Stress Among Commission-Based Workers
When you work in commission-only jobs, you truly must earn your money. Although this type of sales provides higher overall opportunity (such as being paid higher commissions than jobs with a base salary), this job does not come with the same type of economic security. Nothing is guaranteed, and until you complete a sale you are not paid. The problem with this is that most salespeople do not close a deal every day or even every week. This is especially true for those who sell high priced items such as mortgages, houses, and cars. When you work in a commission-based position, the money you bring home can greatly fluctuate from month-to-month.
A job paying only commission has other downsides in addition to the lack of regular, dependable income. Although you are provided more freedom than jobs with a base salary, you must continually work to develop the self-discipline needed to follow through with work activities. You are also likely to be more responsible for out-of-pocket financial expenses, such as travel and mileage, than someone who works for a base salary.
Substance Abuse and Stress
It is very unnerving to lack a secure, rhythmic income when you work in sales, and the anxiety caused by this line of thought makes it more difficult to sell successfully, which can cause a vicious cycle of failure. This creates an immense amount of stress in these workers. There is a strong connection between stress and substance abuse, and this is especially true for people working jobs that pay pure commissions only.1 To deal with stress, many commission-only workers will attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol, a mistake that can easily spiral into substance abuse and addiction.
Addiction Among Workers in Commission-Based Jobs
Statistics show that substance abuse is an issue for commission-based workers. A recent report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration examined substance abuse within various industries, including real estate, an industry largely comprised of commission-only workers. Findings from this study pertaining to the real estate industry include:2
- 9% of workers reported heavy alcohol consumption during the past month
- 11% of workers reported using illicit drugs during the past month
- 10% were diagnosed with a substance use disorder
Another report details the toll of the opioid epidemic as it relates to specific occupations, including sales, where a large portion of these workers are paid commission-only. According to the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance, from 2007-2012 there were 3,413 drug overdose deaths among people working in sales (with overdoses accounting for more than 1 in 100 deaths of these workers). This total includes 405 deaths from heroin and 1,515 from prescription opioids.3
If you need to have a drink or use drugs to get through issues stemming from irregular pay and the constant pressure to make sales, you may have reached a level of work-related stress that is potentially dangerous. Smoking, drinking, and using drugs are not proper coping mechanisms for stress faced by commission-only workers. Instead, these forms of self-medication will only cause further harm to your body and mind. Substance abuse puts a tremendous strain on personal relationships, and if not properly treated you risk breaking up your marriage, family, and friendships.
- Sinha, R. (2008). Chronic stress, drug use, and vulnerability to addiction. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1141(1), 105-130.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. (2015). Substance Use and Substance Use Disorder by Industry.
- Harduar Morano, L., Steege, A.L., & Luckhaupt, S.E. (2018). Occupational Patterns in Unintentional and Undetermined Drug-Involved and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths-United States, 2007-2012. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 67(33), 925-930.