Why People Work for Less Pay or Below Market Rate

Why People Work for Less Pay or Below Market Rate. Recruiters and employers seem motivated by the belief that there is always someone willing to work for less while delivering more. This pressures applicants to reduce their rate and have their perceptions of ‘worth’ shaped by a biased interviewer.

Ask HOW People are Paid Unfairly

Asking why companies withhold salary ranges from recruitment adverts has quite rightly, resulted in a ripped can of worms.

Unfortunately, it appears true that companies who require secrets do so because they have weak internal processes and often do not operate according to the values that they claim.

Recruiters argue that stating ‘market-related salary’ is adequate – however the market can use coercive power to undercut individual demands. When you research salary ranges you’ll find that the range is so vast that in the end, you can only reference an organisations direct competition and its own history.

Is ‘Market-Related Salary’ a corporate hustle? Yes.

It’s unprofessional to withhold salary ranges prior to an applicant’s effort, particularly to new market entrants who often attend interviews at great personal cost. Withholding information means already vulnerable human beings are encouraged to waste money investing in an interview at a company that doesn’t value the applicant’s dignity or inspire trust.

The Recruitment Anthem: There’s someone cheaper and better out there

‘Market-related’ refers to current trends. When we refer to market-related salaries – it’s what employers offer for particular skill sets. Information is collected so that applicants and employers can see emerging patterns across industries for skill sets.

If there are plenty of people with your skills – you’ll be pressured to reduce your rate in order to be ‘competitive’ in the job market. You want to have a scarce or critical skill.

Vacant posts are not always a sign of opportunity. Sometimes a post is vacant because the organisation refused to offer a market-competitive salary and they couldn’t find someone to accept the position.

When you research a particular position, be aware that the same title may refer to diverse roles across a range of industries. Be sure to narrow your comparison down to what different competitors are doing in the same sector.

When a company hides behind broad sweeping statements such as ‘we pay market-related salaries‘ it’s vital that you investigate what this means to them. Each company will define ‘market rate’ differently in order to find ‘someone cheaper and better.’

Willing to work below ‘Market-Related Salaries’?

There’s a vast salary range for employees with the title ‘Sales Consultant.’  The reasons for this may already be obvious as sales consultants are in diverse industries – from banking and retail to hardware.

Let’s list reasons for accepting a job that doesn’t offer a competitive salary, in other words, below the ‘market rate.’ Please add to this list if you can.

Positive: Why Some People Are Willing To Work For Less

People often prefer to be in a job or company they love even if it pays a low salary.

  • Maybe a low-paying job is closer to home. You walk to work, avoid traffic and possibly save R1000 p/mth on transport
  • you want a job where you can be yourself
  • someone you know works there and loves it
  • you’re new to the job market and willing to start low and aim high. (nothing wrong with that!)
  • you like the company’s reputation and corporate culture
  • perhaps there are other perks and benefits offered to employees that make it worth it (such as commission, free food)
  • you don’t care what’s offered because it’s tough out there and it’s well-known that the easiest way to land a better job is to be currently employed. This is part of your plan to be where you eventually want to be.
  • you can afford to select a job based on needs not directly related to income. Meaning you have achieved a level of financial stability that gives you the freedom to choose a job based on other factors, such as a need to be productive.

Negative: Challenges Can Emerge When You’re Willing to Work For Less

Sometimes people regret their decision to accept a low paying job. Often this is because they fell victim to some or one of these:

  • perhaps they didn’t draw up a budget and explore how much they need for living and work expenses
  • didn’t research market-related salaries, so no understanding of worth and accepted the position assuming fair treatment (no organisation requiring secrets can be trusted)
  • you were too shy and inexperienced to negotiate with a recruiter
  • you were vulnerable and probably left to believe there was no other option

Companies in the Low Salary Ranks

A low salary doesn’t always mean bad ‘exploitation.’

In the world of commerce, exploitation is an acceptable business term that, when used appropriately, indicates profitability and sustainability.

Applicants must ask – should this be at my expense?

  • It’s at this point that an applicant can define their negotiating strengths.
  • You need to leverage what you can do to save the organisation money while still earning a market-competitive salary.
  • Understand exploitation and how to use it to your own advantage.

Some companies are small and can only offer limited salaries. When you attend their interviews, ask them about their growth vision – if there’s none then taking a job there could be very limiting.

  • But if they communicate a growth vision that could lead to better opportunities for you – take the chance.

Rushed Recruitment

Although labour legislation protects employees to a certain point, those who sign contracts before ensuring they are correctly informed are asking for trouble.

  • If a company says the interview and job training happens on the same day – step back and consider why they would want to rush you through a labour process.
  • And if you are rushed into accepting a contract, you are entitled to a cool-off period.

Find MRS Information

Use these sites to research market-related salary ranges for the positions you are applying for.

  • www.payscale.com
  • www.indeed.co.za/salaries/
  • www.careerjunction.co.za/

View useful documents



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Leonie Hall

Leonie Hall, disruptive thinker and dynamic strategist, is an expert in education, development, quality management and innovation. She has spoken at local and international conferences; and currently works as an independent consultant and content developer. Contact Leonie for a consultation.

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  1. Rahab Letsoalo

    I’M working as a house mother in a safe house 40 hours a week but 160 a month i only get a stipend from DSD .I would like to know how much house mothers must earn monthly.

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