corporate payment

Will an employee spend less if they’re happier?

It’s well known that shopping reduces sadness.

In a study that reviews the benefits of retail therapy, Professors at the University of Michigan discovered that making purchasing decisions is a mood-boosting power play, and a sure-fire way to feel better fast.

What does this have to do with your business? Psychologist, Graham Jones, says: “There appear to be two factors involved in happiness at work. One is the job itself – many jobs are poorly designed and thought through, leading to frustration, annoyance, boredom and so on. The second factor is the immediate boss you work for. If they respect you, treat you well and are friendly towards you, then you tend to enjoy the job more.”

If one of your senior staff is a micromanaging menace, and all the staff are feeling underappreciated and out of control, they could improve their mood and regain power by spending a lot of company money between them.

So, how can employers safeguard against workplace sadness and save money?

Reward with Motivational Factors, Not Hygiene Factors

Coach and talent management consultant at, Matthew Davies says that employee happiness is restored by motivational factors: “Clinical psychologist Frederick Herzberg, researched hygiene factors such as pay, working conditions and company policy, and motivational factors such as recognition, opportunity for growth and achievement. He found the latter promoted greater employee fulfilment and happiness, whereas the former only improved satisfaction marginally.

“For example, if a manager praises an employee: ‘I love how you performed that task, thank you so much, it was brilliant!’ that’s more effective than giving the employee a new chair, bonus or a promotion. A financial reward is like a firework, it’s impressive at first, but it fizzles out very quickly.”

Hire Candidates with Purpose and Focus

“If employees don’t have aspirations beyond making money to pay the mortgage, they are more likely to spend a little extra on expenses,” says Matthew. Recruiting staff who have a purpose and want to do a good job will cultivate a loyal workforce, who won’t spend as much on expenses.

Leadership consultant and TED favourite, Simon Sinek, tells employers to hire for attitude, not skills. But how can you spot the right candidates at interview? Matthew agrees and says you should ask: ‘why do you do what you do?’ and that will prompt a truthful, passionate response. They might say: ‘I really love problem solving’ or ‘I love working with analytic teams, crunching numbers in spreadsheets.’ If you can usher out the inner geek, you know you’re onto a winner.

Live and Breathe the Company Purpose

If an employee identifies disingenuous values, they will feel dissatisfied and resentful. Matthew says employers should look closely at the copy published on their website, or in the employee handbook, and consider if the values really mirror the company culture. “If you’re open and tell employees ‘our goal is to make lots of money’ you will inevitably recruit a lot of people who want the same thing and work towards a united goal.” If the employee feels tricked by the values, or as if they’re pushing water up a hill, they’re likely to lose interest and get slack when upholding expected standards.

Create A Plan of Action

Matthew says, “if you hire smart people, you need to allow these people to be smart. You can safeguard your company in the early days by managing their expectations with a roadmap, or plan of action.

“Initially, it’s fine to put employees on a short lead while they come to understand your systems, processes and culture. But over a period of time, you need to loosen the grip and give them trust, independence and responsibility.”

Motivate employees and align company purpose to avoid employees taking some retail therapy on the company’s budget. Encourage an employee to spend less by safeguarding against workplace sadness.


As well as keeping your staff motivated it’s important to map out a clear expenses policy so that their spending can’t get out of control. Is your policy up to scratch?

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


Mariette Ferreira

Mariette Ferreira

Mariette heads up marketing at FairFX. She loves travelling, scuba diving and South Africa, but she's yet to combine all three in one.

Leave a Reply