You Just Found Out Your Coworker Is Making More Than You. Now What?

by Evil HR Lady on January 28, 2011

What do you do when you find out through gossip that you are underpaid. A lot. Do you speak up or keep quiet?

You Just Found Out Your Coworker Is Making More Than You. Now What?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

The Plaid Cow January 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

A company I used to work for, as a part of the performance development process would rank all of the people within the division that had a given title. After the raises were handed out, would show charts which plotted the salaries of all these employees vs the ranking of each employee. (The goal was to have a nicely sloped line so that the highest performers were paid the best.)

Since it was mostly anonymous (though you could find out which dot on the line you were), it gave you a sense of what you needed to work towards and which axis needed the improvement.

The poster in this case could be right on the line and not performing as well as he/she thinks. Or, perhaps it is something more insidious.

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Mike January 28, 2011 at 9:09 pm

TPC points out a system that should be standard procedure at any company. Not only does it show where people can work towards, it serves as a great way to prevent illegal pay discrimination.

I just don't understand why companies act is such a short sighted manner. Employees should be paid via a rubric based in various ways on merit and experience, not on how aggressive they are at negotiation or who they happen to be related to.

All employees want is fair recognition for the work they do.

By the way, I would speak out. I have no problem bringing data to the table as to my worth and making my boss suffer the embarrassment of being found out. If they didn't want to suffer, they would have treated me better in the first place.

Thanks for the topic, this sort of thing needs to go the way of the ditto machine.

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Interviewer January 28, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Bonuses could be based on years of service, or sales figures, or origination credit. Performance may not be the only determining factor. All things to consider in such a huge disparity in bonus amounts.

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Cassie January 29, 2011 at 4:27 am

I would want to bring it up with my boss but I doubt I'd have the courage to. The salary scale for my position has increased (naturally) due to inflation and such – so if someone new was hired, they may very well make the same amount as I do (although I have gotten a few increases so I am not at the very bottom). Also, our organization looks like your past salary history (including when you worked elsewhere).

As we are a public institution, a few major newspapers publish our salaries on their websites. Not just salary ranges (like admin assistant: $35,000-$40,000), but like "Jane Doe: $37,921.20". Name, title, earned income for the past three years. I wonder if most of the people in our org know that the info is out there… So anyway, pretending that salaries (for us, anyway) are confidential is a bunch of crock…

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FrauTech January 29, 2011 at 5:06 am

Okay but in this economy what you can do. I mean I'm in the same boat, but more like 50% less than people performing similar levels of work. Like the last commenter, if you start there and work there early your raises don't always match up with the market and if you move up but don't get promotions or monetary increases you can end up quite underpaid. I'd be afraid to threaten leaving, they'd love to call my bluff and let me try to get a competing offer. And trust me I've tried!

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Charles January 29, 2011 at 5:48 pm

"I would go to my boss, and behind closed doors (no public temper tantrums, mind you) say the following:

One of my coworkers told me that everyone else with the same title makes significantly more money than I do, around 14%. In addition, I understand that their bonuses were up to 4 times what mine was. Is this true?"

Never, NEVER, mention to any superior that someone else in the organization makes more money than you. NEVER!

I'm surprised at you Suzanne, why would you even suggest that?

The best way to handle this situation is as a business proposal, not a personal insult.

Why does that person make more money? Perhaps, they have "better" credentials. Perhaps, they have more experience, perhaps they have more education. The truth is you, the employee, do NOT know. So, don't grip about it; especially to a manager.

The best thing to do is use that information as a "benchmark" for what the employer is willing to pay. Then when the time is right, (say you just finished a high-profile or difficult project/task, or something outside your normal duties), ask for a raise or some other compensation. This way you are making a "busines deal" and not accusing your boss (or the company) of under-paying you.

If you do bring up the dfference in salaries among employees you run the great risk of being seen as a trouble-maker. No manager wants that kind of employee on her team. And, in my opinion, the manager would be morally justified in firing you. Folks are paid different salaries for different reasons, granted not all the reasons are "fair" but who the hell is an employee, without all the information, to decide what is fair for one person is unfair for another!

Remember, Knowledge is Power. The real key is to use the knowledge wisely.

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Mike January 30, 2011 at 7:02 am

@Charles

Morally justified in firing someone for asking why they make so much less than their coworker? Being seen as a "trouble-maker" for simply wanting to know the kind of rubric used to determine wages and bonuses?

Are you out of your mind?

Did you read the same post I did? The one where the top performer (as determined by HR) was being paid less (as determined by HR!) than other employees? If there is "missing information", the management should be telling people how they determine pay rather than making it some big secret. Employees shouldn't have to put on so stupid dog and pony show to get the pay they deserve because if nothing else it takes away from their ability to actually perform the job!

And who cares what kind of employees a manager wants on their team? If every manager had it their way, they would have employees that would never take sick days, be thrilled with slashes to their salaries and always ask for more work.

So I guess I have to ask you, was Lily Ledbetter a trouble maker for wanting to know why she was underpaid compared to her coworkers? Should she have just "made a business deal" with her bosses?

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Another Evil HR Director January 30, 2011 at 2:57 pm

As Suzanne said, you cannot assume that this employee is telling the truth, or has the real facts; she/he may be passing along something as fact, when it's not. I have to disagree a bit with Suzanne about the way in which you would approach your boss. Certainly, you can (and should) ask what is expected of you to progress both financially and positon-wise in your company. You can say you feel you should be making more (and give concrete reasons why). Comparing yourself to other employees is rarely a good idea. You really don't know the specifics behind any co-worker's experience, level of performance, etc. And, your boss would be remiss if she/he discussed details about another employee with you (you wouldn't want details about you discussed with others, would you?). All in all, an honest discussion with your boss about how you can get ahead will probably produce more positive results for you.

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Class factotum January 31, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Perhaps, they have "better" credentials. Perhaps, they have more experience, perhaps they have more education.

If these credentials don't make someone a more productive employee who produces higher-quality work, then why should they matter?

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Mike February 8, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Apparently the ex-employee and the company reached an out of court settlement.

One fact that was really ignored in this discussion is that employees have the legal right to discuss things like working conditions among themselves.

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