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Younger Workers Give Up Top Salaries for the Right Workplace

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Is cash really king in the workplace?

One can't be blamed for thinking so. While pingpong tables and takeout dry cleaning services are nice workplace perks, they can't pay the rent and won't get you floor seats the next time Springsteen rolls into town.

But for young professionals, perhaps jaded by their heavy-spending baby boomer parents, salary is only one component in workplace "happiness" and may not even be the chief component.

In a report on the Top 20 Happiest U.S. Cities For Young Professionals, the jobs and workplace information hub CareerBliss.com says workplace "culture" seems to be a big priority with young professionals and that it really matters where workers live.

"Through our research, we have found that a positive company culture, which focuses on overall happiness and not just compensation, is key for young professionals," says Heidi Golledge, co-founder of CareerBliss. "We have cities ranking higher even though some are paying less because they offer a happier life for employees who chose to live and work there."

"This study reveals what really matters to folks in their career. It is vital for employers and young professionals to understand what factors impact their happiness so young professionals can feel empowered and know where to take their next career step or the employer can start to change their culture to create happiness," Golledge says.

But why, especially in a tough economy, would workers favor environment over pay?

We asked Michael Crom, chief learning officer at Dale Carnegie Training, to weigh in on the issue. Here's what he had to say:

Today, many young professionals are choosing a positive work environment over higher incomes in spite of the current tough economy. My son's favorite faculty member at school was once a stockbroker, now he is the school librarian. Why? Because the money was inconsequential to him because he was so stressed at his prior job. It wasn't good for his physical and mental health. These are two things that money can't buy.
The value of a positive work environment should not be underestimated by either the employee or the company. The employee may well find that they are both happier and more productive in a good company culture that emphasizes positive challenges and collaboration. This will allow them to achieve higher levels of performance and may lead to both pay increase and promotions. The company gains by having employees with higher levels of engagement that leads to greater corporate performance and higher profits.

For the record, the CareerBliss Happiest Cities index puts three California cities at the top of its list: Los Angeles, San Jose and Sunnyvale, in that order. (Perhaps it's a sunny, warm climate that gets young professionals motivated? Boston and Indianapolis are the only cold-weather cities to make the top 10.)

There's really no doubt about it - if you're not happy at work, fat paycheck or not, you likely won't be happy outside the workplace either.

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