation and consulted with them as I got started.

Over the next year, I spent time networking with other freelancers, making new contacts in the industry, and finding ways to attract new clients. I’m proud to say that all my efforts have paid off. What was once a side hustle in college has now blossomed into a full-time career.

I won’t be making millions, but I’m much happier doing work I enjoy with people I respect. The sense of fulfillment and satisfaction with life is much greater than any financial loss.

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Top 8 Myths About Salary Raises

Top Myths About Salary Raises

Going after a pay raise can be an intimidating task. That’s probably why so many of us never ask for salary increases. However, when people buy into the many myths about salary raises, they are only holding themselves back. Here are some of the most common myths and the truth behind them.

Top 8 Myths About Salary Raises

1. Employees are entitled to annual raises.

Unfortunately, there are no labor laws that entitle employees to annual raises. While it may be customary to give annual increases or bonuses, there are no guarantees. The only instance in which an employer must increase wages is when mandated by minimum wage increases. If either the federal or state minimum wage increases on an annual basis, then an employee would be legally entitled to a salary raise every year. Although many states have been consistently increasing the minimum wage, the federal minimum rate hasn’t gone up since 2009.

2. If an employer says you are eligible for a promotion after 6 months, then by law it must happen.

During the interview process, many employees will discuss the timeline it takes to promote within the company. However, if your employer states that you will be eligible for a promotion after six months, they may simply be stating the company policy in which employees are eligible for promotions. This does not mean you will automatically receive a promotion as soon as you are eligible, unless it is explicitly written into your contract. If an employer offers quick promotions as an incentive, you should take it as something to aspire to, not an expectation.

3. Your superiors track when you are due for a raise/promotion.

Although you may play a crucial role in your work environment, that doesn’t mean your superiors track your raises and promotions. Unless you have a legal entitlement in an employment contract, some employers won’t always offer salary increases from year to year. It’s in the company’s best interest to keep labor costs down. However, that shouldn’t stop you from going after a raise.

By taking on more responsibility and demonstrating your value to the company can earn you a salary bump. But, if you never speak up, no one will ever know your intentions or desire for a raise. If your superiors see your potential and ambition to advance, most companies encourage promotion from within. And, they will gladly pay you more for filling leadership roles.

4. During a salary negotiation, your boss is your adversary.

One of the biggest myths about salary raises is that your boss is your adversary during negotiations. If you are a valuable employee, they will see you as an asset, not an adversary. Even though they represent corporate interests, that doesn’t mean you are automatically at odds. In fact, retaining and promoting valuable employees would put you on the same side.

Most companies are not as greedy or miserly as we would like to believe. If you can demonstrate that you deserve a raise, they will happily give it to you when it’s within reason. But like all business proposals, you should still prepare what you want to say and rehearse it before you make the actual request.

5. The best time to ask for a raise is during your annual review.

Contrary to what you might have heard, you shouldn’t wait for your annual review to ask for a raise. If you wait for your boss to announce your raise during your evaluation, it’s already too late. Budgets have already been allocated and salaries fixed for the next fiscal year. Therefore, you should try to do it earlier. If possible you should ask the quarter before your evaluation, after completing a major project, or solving a difficult issue. Timing is important, so use important professional moments and successes to your advantage.

6. Everyone is on the same playing field.

Another of the most common myths about salary raises is that everyone in the same position earns the same salary. It isn’t a level playing field, and employers pay each person what they feel they are worth to the company. Your qualifications and prior experience may entitle you to a higher salary.

The key to successful negotiations is knowing your worth. If you aren’t certain what the average salary for your position is, you can check online resources to get an idea of what other professionals with the same job title earn with other companies. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines for each position.

7. You should ask for a specific figure.

Another mistake people make when asking for a raise is giving an exact figure. If you ask for a specific amount, you pigeonhole yourself in it. Instead, give them a range of how much more money you are asking for. And, it’s always better to aim higher than your goal to leave room for negotiation.

8. If it doesn’t happen now, it never will.

Just because your boss denies your request now doesn’t mean that you will never get a raise in the future. Perhaps there are financial difficulties you aren’t aware of or it just isn’t in the budget. If it’s only an issue of money, you can also negotiate for better benefits that have value beyond your paycheck.

When you ask for a raise, remember to be patient. Your boss may need time to review the decision. And, you don’t want to put yourself at a disadvantage by presenting them with an ultimatum. Although you should prepare yourself for a negative response, don’t let it keep you from trying again when circumstances are more favorable.

Now that you are aware of the most common myths about salary raises, you can better avoid the pitfalls of salary negotiations. With a little preparation and awareness of your self-worth, you should have no trouble going after your professional ambitions. And, remember that even if you fail the first time, persistence pays off.

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Why We Need to End Tipping Culture

Why We Need to End Tipping Culture

When you become an expat and choose to live abroad, you begin to question certain cultural norms. Growing up in America, tipping is an ingrained custom that is often questioned by outsiders.  In fact, some cultures consider tipping offensive. It implies that you assume the server doesn’t earn enough to support themselves. However, for American servers, this is a reality. Since restaurants can pay their staff below minimum wage, servers depend on their customers to supplement their income. Unfortunately, this leaves people in a vulnerable position and susceptible to discriminatory practices. Here are just a few reasons why we need to end tipping culture in America.

Working for Less than Minimum Wage

As a former server, let me tell you what it’s like to work for less than minimum wage. In my state, the minimum wage is $9.00 an hour. But, restaurants only pay you $2.13 an hour. Because we rely on tipping culture, they expect your tips to cover the difference between the actual minimum wage and the pittance they pay you.

In most cases, servers and front house staff will usually make much more than this because of tips. When I worked as a server and bartender, there were some nights I would walk out with over $200 from a six hour shift. Other nights, I would have to work doubles and maintain grueling hours just to break the minimum wage threshold. It depended on several factors such as the kind of restaurant, day of the week, major events in the city, and your customers. With this kind of inconsistency, it made it difficult to budget, and some months, to pay the bills.

Tipping Culture Undercuts Livable and Fair Wages

Although we typically associate tipping culture with the restaurant and food service industry, it has become expected for nearly every service imaginable. Not only do we tip wait staff, but also our hair dressers, taxi drivers, baby sitters, dog walkers, landscapers, and doormen, just to name a few. Tipping no longer reflects the quality of service. Instead, it shows that employers place the burden on their customers rather than pay their staff fair wages.

Standard tipping culture requires 15-20% gratuity. However, the amount servers earn is completely subjective to the customer’s mood. So, if you are serving someone who already has a bias toward you, it will negatively impact your livelihood. Since those in the service industry must rely on tips, it leaves them more vulnerable to discrimination and harassment. Unfortunately, we are still facing biases based on race, sex, age, and other social factors.

When their salaries depend on compensation from customers, it can facilitate an environment where serving staff must choose between their ethics and their paychecks. I can recall dozens of times in which I was told to ‘brush off’ unwanted advances or else be punished by not receiving a tip. Asking someone to violate their principles shows how little we value them as people or care how it affects them personally or financially. Every human being deserves to be treated with dignity. And that begins by paying them fair wages.

End Tipping Culture to Hold Employers Accountable

Recently, there has been some momentum to end tipping culture. Spurred on by restaurants like Joe’s Crab Shack, some eateries have attempted to eliminate it by automatically including gratuity and service fees. However, tipping is deeply ingrained in the American mindset. People would rather put that extra dollar towards a tip than increased menu prices. In fact, they abandoned this model and returned to tipping because their online ratings dropped. Even though the final cost for their meal was approximately the same, people feel they have more control if they can determine how much they leave for their servers.

While tips have been enough to sustain servers in the past, COVID-19 has revealed several fatal flaws in the system. It has impacted food service workers more than any other industry because people stopped dining in and leaving tips. In some areas of the country, foot traffic is down 60% which in turn directly affects food service workers’ ability to support themselves. Although they are still required to perform the same work, their primary source of income no longer sees the need to leave a tip unless there is a face-to-face interaction.

Instead of complaining that people should return to work and be happy to receive any wages, it is time to hold employers accountable to their staff. If the restaurant and bar industry want to see their workers return, they need some guarantee that they will receive a steady salary to cover their cost of living.

Adopting More Sustainable Models

A few states, like California and Washington have already eliminated tip credit. But, many restaurants that tried to transition away from tipping culture have reverted back to this model. Since it is a cultural norm that doesn’t appear to be going away, we need to normalize sustainable models that ensure livable wages.

Some restaurants have implemented new models that show promise. First, restaurants could offer the best of both worlds. They could pay servers full minimum wage with tips on top. Another option is to keep menu prices the same, but include an automatic and separate service charge for their staff. One of the most progressive models I came across was a salary based on sales. Servers earn a percentage of individual sales and kitchen staff earned a percentage of the total shift sales. Owners who adopted this pay scale said their employees were more incentivized to provide better and faster service. Since the idea is based on the fact that if you sell more, then you can earn more, everyone is more motivated to work more efficiently. Finally, the federal and state governments could offer tax breaks or incentives to business owners who adopt no-tipping models.

If we want to change the public’s perception of tipping, we need to have everyone on board. It starts by having a reason for people to change. Because at the end of the day, the high earning days can’t justify the lows. Everyone deserves the ability to make a fair and steady wage. But, there will never be change until people see that the system is broken and demand better.

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