During my Junior year at Oregon State University, I was a Teaching Assistant for a professor who taught a College of Business series for Seniors. I was given freedom regarding how many hours per week I would work and which days and times I chose to do so. I also shared the workload with another Teaching Assistant, so we were both vying for the same work and would pick up each other’s slack when necessary. I enjoyed this job and built a meaningful relationship with the professor I assisted, but sometimes I had trouble finding the motivation to log on and complete a significant portion of the grading before my counterpart did. After analyzing this behavior, I found that there were a few explanations for why I struggled.
The first and most relevant explanation is compensation. I was paid minimum wage, worked less than 10 hours per week on average, and received monthly paychecks. Due to this rate and minimal hourly workload, my paychecks ranged from $150-$300 per month. For the mental effort that this job required, these paychecks did not motivate me to work longer hours or have the discipline to log in early on in the week. To make matters worse, oftentimes, if I clocked in too late in the week, my counterpart had already completed most of the work and I had nothing to do. In summary, the combination of diffusion of responsibility and low compensation resulted in minimal motivation and less job satisfaction so I chose not to continue this job after the academic year was completed.
The compensation for this job motivated this behavior because of the combination of factors that were involved. The national minimum wage may be low (and a whole other discussion at that), but it is a respectable and sustainable wage for those who work full-time. In my specific case, working 10 hour (or less) weeks at minimum wage did not result in sustainable paychecks. Additionally, monthly paychecks led to delayed gratification and difficulty linking my compensation to short term goals and added effort. While I did not need to obtain this job in order to pay my bills or maintain a good quality of life, the compensation made me feel that my hard work was not paying off and made it exceedingly difficult for me to put in the extra effort. In return, these feelings made me procrastinate in my work which directly resulted in fewer weekly hours because my counterpart finished all that had to be done. While I enjoyed much of the physical work and interacting with my professor and my peers, the compensation and various other factors led me to not perform at my best and simply wait around for the academic year to come to a close so I no longer had the burden of this job on my shoulders.