What do you do when you discover that your junior or a colleague on the same job level as you is getting paid more?
Matters compensation are very private matters in most organizations. As a matter of fact, companies have developed polices that forbid employees from discussing their salaries with one another and for this reason, it is not everyday that you will know what your colleague is earning, unless they offer that information to you or you come across it accidentally. Whichever the case, discovering that a junior employee or one that has recently just joined the organization on the same job level or that a colleague that you are currently working the same job with is earning more than you do can send you into pure rage and confusion. It can also demotivate you immensely and have you question your future in the said organization or even whether the company even appreciates what you do. How then do you respond to this kind of unsolicited information?
First of all, you must realize that organizations are not perfect and salaries are sometimes offered based on other reasons except the job itself. Other times, organizations choose to pay some people higher than the rest because of blood ties or other personal relationships that are not work related. This is besides the point though because in the end, whatever decision you choose to make on the matter is/should be for and about you NOT the other person. That being said, I’d like to assume that you are angry after the salary discrepancy discovery. Very good. You should be!
You must never act out of anger in situations like this. Confronting your boss in rage or picking a fight with the better paid colleague does not help the situation. Moving from colleague to colleague discussing the matter with them is even worse because they will not help you. The most they can do is gossip about it or feel angry themselves. In that case therefore, take time to do your research on the organization’s pay structure. This will arm you with the information you need to know about the pay range for different job levels within the company. You can obtain this from the HR or Finance departments, depending on how your organization operates. Also try to find out the market pay for your current position for comparison purposes. Then it’s time to sit down with yourself and take stock of your time in that organization. How long have you worked there? What have been your achievements during this period? What significant contributions have you made to the organization that have seen it improve in terms of its efficiency and/or growth? What future plans do you have for the company/your department that you have started working on that are geared on improvements and growth? etc.
Once you have listed down all the above and more, you may approach your Supervisor or Manager and have a level headed discussion on the subject. It is important to note that this discussion must not be about that colleague whom you just found out is getting paid better, but about you and your desire for a raise. You may bring the Manager/Supervisor’s attention to your discovery, without mentioning names just so that they can be aware that you know. Then the conversation must shift back to you and all the items you listed above. From the tone of the conversation, you can evaluate whether the Manager/Supervisor agrees with what you are saying or not. This will help you make a decision on what to do should your negotiation fail. Note that you must leave all your anger at the door when discussing this matter.
This conversation may bring about the changes you are expecting or otherwise. Should the results then be negative and you feel that you are not in a position to live with them, it’s time to start working on your exit plan. What you must know is that salaries are negotiated. It is not any of your colleague’s fault that they are getting paid better than you. Maybe they are just better negotiators than you are. As organizations continue to evolve and employment relationships change, it’s becoming more and more important for employees to take their salary advancement into their own hands instead of waiting for the usual annual review.
As an employee, know your worth, keep developing your skills and expanding your scope of knowledge and then you will be in a better position to negotiate for better salaries.