Salaries can be a bit of a mystery. You might have an idea how much the going pay rate is for your role within your industry, but not all employers are transparent about pay. This can make it hard to figure out if you’re getting paid what you’re worth.
It can feel particularly disappointing to discover that a peer with similar skills and experience earns more money than you. So what do you do if you find out a co-worker earns a higher salary? We asked a few career pros for their advice.
ASSESS THE SITUATION
It’s only human to feel frustrated after hearing someone you consider an equal earns more than you. But remember that many factors go into determining an employee’s compensation.
“Look at what work tasks your colleague has, how long he or she has been on the job, and what his or her background is,” says Janni Nilsson, managing editor at resume-coaching site Resumoo. “Education, experience and work duties all play a role when it comes to how much an employee is paid.” Also, consider that your co-worker may have negotiated a higher starting salary or recently asked for a raise.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
If you know that you and your co-worker are similar on paper, do some fact-finding. In addition to using resources like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to determine market value for your position, see how the numbers you found online compare with input from your peers.
While most private-sector employees have the right to discuss their compensation with each other, tread carefully because not everyone will feel comfortable discussing pay. “If they don't want to answer, do not force the issue,” says Janelle Owens, human resources director at Test Prep Insight. A better option might be reaching out to your industry connections, who may be more open about talking compensation. “It helps to have all available data, including what people in your role at other companies earn, so don't be afraid to reach outside for information,” Owens adds.
TALK TO YOUR MANAGER
If after doing your due diligence you still believe you’re not being paid what you’re worth, have a talk with your manager. While a salary discrepancy with your co-worker may be the catalyst for why you’re asking for a pay raise, Owens says not to make this the crux of your argument. “You need to show your value to the company and why your skills and hard work are worth rewarding,” she says. “Don't mention the other employee by name — focus on your situation."
Even with the best ask, you may not get the answer you want — your manager may be at the mercy of budget restraints or salary freezes, or may only be allowed to give a raise at a certain time of the year. At this point, you’ll need to decide if the discrepancy is enough to look for new opportunities.
If you do decide to stick it out, remember that “no” now doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way forever. You could work with your manager to come up with a plan for what you can do to get a salary bump, or if there are other ways to make up for the discrepancy, like spot bonuses or additional work perks. And be sure to establish a future date to revisit your compensation.