when your coworker makes more money than you do

A reader writes:

I just found out that my coworker is being paid 10% more than I am. She does the same work that I do and has only been here for a year longer than I have. My boss has always seemed happy with my work and I’ve never been one to push for more money, but as you can imagine, I’m extremely demoralized by this. Can I use my knowledge of my coworker’s salary to argue that I should be getting paid more?

You can read my answer to this question over at the Fast Track blog by Intuit Quickbase — including five reasons why a coworker might be getting paid more than you and what you can do about it.

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. BCW*

    This is one of those where I would completely understand the frustration, but its something that may really have nothing to do with you.

    I worked at a place once where essentially the starting salary was pretty rigid, however they gave out a VERY good raise after your first year but a bit less later (unless you were promoted). After my 2nd year, for budgetary reasons they gave no raises, and that lasted for a couple years. Well a good friend of mine who started a year after me, and was very good, never got to that level that I was making and it was really just an issue of timing. It sucked, but it had nothing to do with his performance, nor could he really do anything. If he let it bother him, that wouldn’t be good either.

    1. The IT Manager*

      +1 . BCW it dead on. Lots of people equate what you’re paid with what you’re worth especially in comparision to co-workers. Don’t do this; it’ll only make you crazy. There’s so many other things factoring into salaries like yours which come into play some of which you can control – neogiating for a higher starting salary and ask for raises – and some which you can’t.

      This kind of discussion makes me happy I work for the government with a very rigid salary structure, and as long as I stay here I never have to ask for a raise or promotion. If I want one, I can apply for a higher level opening.

      And I don’t at all care that with a little info from me, you can figure out my salary. Who cares? So much less stressful.

    2. Mike C.*

      Timing can be an issue, but if the company wants to retain people, they should have accounted for the wage freezes that others had to deal with as well.

      1. Jessa*

        This. But that is also incumbent upon the employee to have that discussion with management. Regrettably even good honest companies that WANT to treat people equitably don’t always realise that there’s an issue there. Maybe management has changed and doesn’t realise there’s that kind of gap year.

  2. Rob Bird*

    The OP states “My boss has always seemed happy with my work”. Well, that could be why your co-worker makes more. It sounds like the OP is neither asking for or getting feedback from their boss.

    Maybe the co-worker is asking for feedback on their work performance, making changes as required and that is what gets them more money. But unless the OP asks, nothing will change.

    The other thing I couldn’t help but notice was the statement “I’m extremely demoralized by this”. The OP is “never been one to push for more money”, has a co-worker who has been there longer, and is upset that the co-worker makes more. If you’re not going to push for more money, then be happy with what you’re making.

  3. Wilton Businessman*

    If you found out you were making 10% more than your co-worker, would you feel guilty?

      1. Anonymous*

        True! As a teacher at a small private school in Europe, I went from being the lowest paid to the highest paid teacher within a year. Did I feel guilty? Heck no because I deserved it. I worked my you-know-what off while my then colleagues, well-aware of the difference, gladly went about their business without a care in the world, enjoying their premium salaries….and benefits to boot. But when I scaled the salary heights, the South African colleague could not bear it. She almost combusted, stirring up the other teachers, nose always firmly perched high, despite the fact she was a part-timer with one degree teaching ONE student ESL while I have three degrees teaching SIX subjects full-time, not to mention extra-curricular activities and other duties she took no part in.

        Yes, no guilt for sure, just as in the USA you don’t see White men…or blondes for that matter….guilt-ridden over being paid more that the others, despite experience, education and skill.

        Just saying…

      1. Anonymous*

        I once got hired at a call centre for minimum wage, only to find out a couple weeks after I started that only women made minimum wage, and men were started a few dollars higher (without having to negotiate at all!)

  4. happy cat*

    hmm. That is hard. I thought I started a good wage, only to find out that people who had been with the company much less time, made the same as myself. In fact, one lady was let go, same position, in another office, and to the penny we made the same. Her raises, despite her performance, were all larger than mine. In the end, I had to tell myself that their making more did not make me make less, though it is demorilizing. I honestly do get very good feedback, rewards, and I know I do very well in my role. I don’t do good at asking for raises, however, and that is the way it is.
    What do I do about it? I have tried pressing for more money, the best I have done is to get my work week decreased to 37.5 from 40, and taken the pay cut that goes with it..lol.. I guess one can rock a role, but don’t expect to be rewarded for it!

    1. Jazzy Red*

      It’s funny, but I’ve never worked in a company where people had to ask for raises. And I’ve worked at a lot of places! There were always performance appraisals every year, and raise information during that meeting (except current company, and my manager always puts me in for a good sized raise).

  5. plain jane*

    In most companies there is a written or unwritten rule to not discuss salary with co-workers. Managers generally do not respond well to complaints of “but she is making more” as a justification for a raise.

    You need to justify the raise vs. the industry norms, or the value you bring to the company. Knowing that the salary range in your organization goes up at least 10% more than you’re making is actually a really helpful piece of info when making that argument.

    1. Sophia*

      I don’t agree with this. I prefer the government strategy for full disclosure and transparency re: salaries because there’s accountability for discrepancies based on protected classes as well as (in theory) favoritism

      1. Del*

        +1 This is absolutely correct.

        If salaries are treated as a full secret, how is anyone going to uncover a(n illegally) discriminatory pattern?

      2. Felicia*

        I also prefer full transparency in theory, but I think also in theory what other people make should have too much effect on what you make because there are so many different factors. Because co worker makes more isn’t IMO a good reason for a raise, and I would hope that if I was actually happy with my salary, finding out a coworker made more wouldn’t make me any less happy with my salary. But only if I was happy with what I was making before knowing that.

        1. Mike C.*

          I work in a fairly transparent environment, and people generally get over it. If nothing else, it’s great to know how much a particular position pays so I can know if a lateral move is a good idea or not.

          I admit that it’s strange to think about if you don’t have the transparency currently, but if there is a good business reason to explain differences in pay, then there’s no reason for adults to have any issues.

          1. GeekChic*

            Agreed completely. I’ve largely worked in places where my salary and benefits were fully transparent. It’s really no big deal. Frankly, the most juvenile behaviour I saw was at the places without that transparency.

    2. Mike C.*

      In most companies there is a written or unwritten rule to not discuss salary with co-workers.

      This rule is not legally enforceable for anyone covered by the FLSA.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes, illegal for non-management employees … but the point still stands that managers don’t generally respond well to raise requests based on someone else making more.

        1. Iro*

          Also I have had managers come straight out and say “No one should be discussing their salary or bonus information. I consider that personal information that should not be discussed at the workplace”

      2. Jamie*

        Not exactly. It’s not legally enforceable per the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act) and it only applies to non-supervisory and non-managerial personnel.

        FSLA applies to me, but I could absolutely be fired for discussing my salary in a way that a line operator could not.

        1. PEBCAK*

          Not correcting you, just adding extra info for other readers: some states offer additional protections.

  6. Anonymous*

    Or it might be a case of simple seniority and a step pay raise. She states the co-worker has been there a year longer. At entry level jobs, a 10% bump after 6 months or year is fairly standard. Or did I read it wrong…no one else mentioned this scenario, which was my first thought.

  7. Holly*

    My coworker makes $10,000 more than me. We have the same title. I have more experience. My boss is happier with my projects/writing than his, typically. The difference was that he negotiated for more and I didn’t. I resent it all the time, but there isn’t a lot I can do. We both just got raises recently – the same amount, so nothing’s changed (not that I don’t appreciate not being as poor now!)

    1. Chinook*

      This is going to sound harsh, but what does how much a coworker makes affect you in anyway? Does their salary come out of yours? Do they lord it over you to make you feel inferior? Did you find out that they got a “great T&A bonus” that you would never qualify for without surgery or a different gene pool (i.e. they got it for reasons that are illegal)?

      If none of these apply, then you need to let it go and focus on your career instead. If you want to make more money, ask them how they did it. Ask your supervisor how you could improve your position in the company. Look for another position that pays more. What it boils down to is that you agreed to do a job at a certain pay rate and, hopefully, knew what you were getting yourself in for. That doesn’t mean you can’t try to improve your situation, but comparing yourself to a colleague will never make you feel better because there will always be someone who makes more money/is more successful.

      1. Holly*

        In many ways it’s a self-worth thing: knowing there’s a large discrepancy frequently makes me feel like I have a lot less value in the company, especially since it’s very early on in my career, when you typically are hard on yourself about your abilities. Also, he does lord it over me on occasion – sometimes unintentionally, but it’s hard not to wince when he’s talking about buying a Wii-U and you’re wondering if you can leave the house at all for the next two weeks, because your budget is so tight. It’s not like we’re both at a reasonable comfortable level – I make a pretty low amount, which makes sense when it’s the startish of my career (3 years in) but it makes these gaps hard to take.

        They negotiated for more at the start. That’s just it. There’s no upward mobility in my department. I accept how much I make, but that doesn’t stop me from being bothered by the difference because of the circumstances described above.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Meh, I don’t get upset over people bragging that they just bought X; you know some people spend ALL their disposable income on hobby/fun/prestigious stuff and probably are in hock up to their eyeballs.

          It’s like the $8.00 an hour admin who buys Coach bags, Lancome cosmetics, and whatever-$$ shoes. I would rather wear serviceable discount store clothes and buy books with my money. Besides, maybe she got a super coupon deal.

      2. Mike C.*

        Because the idea is that pay should be based on the value one brings to the table, not one’s ability to be a salesperson.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t know, I think a better way to look at it is that you’re paid based on the value of your contributions on the open market and what you manage to negotiate for yourself. That’s not such a terrible thing.

          1. Mike C.*

            I feel like I’m creating more value by doing my job than worrying about negotiations. I don’t like the idea that my work doesn’t stand on it’s own, that I need to puff up or diminish my successes and failures and so on.

            In the end, it’s more of an issue of personal comfort than anything else.

            1. Chinook*

              But when they initially hire you, they don’t know your work in their environment. They know what others think of it and what you claim. This is where the negotiations come in – you need to try and convince them of your value as it is an unknown quantity and they are trying to value their risk in taking you on.

              Here is a (dated) sports analogy – when the LA Kings took on Gretzky, they knew he was aan amazing player and that he won Stanley Cups but they also knew that that didn’t guarantee wins with their own team because they were taking him and not his line. He was still great but not at the the same level without Tikanen (?) and Messier.

              1. Mike C.*

                Yes, I understand that getting a job requires these skills, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

            2. Joey*

              Isnt that sort of like saying that companies shouldn’t have to market their products to get top dollar for them?

              1. Lora*

                Yes. Problem?

                I can’t remember the last time I saw ads for Hermes, Cartier, Lamborghini, Dom Perignon or Golden Osetra. I see ads for Gap, Kay Jewelers, Toyota, Miller Lite and Kraft Mac-n-cheez all the time, though.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, but those more upscale brands have done plenty of marketing. It’s just not the mass-market advertising that you see others do.

                2. Jamie*

                  Absolutely. Pick up a high end magazine and you’ll see a lot more ads for Rolex than for Kraft.

                  Two ways to make a million dollars. Sell a million things at a dollar each or sell one thing for a million dollars.

                  To do the former you need to get the message out to a lot more consumers across a range of demographics. The latter? There is one demographic and it requires a lot more targeted approach.

                3. Mike C.*

                  I hate to shoot myself in the foot here, but you don’t watch nearly enough international motorsports.

                  With high end car brands, simply entering a major series (especially with a “works” or manufacturer backed team) is in and of itself a huge, huge advertisement.

              2. Mike C.*

                There’s different types of marketing.

                Take a car company that enters Formula 1 or Le Mans and wins races and championships. That’s marketing, but it doesn’t bother me because the work being done designing those cars and managing those teams is concrete and measurable and real. Improvements on the race cars translate back into the original products being sold to the public.

                Now look at the same car company that has tv ads and photo shoots and puff pieces and press junkets and the like. This is stuff that doesn’t make the cars go faster or run more efficiently. It doesn’t win races, it only attracts attention by creating emotional responses in potential customers.

                So if my marketing you include the first section, then yes I’m in total agreement. But if you’re talking about the second, I just don’t like it. There’s a reason I’m not in sales or marketing after all.

            3. Wilton Businessman*

              Your career is your own personal business. In addition to being the producer, you need to be the marketing department, accounting department, and strategic planner. The business of “Mike, Inc.” will not grow without all these roles being filled.

      3. Sophia*

        And I think what this illustrates is the gender dynamics in bargaining that women tend to negotiate for several reasons, and that’s why places like AAM are so important.

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          You haven’t met my wife; she’s a tough cookie. When selling her very $300K house where she made a tidy profit, the buyer wanted a last-minute concession of $250 after at the closing table.

          Her response:
          “Well, I guess we’re not closing today.”

          Different time, different market, but still…

          1. Chinook*

            “Her response:
            “Well, I guess we’re not closing today.””

            I love your wife. She understands the number one rule of negotiation – be willing to walk away.

      4. TheSnarkyB*

        If it were me, I would also feel negatively about this situation. It impacts you because it’s a reminder of discrepancies that shouldn’t be there. I’ve seen a lot of arguments recently saying that the male/female wage gap “isn’t a big deal” because it’s all about negotiation. (It isn’t, but negotiation does account for some of the difference.)
        What people don’t say as a follow up, though, is that you have to think about the fact that women aren’t generally socialized to ask for/demand the things they want and deserve, particularly in a workplace. This is also a generational thing that will get better with time, but women in general (broad strokes here) are conditioned to take what they get sometimes, and are taught in subtle ways that asking for more is rude, selfish, imposing, etc. We’re not taught the same things young men/boys are vis-a-vis succeeding in the work place and also just general entitlement (even mild), which in some circumstances will get you far!
        I certainly wouldn’t want a reminder of gender-based wage disparities in my workplace, even if it wasn’t because the company was paying differently based purely on gender.

        1. Jamie*

          Negotiation is one aspect of the wage disparity when it exists, but in order to get a fair and valid comparison you need to take out of the equation women who made choices, of their own volition, which will limit their income.

          I was a SAHM for 15 years. I knew this would hurt my earning potential incredibly. Not sorry – I did it for personal reasons and they were right for my family. But in our society women make those choices to put career on hold far more often than men. So to compare me to a man in a similar position you’d need to find one who didn’t spend those 15 years working while I was home.

          Just saying that there is more to the gender pay gap (where exists) than discrimination against people with XX rather than XY in the DNA. You have to take choices into account.

          1. Chinook*

            Another reason women may make less than men is some choose to be the “go to” person when it comes to childcare when two parents are involved. As a result, they are less willing to let work impinge one family life. To take Jamie’s comparison one step farther, not only would you have to compare her to a man who didn’t work for those 15 years but also compare her to a man who insists on the same work/life balance she does. If you are willing and able to work 24/7, it is more likely that you will be a higher income earner.

          2. TheSnarkyB*

            Well, you don’t need to exactly take them out of the equation, you just have to account for that and then ask – now is it equal? I think most of the calculations would say no. There is still a part of the wage gap that is due to sexism, and not other factors. That’s the only point I’m making here.

            You could also go on to talk about how we as a society would view a man differently who took 15 years off to care for his family, etc. but that’s another (albeit related) conversation.

    2. Anonymous*

      That happened to me at my last job. They hired a new grad with a more highly valued university (same degree but he was from MIT). I had five years experience advantage. He was assigned to my team. He needed a lot of coaching, frequently was unable to complete assignments on time as his running schedule interfered with work I guess. I ended up finishing several deliverables for him, which he promptly took credit for. I started looking for a new job when he got a $15K raise the first year and was congratulated on qualifying for the Boston. When I left, I gave them a spreadsheet with all my current projects, and who could handle what. MIT didn’t make it onto a single line. My manager got the hint, but for me it was too little too late.

      The point is, value yourself. If your employer does not value you enough, find one that will.

      1. Sophia*

        Why did you let him take credit. I would have included your need to finish his deliverables in his review or at the very least bring it up to your manager.

        1. Anonymous*

          We had a TQM 360 review process. Everyone reviews everyone. I did review him, but the value of my review was less than the glowing one he got from his hiring manager. He was in the honeymoon still — they were dazzled by the MIT diploma. When I left, he had to take over two of my projects, which tanked.

          No worries, I found a better job right away, and I’ve been here 10 years. My salary has more than doubled in that time and I love my job. You have to believe in yourself and value yourself, and sometimes that means you have to know when to fold your hand and leave the table. Another table awaits!

      2. BCW*

        Well the needing coaching thing and the running schedule are very different items that shouldn’t be lumped. If you have 5 years more experience doing something, expecting him to be just as good out of the gate isn’t fair. Now the not getting things done on time is different.

        What wasn’t clear though, was this 15k raise at your expense? Because if you are just mad because he got a raise you don’t think he deserved, thats not really a good reason to me.

        1. Anonymous*

          No, I just expected him to listen, learn, and meet the schedule. This was a team of about 20 on a major project. He did learn, but in the end I did not feel valued on many levels. So, I found an employer that does value me. Life isn’t always fair, sometimes you are the golden one, sometimes you are not. This was my turn to not be.

  8. Anonymous Accountant*

    At my previous job, I discovered my coworker made $20,000 more than me. We’d started 3 years before that at the same pay rate. His salary was higher because he negotiated for higher raises.

    At annual review time, the partners would say “Your raise is $$$” and I’d accept. However, he would always make a case for why he deserved more than the standard 3% increase and received it.

    Our track records were very similar but the pay discrepancy was large. Even when I was promoted, I’d accepted the 3% increase without giving a 2nd thought to asking for more. Lesson learned!

  9. Lora*

    The market thing can be really bad though. I graduated from college when the market was bad and my first salary was a pittance; in comparison, kids who graduated just a few years after me ended up making much, much more (we’re talking nearly double) just because of the timing. When you start off in bad times and get the standard tiny raises with 10-20% increases for promotions, you can easily end up behind kids fresh out of college–that leads to serious resentment and morale problems.

    1. BCW*

      Again though, you would be resenting them for something that isn’t their fault, so I’d argue that you are the “bad guy” in this situation.

    2. The IT Manager*

      You are between a rock and a hard place, but if your market value has increased that much you can try to neogiate a big pay jump at your current job (based on market and value to the company) or find a new one which will pay you at that increased market value.

      Kinda sucks, but you aren’t entirely stuck you can leave once times are good.

      1. BeenThere*

        Yeah I’d second this advice, when the market is tough focus on getting projects that will make you really desirable once the market picks up. Then you can negotiate a decent increase to switch.

  10. Anonymous*

    I took a position with a nonnegotiable starting salary, only to find out later that the person I replaced (who had been fired for not meeting goals) made 25% more than me…and my the role had been expanded to cover more ground since I’ve come on board. There are no raises coming, and what I’d really want is a total salary adjustment to bring the position in line with the market rate anyway.

    I try not to let it eat at me, but yeah, I feel for the OP on an emotional level. At the same time, though, we all have to decide how much this kind of stuff will impact our happiness and satisfaction because it hurts nobody but us.

    1. abby*

      Ugh, this describes my situation – replaced someone completely ineffective, position upgraded and expanded to match reality, yet 25% less pay than what the ineffective person made. I feel for you!

      Like you, I am struggling with this, trying to focus on doing the best I can because that’s all I can control for now. Letting it eat away at me harms only me.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The work pays what the market allows it to pay. She was probably hired when the market was better for job seekers. Now, the company can find someone to do the work for less. This is all based on what the market value of your skills are.

      1. Anonymous*

        No, the market was still bad. My predecessor was only there a year. With her, it was grant funded and not with me, because nobody had been thinking about sustainability. I also didn’t find that out until I’d accepted. Silly me, I assumed if they were hiring fie the position then they had figured out how to pay for it.

        1. Anonymous*

          And I just realized you were probably responding to Abby this whole time. Whoops! The trials of trying to read on a small screen and forgetting the text that is cut off as soon as I scroll down.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      Note that their paying your predecessor so much more probably factored into the company’s decision to fire him/her. It’s easier for a boss to keep an underperformer around when he or she is also poorly paid…but an underperformer and an overearner? Bye bye!

      Also, how long had that person been in the role? If it had been a while (say 2 or 3 years) before that person was finally fired, your salary sounds perfectly normal, because they’d want to start someone in the role lower and maybe eventually you’d get to where s/he was after some experience in the role. But if this person was hired at the higher salary and rapidly fired…then yeah, I’d be annoyed that they decided to lowball.

      1. Anonymous*

        I should have clarified the funding issue, but your last guess was more accurate; see my reply to AAM above.

  11. danr*

    Or, your coworker is not being honest. I had a coworker who constantly complained about not getting raises at annual review time. Except he was, and they were good ones.

  12. Mena*

    I once worked for a woman who was overly and un-necessarily critical, very questioning and suspicious. I worked to establish credibility to no avail. I was told later by a higher-up that I made more money than she did. Then I realized that she was always comparing us, questionning herself and me; my worth was always being questioned. I guess I negotiated more strongly? But really, how was I to succeed?

  13. Lanya*

    I believe that when it comes to what one’s coworkers are being paid, ignorance is bliss. Knowledge only breeds resentment. What really matters is whether or not you feel you are being paid accordingly for your background and experience, for the market, and for the location of your job.

    1. BCW*

      Good point. Does the OP feel that she is underpaid? If so, thats an issue. If you just feel that your co-worker is over paid, well thats not really your concern.

    2. Sophia*

      I don’t think that has to be the case at all. If guidelines and rationales for raises and/or so is the monetary value of the position at the certain time are transparent, I don’t think there would be as much resentment. The problems come from unclear reasons or rules why some people get more out of a raise than others. If there was a policy outlining if you exceeded expectations, it would be a ___% raise, if you did _____, it would be a ____ raise.

      I”m just always wary of thinking that more knowledge about anything is something to be wary of. I also think more transparency makes managers and other accountable for spelling out reasons and justifying why people deserve raises, which IMO is a good thing.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Completely agree. I think it might cause less resentment in other ways — how many times have we heard complaints of “Wakeen has three kids and I’m single, and I always have to cover for him so he can go to his kids’ soccer games, but god forbid I ask him to cover because I have concert tickets!” What if their salaries reflected this — Wakeen makes $X, and Jane makes 10% more because she’s more flexible about her scheduling — and everyone knew it?

    3. Mike C.*

      It really doesn’t. It’s quite refreshing to know what others make because I know where I can go from my current position, and I know that pay decisions aren’t being made for reasons like race and gender.

      Furthermore, why do I hear this argument so often? People are going to make different wages for a variety of reasons and so long as those reasons are concrete and apply to everyone in a consistent manner, what’s the issue?

  14. The Other Dawn*

    This happened to me a long time ago when I first started as a bank teller. One of my co-workers, who started a year after I did and had the same position, told me what she made per hour. (Strange, because it was something so random to blurt out.) It was at least 2.00 more per hour and I was absolutely crushed. The only difference between her and I was that she had a degree (unrelated to banking or business) and I didn’t. (Oh yeah, and she was the definition of lazy.) I could see her making more if she had a business degree or prior teller experience, but she didn’t have either of those things. Now that I’m older and wiser I realize she just negotiated better. I didn’t negotiate at all since this was my first non-retail job and didn’t know any better. Lesson learned.

  15. Anonymous*

    I make $20.05/hr, my co-workers make $14-$15/hr. I feel guilty because they’ve been here for 20 years, but I also work harder, more efficiently, and handle more projects than they do.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Then you’ve earned your pay. Nothing to feel guilty about! If they want more money, they too can handle more projects and become more efficient. You’ve shown your worth to the company and the company has shown your worth to it through your paycheck. Sounds fair to me.

  16. Ed*

    I make a little more than most of my co-workers with similar experience (though you typically can’t compare decade-long IT careers apples to apples). I knew they were in a precarious position when they offered to convert me from contract to fulltime and simply replacing me with another body was not a realistic option. I also knew that the initial task I was hired to do was originally budgeted for two fulltime positions (I was the only qualified candidate they could find at the time) and they were impressed that I handled the work on my own. My staffing company suggested a salary to ask for based on past converted contracts with this company and I decided to throw another $10K on top of that and got it without hesitation. Some of my new co-workers were a little upset about it because this company in general has a tendency to place an extremely high importance on years of service. We all had roughly the same years in the industry but my experience was far wider.

  17. Malissa*

    I’ve been on both sides of this issue. As a government worker it’s nice that everybody is tied to a salary table and you know what everybody makes. There are never any arguments over who’s getting paid more. The flip side to that is that there are no bonuses, raises can be tied to politics. Also if there is no money in the budget, raises are usually the first thing cut. Also the public some how thinks that you are over-paid, when you are often working for less than market value.
    In the private sector you can negotiate where you get hired in at. So your salary can be much higher to start with. Raises, if earned and negotiated properly are usually higher than just cost of living. But all of this is tied to your value in the organization, your negotiating skills, and how other perceive you.
    Both ways have their ups and down. But I’ll take the private sector any day. My negotiating skills are fairly sharp, so it works for me.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      The grass is not always greener. Those in the private sector think that pensions, full benefits, and a ton of holidays would be nice too.

      1. Jamie*

        This. My husband is a government employee and I’m private sector – so I see both sides of this up close and personal.

        He has so much time off I tease him about his part time job, and sometimes I’m jealous of the security so he doesn’t ever have to worry about jumping ship or getting stagnant. If he quits he loses a chunk of money so he stays put. I’m constantly stressing worrying if I’m too complacent, should I look? But I don’t want to leave…but what if there is more out there…the inside of my head is an exhausting place to live.

        For me though, I couldn’t handle the raise and bonus structure of government work. I want to sink or swim on my own merits (odd analogy for someone who can’t swim – ha) and I want my employer to be able to reward what they see fit and not have to apply it to everyone in my pay grade once the union finishes negotiating. Being able to manage my career as an individual is more important to me than the security. I would be one resentful mess if my money was based on someone else negotiating for me and hundreds of my closest co-workers.

        Then again some government workers wouldn’t put in all the unpaid OT required in much of the private sector.

        The key is in knowing your own deal breakers and finding a good fit.

        1. Wilton Businessman*

          Exactly. I want to be judged against one person – me. If I screw up, I expect to pay for it.

          My older brother works for a big manufacturing company. He is in “the union” and lives and dies by what the union says. He works his tail off while others around him put in “the minimum”. I always ask him why he doesn’t want to be judged on his individual performance instead of that of his peers?

          “Because the contract says we get 3% this year and that’s good money. ”

          Yes, but you could get 10% if you were paid what you are worth! Ugh, little brother doesn’t know squat.

          1. Jamie*

            This! Everyone gets 3% or the top performers get 10% and slackers get none. I’ll take a merit based system every time.

        2. Omne*

          “Then again some government workers wouldn’t put in all the unpaid OT required in much of the private sector. ”

          Exactly. I could change jobs immediately to the private sector for a 30-40% increase in income but I would be putting in at least 50-60% more hours. I can live without being in a white-collar sweat shop.

    2. Nichole*

      I hated the “cushy government job” stereotype when I was working in unemployment. People acted like I had no clue what it was like to struggle and didn’t understand how I could expect them to take a job for $12 an hour. First, not my call, I just fill out the forms. Second, I was making $10.50. Part time. And it was the highest paying job I had ever had.

      When you aren’t used to making much, negotiating salary is terrifying. Figuring out which types of employers have set salaries and which are negotiable is tricky, and when I came to my current job, I was so nervous about even trying to negotiate when I was making such a big jump anyway that I didn’t even try. Our HR lady is perfectly nice and wouldn’t have withdrawn my offer just for asking. It gets easier to talk money, but I still hate it-I just see it as a necessary evil now as opposed to something that people better and tougher than me do. Right, wrong or indifferent, it is demoralizing (in my opinion) to be paid less than you feel you’re worth, but you don’t get anything by patiently waiting with your braid hanging out of the tower.

      1. Malissa*

        The big difference between government and private sector is that in the private sector you can actually tell your problem customers to go away.

        1. Xay*

          Exactly. It really bothers me when people expect government to function like a business when the task is to serve everyone. In public health, my job would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to worry about the people who think the government is out to get them or that vaccine is poison but they are citizens too.

  18. Jim*

    My college makes at least $15,000 more than me for a very similar role, in fact I cover for her when she’s off and constantly correct some of her work as my computer coding is so much better than hers

    I think it’s really unfair but, I put my skills to market and the only job I was offered was making 3,000 less than I do now. It made me feel better about my current wage, you’re only worth what someone will pay you.

  19. Brett*

    Is 10% even all that much? Thanks to a 10 year pay freeze that kicked in just after I started, I make 50% less than coworkers at the same job title. And even more disappointed,I now make 12% less than our market adjusted entry level hiring wage for the job title below mine.

    At this point I would easily make more sitting out of the workforce for our 1 year cooling off period than working, but don’t have enough savings yet to cover not working for a year.

  20. Elizabeth West*

    I’m not too concerned with what others make, unless I’m being seriously undervalued for the wrong reasons. All I really care about is if it’s worth what I do and I can live on it.

  21. anon-2*

    I see a lot of “gee what you don’t know, don’t worry about it!”

    I was once in a place where I was paid 30-40 percent less than most for the same experience — I tried to negotiate a raise, and some parity, very unsuccessfully, and I gave up.

    I found a similar job – 25 percent increase. 14 months later, another substantial increase to another job , substantial increase again.

    First of all – there was an 80s and 90s expression – TAKE CARE OF NUMBER ONE. If you are underpaid – the best route to go is – mention that you know you’re underpaid, then find another job.

    When you give your notice, one of two things are going to happen.

    a) They’re going to counter-offer. And a counteroffer isn’t necessarily a bad thing to accept. Sometimes your manager’s hands are tied, but when your departure is imminent, he/she may “go to the wall” for you. They may be plotting to stall you until they can find a replacement, but that’s not always the case.


    b) they’re going to accept your resignation and you will go off to your new job.

    Be prepared for either event.

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      Counter offers are frequently a stop-gap measure. The employee has already made up his mind to go and the employer needs more than two weeks. In my experience, people that accept counter offers rarely stay the year and all are gone by year two.

  22. cncx*

    I had a job once where a coworker left out her pay slip on a common printer. We were the same “level” administratively. I had a degree and had been there two years to her three months. Still, she made 20% more a month than me take home. At the time, I tried to say “well she must have something else on her cv that stands out” and tried to find reasons and not be upset. I got increasingly bitter because even though we were both salaried, she called in all the time with alleged sitter problems and I was the one who had to pick up the slack. I wound up leaving the job because while I could handle the difference in pay, but I couldn’t handle doing all of her work while she sat back and got paid more.

    At my current job, while no one talks about salaries, I am reasonably sure I have the lowest salary on my team, and I am fine with that, because I’m also the lowest in terms of seniority, training and relevant experience. But to have to suck up 20% less for no obvious reason was just too hard.

    1. AgilePhalanges*

      If you only took a quick glance at the NET pay (you said “take-home” above), then you can’t really compare at all. All the reasons Alison gave in the linked article are great reasons why your gross pay (the full amount paid, before anything is deducted) might vary from someone else’s, but net / take-home pay is a whole other ballgame.

      Your co-worker might have the bare minimum as her IRS withholding, while you have yours maxed out because you like a big refund.

      Your co-worker might have insurance through a spouse, while you have a deduction from your pay for your insurance premium.

      Maybe you contribute to the 401(k) and she doesn’t. Maybe you have garnishments she doesn’t. Maybe you live in different counties and the county tax is different.

      There are a gazillion reasons net pay can be different, even if the gross pay is exactly the same, down to the penny.

  23. wcssmith*

    well two years ago my company hire a guy , to help me out , with our domestics air shipments , and logistics .. He practically had zero knowledge of the industry ..He was one of our good clients Brother , so my boss hired him .. so i thought him every single thing that he needs to know .. there are some days where he will be stuck an i will take over , an get the work done … and some days he ask me over an over how to get the same shipment completed .. so off course i will help .. am with the 4 years , an have 10 years experience in the field , recently , i found out that he is making 16000 dollars more than me … how the is that fair ???????? and how do i approach my boss???

  24. rg*

    I have a similar situation. I was hired with another person at the same time, essentially to do the same role. I was floored when we were to both present our work and her work was not even considered good in anyone’s eyes. I’ve worked with juniors that have developed work better than hers. I quickly (in a few months) earned senior status and she did not. It is blatantly clear that I can do the work she does but she cannot do the work I do. Team members are aware of this and I have to work longer hours because I am the only one qualified and with the skillset. I recently found out (because she slipped up) that she makes $12k more than me! It is insulting and I have not been able to get it off of my mind. I’m only at 9 months at the job, but have already been asked to take on more of a director role – yet my salary is significantly lower than hers?! I’ve been told to NOT tell my boss that I know her salary and compare, but it’s so hard not to! Help!

  25. Frustrated*

    Hi, Iv worked for a major company for five years. It was full time then part time during the time period because of college. i only make 7.69 a hour and am part time at the moment been asking for full time or more hours. I know everything about the store every duty an rules everything to do with the job. someone just got hired with only experienced in cash register with a part-time hours as i do n she makes 8.50 a hour to start.. Is there a law or something against this cause im up set with it? please any one with any knowledge please explain. i am a female to . should or could i notify anyone?

  26. Tee*

    Advice to anyone reading this post. Avoid discussing personal information and that includes your pay rate. It can cause stress, tension, and work conflict. Just do your job, maintain professionalism and keep things confidential. From personal experience I’ve dealt with many of my co-workers asking about how much I make, I zipped it after one occurrence. One job I did in the past, I’ve discussed how much I made with a co-worker because I was asked. Wrong move, I had my pay lowered because Jane Doe complained about it to the boss. I had a lot of relevant work experience, years of experience. Pay should commensurate with experience/skill sets. It defeats the whole purpose of moving up the latter or pursuing a growth opportunity, am I right? And the sad thing is I’ve signed a contract agreement on my pay rate. Best to discuss personal matters with the boss. Stand your ground and let them know but don’t do name calling. Name calling makes you look unprofessional and desperate. Explain your situation, your responsibilities, be persuasive about your work performance. Maybe you’ll get a bump in your salary.

  27. SweetAZ*

    I have been with the company for 10+ years and I love what I do. Two years ago, the company hired another IT engineer at the same level and responsibility. I was part of the hiring panel and sat on all meetings where my manager discussed the base offer to the new engineer, which was more than 15% of my base salary. Months later and after the new engineer was hired, I expressed my discontent to the fact that being the lead architect and designer I make significantly less than the new engineer. My peer’s salary was not negotiated. She bacsically accepted the company’s offer. She claimed that HR is aware of the gap in both salaries and will adjust it over time. Apparently, my manager make a mistake inviting me to the HR meeting where the offer was discussed and agreed on. This is very a frustrating situation especially when I’m cosidered the “go to” architect. As I mentioned above, I do love and care very much for my job and the quality of work I produce. I’m also very happy for my “peer” and team partner earning a higher salary. However, I’m very disconcerted that management did not make any effort to address the situation. Now, it has been a little over 2 years and I’m up for my annual performance review shorthly and pretty sure the review will be very positive as usual, do I have any ground to stand on and pursue this matter further?

  28. an...*

    I helped a friend to get a job where am currently working, because she was having a problem with her manager where she was working before. After she got hired, someone told me her salary not knowing what i am earning. I found that she’s earning almost twice my salary. But i have more experience than her and we have the same qualification. I’m so stressed because i do better than her. Should i tell my manager the truth or should i just look for another job? I can’t concentrate any more.

  29. Sandra*

    I work for a government agency. Each year one submits a performance evaluation report (PER). After my first year I was told by my supervisor as well as two HR people (one a manager) that no PER should be done for me since I am on a contract. However, I have now found out by calling the Ministry responsible for us workers that a PER should have been done and – if positive – that I would have automatically have gotten the increment due to me. This did not go down well with the HR department, who instead of offering an apology, called a meeting to tell me that I should not have gone outside to get the right information… Then a PER was done for me finally this year January (2 years later) and of course it was positive as I work very hard. However, so far still no increment. It is now 7 months after submission and the HR manager continuously refused to answer my calls to check what has or has not happened to it. I have asked around, and other people have gotten their increments within 1 months of their positive PER’s! My supervisor is part of it because though evaluating me positively and requesting the increment on the PER she has not been helpful by standing up for me to rectify the situation at all. I think it is envy as she had mentioned before the PER was finally done that “you are going to earn almost as much as me!” – which is a total lie as she gets a Director’s salary. Problem is that the HR manager hates me because when she tried to intimidate me unjustly for no reason at all in my first year at the company I did not let it happen by staying straight to the facts/ truth of the rather trivial matter and she could not win although she succeeded in putting me down by totally misjudging me without knowing me at all. So that is probably why HR still has my PER 7 months after submission and it has not gone anywhere else. It is rather surprising that my supervisor, who is usually very friendly and professional is allowing her petty envy damage our good relationship because of a US $ 30 or 60 per month more that I would get. When I spoke to her last I said that I felt very unfairly treated and that I was hoping to get a back-payment or a double increment for the many months I missed out on because of their wrong advice they had given me.
    For me it is double damage as it also means that I get less gratuity at the end of the 3 years as I have not gotten any increments that were by contract due to me and also were mentioned in the job interview before I started and it adds up. When I casually mentioned the non-payment of increments to our Head of Department, who also really appreciates my work, she just said “I have not gotten my increment either” fullstop. So I left it there. What should I do?

  30. madame toussad*

    I just found out a coworker started at what I started at… 20 years before me! I’d think that in 20 years, the starting wage would increase?! Compound to that, I am nationally credentialed in our field and with a college degree, while she only just started college this year. She now earns over $20 hourly, while I am in the low teens. Adding to this disappointment, I was previously per diem and earned $5 more per hour than I do now, and my only consolance was “well you get health insurance now!”… Yea, that I pay for… so it is like I make $10 less than before rather than $5.

  31. Greg*

    I’ve been herefor 15 years . Been forced to except documented lies of which I proof . Keep my nose out of it . Blamed and used as a scape goat . Now working a new area giving all the responsibility of making things work they hire another person to cover off shift production . I have found out that the person who can’t do the job I do can’t . The have since placed this person under my care . To train and and force him to comply with what is required . This is really an uneven totally un exceptible situation from where I’m sitting . I’m to make him do the job I do and at that for 5 dollars less an hour . I’m sickened by the thought I’m simply teaching a person who could find the bathroom to do a job that has taken years of effort to become #1 at. Would it be wrong of me to feel betrayed again . And it’s hard to even look this guy in the face knowing he is in their eyes worth more than the person who’s cleaned up their messes for years. I’m simply floored by this they have literally taken every fix I have made that realistically of 20 million that I’ve have track in the last 5 years . And now this .

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