Debate: Is Friendship At Work REALLY More Important Than Salary?

22 July 2014 by


Eight out of 10 of us would choose having good colleagues over a high salary, according to a new survey. Really? Two writers thrash it out...

No, says writer Scarlett Russell

Anyone who pretends they care about colleagues more than their salary is lying or delusional.

We work to earn money – it’s that simple. I don’t apply for a job based on what friends I’ll make there, I apply based on where it will get me in my career, and often a big salary is the sign you have climbed a crucial next rung.

Although admittedly, I’ve not always been this focused. In my first foray into journalism, I was offered two jobs. One paid significantly more than the other, but I turned it down because I’d completed work experience at the lower-paid magazine and had made great friends. I stayed in that job far too long because I loved the team, when really I should have jumped ship after a year.

I missed opportunities for advancement. Looking back, I’d rather have had the extra zeros in my pay packet, thanks.

I would never advocate a toxic working environment, but forgive me if I don’t have time to listen to 12 versions of weekend activities when I have a looming deadline. I’ve got bills, extortionate London rent and an overdraft to pay. I’d also like to get on the housing ladder – none of which I’m willing to sacrifice for office jollies.

Being mates with your colleagues isn’t going to do you as many favours as a decent salary in the long-run. You want friends? Join a knitting circle. You want a house and no debt? Work.

Yes, says writer Anna Wharton

I’ve earned £60,000 a year, but to this day some of my happiest times were when I earned just £9,000 as a trainee. It was then that I really made friends for life. I took home barely £700 a month, yet I wouldn’t swap the laughs I had in that first office for anything.

So I’m pleased to hear that so many others agree. Eight out of 10 people in a new survey from the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) said they would turn down a big salary if it meant working with people or in an environment that they didn’t like.

Of course, we can’t be idealistic about these things – we all work to live, there are bills to be paid – but many of us live to work, simply because we love it. In my lowest-paid job there was a real sense of camaradarie. None of us were earning much, so we didn’t need to be jealous of anyone else’s big salary.

Compare that to 18 years later, taking home almost £3,500 a month on a national newspaper, we were all too busy watching our own backs to look out for anyone else’s. The financial pay-off was not enough to take away my dread at going in each day.

We spend a large part of our life sitting behind an office desk, so it’s no wonder our colleagues become our confidante, our court jester, or even our crush – hell, you can meet your husband at work. So yes, salaries are great, but sometimes they can cost you in other ways. Do a job you love, with people you like and you’ll have something money can’t buy – happiness.



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