When your co-worker earns more than you - Human Resources

When your co-worker earns more than you

It can come as quite a surprise if you happen to learn that a co-worker whom you thought you held the same rank as is actually earning more than you.

Though a debate is growing around whether companies should make pay information transparent, the status quo is currently to keep individual pay a private matter between the employee and HR. This is why it can come as quite a surprise if you happen to learn that a co-worker whom you thought you held the same rank as is actually earning more than you.

So what are your options besides feeling inadequately compensated? Several HR and pay experts weigh in on how to change your compensation, improve your career path and the steps you should avoid taking.



Don’t turn to your co-workers for information

If your first instinct is to ask your co-worker what qualifies him to earn more, or to ask other co-workers how your pay is determined, stop right there. Deb LaMere, vice president of HR strategy and employee engagement at human capital management services and technology firm Ceridian, says, “Speaking with co-workers about their pay level in relation to your own often results in negative consequences. This type of conversation can lead to resentment and anger, effectively changing relationships for [the] worse between co-workers, project teams and possibly with direct management.”

While transparent pay information would resolve the secrecy issue that can trigger problems at work, it holds true that compensation levels can vary widely for valid reasons. “There are many factors to consider when it comes to evaluating individual pay, especially length and type of experience,” LaMere adds. “Having a salary comparison conversation with a co-worker is not constructive to understanding ones' own pay rate and possibly influencing changes to individual pay and compensation levels.”

Research compensation trends and standards

Instead of turning to your co-workers for information, rely on outside sources and garner as many points of data as possible. “Lots of information is readily available through salary surveys and websites, industry associations, recruiters/headhunters who place candidates in your industry and space and through actively networking with colleagues and developing real meaningful professional relationships… so that delicate topics like salary, bonus and benefits will be discussed openly and shared comfortably,” says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of “The Wall Street Professional's Survival's Guide.” “You also need to be absolutely clear on what the numbers represent. Are they for equivalent positions and for equivalent performance?”

Prove your worth

Once you have a well-researched idea of the pay level you could and should be on, gather evidence for your boss that echoes those numbers. “One option is to volunteer for and take on visible, challenging initiatives and then manage them successfully,” Cohen says. “That is just half the battle and it is often where the process breaks down. While a project is underway and once it is completed, key stakeholders must be made aware of your significant contributions both during and after...The gift that keeps on giving. It is helpful to have a mentor within the company who can advocate for you and enhance your visibility as well as serve as a sounding board for advice on how to approach your boss.”

Whether you have office backup or you’re presenting on behalf of yourself, it’s important to prove to your boss that a pay raise is deserved because of your merits, not that you’ve simply learned of the pay discrepancy.

Take it to your boss

You’ve done the research and ensured that your request will be backed up by proof of your hard work. So how do you begin this conversation with your boss? Katie Donovan, a salary and career negotiation consultant, equal pay advocate and founder of Equal Pay Negotiations LLC, says, “Start the process of discussing a raise or salary adjustment with your direct manager. I recommend asking for help, not demanding a raise. Say something like, ‘I recently discovered that I am paid below the market value for this job. What can we do to rectify it?’ This makes it a collaborate discussion and gives management the opportunity to come up with a solution, which might be better than you anticipated.”

Heading into the meeting, “bring with you the research you did on pay for the job so you can discuss your research,” Donovan says. “Also, be prepared to highlight your contributions to the company as reasons you deserve to be paid on the high end of the pay range for the job. If you can, compare it to the lesser results of co-workers. Very effective reasons are contributions that saved the company money or generated revenue for the company. Do not expect a solution in this first meeting but do ask for a response in a certain time so this does not drag on forever. Something like ‘Can you get back to me by Friday on this?’”

Negotiating pay is a tough part of advancing in your career, but receiving the compensation that you deserve is well worth the time.

(Picture Source: Internet)
HRVietnam - Collected

QUIZ: Are you enthusiastic, or are you a kiss-up?

Some people are naturally more energetic, positive and enthusiastic than others, and then there are the people who channel those emotions and actions into advantageous relationships, also known as kiss-ups.

Do you use a lot of exclamation marks when you send an email?! Is the status report of every project you’re working on “Great!”? Do you have a handshake that could give whiplash to someone’s wrist if you’re not careful?

Some people are naturally more energetic, positive and enthusiastic than others, and then there are the people who channel those emotions and actions into advantageous relationships, also known as kiss-ups. While it’s fine to be a hard worker and bring your enthusiasm to the role, you risk your reputation and relationships with co-workers if your behavior more closely resembles manipulation, and nobody wins in that scenario. Avoid the drama and take this quiz to find out if you’re simply enthusiastic or acting like a kiss-up.



1. Have you ever brought in coffee or snacks for your boss?

A. Yes, but they were also for the department to enjoy.
B. No, that’s not part of my job.
C. Yes, every Monday morning I bring her favorite coffee and muffin from the café across town.

2. How often do you volunteer for the projects nobody wants?

A. I’ve stepped up and taken projects that weren’t my favorite -- but it felt good to get the work done.
B. Never…other people usually end up taking them and I’m fine with that.
C. As often as I can! I know my boss will notice and reward my efforts.

3. Who do you usually talk to at the office holiday party?

A. My co-workers, the boss, my co-workers’ guests, the cleaning staff, the caterers…
B. The same people I talk to at work and maybe their guests.
C. My boss and her husband, her boss, human resources and any other important power players.

4. Do you ever stay late or work weekends if there’s a bigger workload?

A. Sure! If the work can’t get done on normal hours, I don’t mind taking the extra time to do it right.
B. I’ve had to, but I wouldn’t volunteer my time if I could get the deadline moved to accommodate the workload.
C. One time I didn’t while my boss was on vacation, but most of the time I’m the first to volunteer to stay late.

5. Your boss made a major financial mistake and the department is in serious trouble. What do you do?

A. If the mistake can be fixed, I’ll try to help. Otherwise, there’s not much I can do.
B. Nothing -- it wasn’t my fault, right?
C. I confidentially tell my boss that I can take the blame for this mistake if it means I’ll be rewarded for my loyalty later.

Mostly A’s: You’re enthusiastic. The energy you bring to your job is contagious, and your co-workers are likely glad to have you around. From helping with unsavory projects to being social at company parties, you’re a strong member of the team and when you’re not around, people miss your presence. There’s never a quiet brainstorm session when you’re in attendance, and waiting at the microwave in the break room isn’t too awkward, thanks to your steady stream of conversation. All in all, your enthusiasm is a valuable asset to your career. Just make sure your emails aren’t solely punctuated by exclamation marks.

Mostly B’s: You’re a killjoy. You don’t need to have a smile on your face every day to do a good job at work, but your morose attitude isn’t doing you any favors. It doesn’t seem like you’re networking within your company or outside of it, and your refusal to lend an extra helping hand is likely preventing you from establishing new relationships or earning the trust of your co-workers. Remember that extra work and achievements are the way to move forward in your career, and the attitude that you have during those accomplishments is what sets you apart -- for better or for worse.

Mostly C’s: You’re a kiss-up. It’s great that you’re so eager to help a team member or be there to support your boss, but it’s clear that you’re out for the approval of upper management instead of letting your achievements speak for themselves. In fact, what achievements do you have? If you’re more memorable for always standing in the boss’s shadow than for the successful project you headed last quarter, it’s time to rethink your priorities and establish a game plan that puts you and your hard work front and center.

(Picture Source: Internet)
HRVietnam - Collected

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