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When a colleague makes more money than you do

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “I recently learned that our newest employee, whom I have been training for a year, makes $15,000 more than I do. A colleague, who accidentally saw a confidential list of salaries in our department, told me. During my 10 years with this company, I always thought that I was one of the most valuable employees. Now I feel betrayed and am not sure how to deal with it.” —  Unappreciated

Marie's Answer:
Because companies often pay whatever it takes to get and keep employees, salary inequities are not uncommon. Although you may have been treated unfairly, nursing hurt feelings won’t help to solve the problem. Instead, take steps to get paid what you’re worth: 

•    Prepare yourself to ask for a raise.  If you are a modest, humble type who hates discussing money, then you must become more assertive. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so you need to start squeaking. 

•    Research typical salaries for your type of work. Contact your professional association, network with people in similar jobs, or consult salary comparison web sites. Be sure to consider your length of service and geographic location.

•    Put together a strong, factual case to support your request.  Include your responsibilities, the results you produce and the value of your long experience. For more Office Coach tips on requesting a pay increase, see How to Ask for a Raise.

When approaching your boss, don’t rant and rave about unfair pay practices. If it seems helpful, you might calmly mention the newcomer’s salary, but remember that you haven’t actually seen this confidential data yourself. 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mohan M Prasad September 23, 2009 at 4:06 am

Let me state it upfront.

You have unwittingly lead yourself into a situation and mental makeup which is not going to be of any help for future.

You need to examine at a deeper level and search for an answer to;

Is my happiness going to be governed by how relatively I am positioned/placed – my team members and peer levels??

Do not get into the rat race. Do not be like the mice rather become wise.

Besides please remember Salary is the factor of market and the price mechanism; while value is the net worth that you bring to the table.

Once we start equating value with price, we have already the troublesome child “dissonance “.

There are means of finding out what’s your market for the job you do and in case you feel that you are underpaid, take it up with your manager and HR for redress.

And finally is it not unethical for one to talk about the other member’s salary? Many organization disqualify the grievance just on this ground that you are quoting confidential information and this can also have a rub on your trustworthiness in the system

Think it over. I know it can be hurting


Pam April 9, 2009 at 9:04 am

In any company that I have worked for, the employee that was telling how much other employees made would be severely reprimanded, if not terminated altogether. Trust me, this person is not a friend. If you truly feel you are underpaid, regardless of what anyone else is making, get your facts together and ask for a raise. Otherwise, let it pass.


Barbara April 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm

I agree that if you feel underpaid to do your research and present statistical information to TPTB. I wouldn’t mention anyone elses salary. I’ve had employees tell me how they “heard” that someone was getting more money, more vacation, more everything than they were. In all of these incidents their information was incorrect – just gossip.


Teresa April 8, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I would not do anything until I was sure what I was hearing was not just gossip from another employee. I would however take the advise in a cvall around to other job related fields and make sure the pay was still in range. Be careful of gossip or employee’s who thrive on this kind of reaction.


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