The Social Comparison Problem

Minimum wage has been a growing important topic lately. Some support it. Others don’t.

But one objection to raising the minimum wage has been that if you raise the minimum wage of unskilled work to $15, then those who are already making $15 doing skilled work won’t feel incentivized to work as hard or won’t want to stay in that position.

A few months ago, for example, a company in Seattle famously raised their minimum wage to $70,000.

Shortly after doing this, two people in the company, who were already being paid more than most of their fellow coworkers, decided to quit the company.

Why? Because they felt that it wasn’t fair that people who weren’t as productive were getting a raise, while they weren’t.

As a result, they decided to quit their job, a job they liked, because they perceived the new wage raise as unfair.

This impulse that these employees had to want to compare their situation to others is what’s known as social comparison theory.

Social comparison theory states that we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others.

As a result, we’re constantly making self and other evaluations across a variety of factors, such as attractiveness, wealth, intelligence, and success.

Some of us, fortunately, have the social skills and impulse control to keep our envy and social comparisons quiet, but a lot of us tend to let this comparison get to us.

Some let it get to us so much, that we go as far as quitting our jobs as a result of it.

But doing this, is a mistake.

Theodore Roosevelt was right when he said that “Comparison is the thief of joy.”



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