Why Do You Go to Work?

One of my favorite movies about work is the DVD classic, Office Space. The movie basically pokes fun at everything “corporate,” from cubicles to consultants. In one scene the main character, Peter, is lamenting to friends about his plight as an office worker:

Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.

It is a valid point, and one that has me thinking – exactly why do people go to work every day?


Money is probably the number one reason most people get up every Monday morning and head off to work. And for good reason. Unless you are independently wealthy, or have already reached financial independence, you have to go work for someone else to earn money and pay for necessities (and a few wants, too). Sadly, for many people this is the only reason they work. This group works extreme hours to earn as much money as possible, often to the detriment of their personal relationships. In school, many college students elect majors based on the promise of high starting salaries, not because they love what they intend to do, but because they believe it is a path to riches.  To them I say follow your heart and the money will come.

Intrinsic Motivation

It is hard to believe, but there are some people out there who actually enjoy what they do. For them, getting up in the morning and heading off to their job is actually exciting. When you look forward to going to work the next day on Sunday evening you know you have found the work you love. For the rest of us the weekend pattern usually goes something like this, “Thank God it’s Friday! Is it already Saturday night? Oh well, at least we have tomorrow. I can’t believe it is Sunday night – where did the weekend go? I sure dread going in tomorrow.” Sound familiar?


Working mothers often tell my wife (a full-time Mom) and I that there is no way they could stay home all day with kids. They need “social interaction” with other adults. They do have a point in that I think it is good for everyone to have a circle of friends to share experiences with, other than diaper changes and potty training. However, I do not believe the only place to find that is in the office. In fact, most offices tend to frown on socializing in the workplace. If these women really wanted to stay home with their kids and socialize they could plug into one of the many moms groups such as Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS).

Societal Norm

Society has yet to embrace the idea of someone making money from non-traditional methods (such as blogging, or freelancing). We are expected to go to school, get a degree, get a job and stay there for as long as the employer will have us. If we so much as even look at a job board we are being disloyal. Well, times are changing. There is no longer such a thing as a totally secure job. Companies have proven that they can hire and fire at will (in most places) and frequently announce layoffs to improve the bottom line. A good way to hedge against this growing trend is to find something you can do on a part time basis that will help diversify your income. You never know, one day you could bring in more at your PT job than your full time job, and then you can claim financial independence from corporate America.

Why Do I Go to Work?

Probably a combination of the four reasons above, but at this point in my life it is mostly for money. Yes, I get up every day and come to the office to earn money for my family – simple as that. I don’t get much internal satisfaction from what I do, but it isn’t unpleasant. I do not socialize much with coworkers because for the most part we don’t have much in common. I would much rather be spending time with my family than working, but work is required to pay bills, feed my family, etc. I do hope to one day exit the rat race as several of my blogging friends have done. Until then, I’ll continue to dread Monday mornings.


  1. I definitely go primarily for the money. The other main reason would be that I’m an anxious, high strung person, and without something to constantly keep my mind engaged, I get unbearably restless. Consequently, I usually wind up seeking out very challenging jobs. It keeps me sane!

  2. Why I work: So I can earn enough money to live comfortably. I enjoy what I do though, so I have no problem getting up Monday through Friday to head into work.

  3. Way to be honest about it FD. I think for me it’s all about the money even though I do get a little bit of a reward because I feel what I’m doing is helping people. Even if that’s financially, it’s still something.

  4. I went to college and got my degree in something that was my passion. When I was done, however, it was apparent that my wife’s heart condition wasn’t getting any better, so I found a job that pays really well and got me some health insurance.

  5. I think it’s probably the money, the socialization, and the feeling like I’m doing something good in life. But then, I work at a library and a hospital, so it’s different from sitting in a cubicle and one can see a lot of tangible results. I also think there’s more socialization, at least compared to my old admin assistant position.

  6. When did you learn how to do a Vulcan mind meld across state lines? Work is a topic that occupies my thoughts a lot lately. I’m essentially a “free agent” right now, looking for a team.

    I too hope that blogging and my other ventures will pay the bills. I’m on the “daddy track,” so things happen a little slower.

    To FD and all who are in alignment. Follow your bliss.

  7. This is something that I’m struggling with right now. I’m working in a field that I thought (ten years ago) was my ‘passion’, but which isn’t the most lucrative or rewarding. I’m going back to school in a similar field, in the hopes of adding more flexibility and money into my career.

    However, I’m wondering lately: wouldn’t it be better to do something (anything, within reason) for the money, increase investments/savings, lower debt in the short term, and then save my ‘passion’ for when I’m financially independent?

    I feel like my brain is telling me to do it for the money, but the money just isn’t there in my chosen field. Having a bit of an early mid-life crisis, I think. . . .

  8. @Finally Frugal: I’m in a very similar situation, and after turning 30 I think the early mid-life crisis is what got me to thinking of these kinds of things. Before that I was content with just going through the motions.

    For now, I am practicing what you suggested – I am maximizing my earnings doing something tolerable so that later I can afford to drop back and do something that I love. If I had it to do over again I would have started out going after something I love, but now I have obligations that would make that less feasible (unless the thing I love starts paying significantly better).

    In the end it isn’t just about money, but let’s face it, money is important when considering all the monthly bills and other financial obligations many of us have.

  9. @Frugal Dad: Looks like you’ve hit another hot-button topic. Whatever the statistics are, I know more people who are dissatisfied with their jobs than satisfied.

    Guys like The Simple Dollar and J.D. at Get Rich Slowly are an inspiration. Every time someone quits their day job, the world becomes a nicer place.

  10. Money. That’s the only reason. I make a very healthy income that allows me a lot of freedom from a financial sense, but the position itself restricts me creatively and in other ways. If I could just replace HALF my income, I could quit. I WOULD quit.

    This is why I say, “Never, ever take a job only for the money. It just isn’t worth it.”

  11. I would say that the number one reason for most people is debt. Yeah, I know.. it’s almost the same thing as money, but I would wager that most people need the money to pay off the debt they accumulated buying things with tomorrow’s money in the first place.

    As for me, it’s the money. I still have some debt, but nowhere near what I had when I started my current job almost 5 years ago. The money now goes toward living expenses, emergency savings and some student loan payments.

    That’s why I work. Why I work where I do is another question. I imagine very few of us get to earn the living we’d like and get to do it working at our dream job. When I started out of college I was doing my dream job, but it has slowly morphed into little more than occupying cubespace.


  12. “I wouldn’t say I’ve been ‘missing’ it Bob!” Great film.

    Nice perspective. I’d say I have a similar feeling about my job. I’m totally thankful for it though. We’re so blessed in this Country of ours to go out and make the living we make.

    I see it as a choice I make daily to enjoy this job/life. Not that I always make the best choice. It is what you make it. For instance, if I had all the money in the world, I’d probably still end up sitting in front of the tv, sleeping in, eating too much out of boredom.

  13. Well, I definitely work for the money. But I also really do like my company and coworkers. I usually enjoy the work that I do though I admit I need a break at times. I am blessed with a job that provides lots of vacation time and flexibility to allow me to follow my own dreams at home with my part time business. Plus some of my coworkers are also my best customers. lol =)

    One of the biggest reasons for me though is the retirement and health care. I could get health care through hubby’s work but not retirement. If I do ever decide to leave to work at home full time I would need to figure out a way to fund a retirement plan.

  14. well, I still work for money, basically, but as I heated to “go to an office” and deal with all the things I dont like of the corporative world, now I work for myself. I have a VERY small business, and even though I dont make much (money), I dont miss my co workers, I dont miss being trapped on traffic 2 hours a day, I dont miss being afraid of being fired, plus, I like myself, pleasant lady to work with 🙂

  15. I am a paramedic, and I got into this work primarily for the satisfaction, but as abuse of the system increases, my job satisfaction decreases. These days I go to work for the money. And I look forward to being out of debt and being able to work less.

  16. “yeah….i’m gonna need you to come in on saturday.”

    This is so my boss half the time.

    I’d have to say right now it is about the money. I got a master’s degree in a field that I do love, and jumped at the first opportunity that came my way. I have overall loved my job since I started, all the while thinking I was paying my dues at a still great job. As it turns out, I don’t think my job function would change with a new title. I’d only get more money, which wouldn’t be the worst thing. Luckily I love a field that allows me to make some pretty decent money at an early age. Otherwise, how could I afford to get into all the debt I did!? 🙂

    The best advice I ever got was from my advisor, who is a Buddhist.

    “Don’t chase the money. Do something you love and do a good job at it, and the money will eventually come.”

  17. One of my all-time favorite movies!!!

    I absolutely love going to work to be honest. Mostly for the “something to do” aspect, mixed in with the money, socializing, and feeling like I actually contribute to society 😉

    great post!

  18. I saw the movie Office Space for the first time this past weekend. It was very funny, and I remember the scene that was referenced.

    The main character didn’t see any inherent value in what he was doing; he felt expendable and saw a ton of people (8 bosses) trying to justify their existances. This would make anyone discontent with their job.

    As an engineer, I really feel like I’m doing something. Even if I got fired tomorrow I would still feel as if the services that I can provide would be valued somewhere else as more than a warm body showing up and rounding out some middle managers empire.

    This is the value of having a passion for what you do, without that we’re all just hamsters on a wheel.

  19. My philosophy is real simple: I work to live, I don’t live to work. I go to work each day to bring home the money to do the things I love. I hate being unproductive and I like having a positive impact in the world by working, but I would pack it all in if I didn’t need that money to be able to live a happy life with my family.

    I have pushed my career a bit to make it an efficient resource. I have more than doubled my salary since I entered the workforce 6 years ago. That efficiency allows me to work just 40 hours a week but have an ever-larger impact on my family and our finances. Now I don’t have to work overtime unless I want to and I can focus more on living.

  20. Nice post, but it seems to me that in suggesting that “if we really wanted to stay home” we could join MOPS or something similar to fulfill our socializing needs, you’re assuming that women who socialize at work are only socializing with other women.

    Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I worked in a male-dominated field (IT), and most of my co-workers were guys. Conversations at work mainly revolved around science fiction, computers, and other geeky topics. I have found NO other stay-at-home moms who share my interest in those things. I have a good time talking to other moms about some interests we share, like knitting, crafts, and books, but I really miss the guys. Once you’re married and have kids, it’s difficult to do much intergender socializing outside of work. As a stay-at-home mom, it’s nearly impossible.

  21. I go to work to pay the bills. I really am not fond of the company I work for (more specifically, the inept office staff). It’s a dead end job. Plus, if I were to try to work from home full time, my wife would probably slip some ricin in my tea…*grin*

  22. I dont have a job, havent had one for ten years, dont want a job, and Im dredding haveing to get one. The world has made it almost crimanel to not have one and the way things are set up the people of the world will tear you down if you dont. You are selling parts of your life to others for what? the right to pay to live. NO THANK YOU I QUIT

  23. Hey fellow humans, why do we work for someone else? why do we get our money (and hence food, clothes, shelter) from someone else? this is not natural. we should stop this “technology and advancement and all” nonsense and return to nature. we should stop behaving in an unnatural way, i.e. overworking and missing out the essentials of life.