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Is a better company culture worth a pay cut?

At some point in your accounting or finance career, you may be faced with a decision: should you take a pay cut for better company culture? Although salary is obviously important, there is much more to a job, including your responsibility level, title, training and the potential for future growth and advancement. What about company culture? Is a strong company culture just a bonus—one of those “nice to have” things rather than a “need to have?”

Not according to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management. They found that 26% of U.S. workers feel that company culture is a vital aspect of job satisfaction.


What is company culture?

Company culture, or, corporate culture, is comprised of the shared values, attitudes and beliefs that define a company’s nature. It starts at the top of the organization and develops roots in the company’s structure, strategies, employees, customers and the greater community. It’s what surrounds every employee, every day, from accounting to marketing to sales.

What makes great culture? Companies with strong company culture are known for being trustworthy, having fun, providing comfortable and creative environments for employees, supporting growth and innovation, and promoting camaraderie between employees. The core values that create company culture often cost very little to implement but have a huge impact on the health and happiness of employees.

On the other hand, toxic company culture can take many forms. Maybe employees are constantly on edge about being fired. There might be high turnover, fear, unappreciative management, back-office politics and/or lack of communication. All of these result in an unhealthy level of stress on employees, forcing them to underperform, and, potentially, leave.

The Effects of Toxic Company Culture

You might not think that stress costs you money, but it often does. You might be constantly taking sick days to recuperate from the stress of long hours or unrelenting pressure during tax season or year-end closing. Maybe you’re spending more than planned on massages to relieve tension, dining out and drinking a little too much to unwind at the end of the day, or engaging in “retail therapy” to improve your mood.

And it doesn’t just hurt our wallet, where us number pros are often most diligent. A number of studies have indicated that work-induced stress can lead to health issues such as weight gain, heart disease or even a stroke. Your emotional health can also be impacted by stress. If you’re unhappy at work, your family life or friendships may suffer because you’re bringing the troubles of work home with you. No one needs that.


The Benefits of Better Culture

Most accounting or finance jobs involve some level of stress, whether due to deadlines, commutes, dealing with clients or feeling pressure to perform. But a company with a strong culture will foster friendships between employees that can reduce stress. A Gallup poll found that employees with close work friendships experienced a 50% boost in employee satisfaction. Having friends at work creates a strong social support network, which benefits employees both personally and professionally.

Many employees working in poor corporate cultures feel disengaged at work. Are you showing up every day only to kill time and do the minimum required? Taking a pay cut at a job where you are happier could make you more productive. Studies have shown that our external environment has a significant impact on our internal thought process. Being in a better place—mentally, emotionally and physically —may make you more productive and creative. Bring that spirit of innovation to your new job, and you may have the opportunity to advance quickly there, rather than stagnate in your old environment.


So, is a better company culture worth a pay cut?

That’s a tough question to answer. It depends on your unique circumstances and the balance you want to strike. Taking a pay cut isn’t something you should accept lightly. Before you make the decision, you’ll need to take a close look at your finances to make sure you aren’t sacrificing your stability or retirement. If you’re able to swing it financially, consider compromising on salary. The overall benefits of working in a better company culture could pay dividends for a long time to come.


For more on making the right career choice, check out our infographic: “What to Look for in a Job besides Salary”


Accounting Principals

We're Accounting Principals--a leader in finance and accounting staffing. In fact, since 2010, we've been part of Adecco Group, a Global 500 company and leader in staffing services around the world. But this isn't staffing as usual. We take quite a different approach than most staffing agencies. A people-focused approach. We believe in forming real relationships with both our clients and our candidates. We want to understand the needs on both sides.