should I worry that I’m being overpaid?

A reader writes:

I hesitate to ask this question because it reminds my girlfriend who complains about being too skinny (and I just want to deck her), but here goes:

I started working for a for-profit corporation after years of working for nonprofits. My current salary at the for-profit was already a significant raise from my previous job – which I am very grateful for. One of my direct reports was making about 15% more than me, but I didn’t care: he’s a specialist, and a rock star to boot, and I felt like I was being paid amply for the work I was doing. Come review time, my boss notices this “discrepancy” and, despite a review that showed solid but not dazzling performance, gave me a 20% “equity” raise, because she felt it was inappropriate for a manager to be making less than her direct report.

I should be thrilled right? Except now feel that I am drastically overpaid for the work that I do. I could have turned the money down, I guess, but (a) that would have been a disservice to my family and my two little girls who may want to go to college someday and (b) I thought my boss would at best think I was a moron or worse been offended by my refusal.

But now I’m up at night worrying that someone will suddenly find out that I am not worth the money they are paying me. I worry that between my inflated title and inflated salary that the next job I take will either look like a demotion, or I will be massively under-qualified. And I just feel guilty and can’t shake it.

What do you think is the right thing to do? Should I talk to my boss about giving me more work and more responsibility so that I feel like I’m earning my salary? I do work hard – but I’m not working attorney hours by any stretch. Or should I just lay low, do the best I can, and heed my own advice and shut up about there not being enough size 00s at Banana Republic?

There are two big dangers to being overpaid: Most importantly, it can make it harder for you to leave your job because everything else will feel like a pay cut (and this is especially true if you’ve raised your standard of living along with your income). You can mitigate this one by deciding what you think you “should” be earning and then living as if that’s your salary and putting the rest straight into savings, so that it’s not impacting your day-to-day spending or your big ongoing expenses, like a mortgage.

Second, if you disclose your salary to future employers, it can sometimes turn them off from hiring you, because they’ll assume you’ll be dissatisfied with what they’d pay you and that you’ll continue looking for something else even after accepting a job with them. You can get around that by deciding not to disclose your salary, which is no one’s business but your own anyway. There are some employers who will insist on it, but more often than not, you can refuse to disclose, explaining that it’s covered by your confidentiality agreement with your previous employer (which it often is) or by simply focusing salary discussions on what you’re seeking, rather than what you were making. It’s a rare, rare employer who pass up a really strong candidate just because they decline to disclose this number. (That said, be aware that many online application systems — as opposed to humans — require you to disclose a number. Ideally, you want to avoid those anyway though.)

But more importantly, I wonder if you’re right that you’re overpaid. Just because you feel overpaid doesn’t mean that you actually are, and it’s possible that your norms are off, especially if the nonprofits you were working for were particularly low-paying. (That’s something that can vary wildly in the nonprofit sector; some nonprofits pay crap and some pay quite competitively, depending on the type of organization, its size, and its philosophy on talent.) You’re not overpaid just because you’re earning more than you were at a previous job, or even more than you were before this raise. You’re only overpaid if you’re earning wildly more than market rates.

So … Have you done your own research to benchmark salaries for the type of work you’re doing, in the field you’re in, in your particular geographic area? You might find out that your pay is actually perfectly in line with your field’s norms, and that’s where I’d start before concluding anything. (And I think this is the most likely outcome, because it’s pretty rare for companies to wildly overpay people, unless they have a specific reason for doing it — for instance, as a deliberate decision to retain people longer than they otherwise might.)

If it does turn out you’re overpaid, consider it a temporary windfall to be stashed away (ideally in an investment account, where it will earn you more money). But absent other signs of arbitrary and wildly off-base decision-making at your company, I’d assume they’re perfectly happy with what they’re paying you.

{ 70 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth*

    I was going to echo the comment about perhaps just feeling overpaid, as opposed to actually being overpaid. I switched jobs last year from one non-profit to another, and while I actually took a pay cut in the process, it still felt like in my new job I was being overpaid for the job duties. Fastforward to peformance appraisal time and I actually got an increase after HR did some surveying of my role across other organizations and felt that it was underpaid! I had just become so used to chronically terrible pay for a similar role at my old employer that I assumed it couldn’t possibly be reasonable to be paid X for that job at the new place.

  2. ClaireS*

    Have you ever heard of Imposter Syndrome? Definitely look into it. I suffered for a long time waiting to be “found out as a fraud” at work. After some therapy and a lot of work, I am a lot more confident in my abilities and my worth.

    I have no idea if that’s what’s going on but I urge you to think critically about it.

    I’ve also experienced the sticker shock of going from non-profit to for-profit. It’s a good sticker shock but it’s still a shock that can make you question your worth. Combine that with some imposter syndrome and you can get some pretty big insecurities.

    1. ADE*

      Fellow impostor reporting for duty! Seriously feel like I want to call up the person who hired me and tell them I’m not who they think I am, that there are plenty of other candidates out there.

      Perhaps if you are enjoying the work it is harder to take a step back and say, “You know, I could monetize these skills.” I have this challenge in my consulting gig, and I’ve been in nonprofits as well, where a lot of your work can feel for love rather than money.

    2. Thomas W*

      I think you make a good point, Claire — this sounds like Impostor Syndrome to me. I also agree with Jimbo below, in that opinions on appropriate pay differ wildly.

      My recommendation to the OP is to take this as a vote of confidence from her manager, and to continue working hard and doing a great job so as to continue earning it.

    3. Evilduck*

      Check out “The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women” by Valerie Young. I’m pretty sure I nodded my head and thought, “That’s me!” through the entire thing. The best part is that she gives tips for mitigating impostor syndrome, which I use regularly.

      1. Emmy*

        Thank you so much for this recommendation. I’m not the OP, but I do have impostor-ish feeling that are really impeding my career development. Going to give it a looksee!

  3. Jimbo*

    Don’t stress about it. I manage a team and there are wildly diverging ideas in the market of “fair”, especially when you move from low-salary industries (not-for-profits, education, etc) to high-salary (IT, finance, etc).

    If successful candidates have suggested ludicrously low salaries (sometimes applicants want about 40% less than we are prepared to pay!), I tell them we want to offer $x, I have faith in their abilities and so long as they’re prepared to learn new skills, work hard, and contribute positively to the team, then it will be a fair arrangement.

    I’m not interested in huge discrepancies in salaries. For the sake of saving a bit of cash, it would create massive discord if people’s salaries ever got out (which they often do, regardless of policies to the contrary).

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      That’s a really good way of looking at things, the salary data for the team I work in has recently become public knowledge and has caused a huge amount of discord. For doing a similar job there is something like a 40% difference in pay between thee of us.

    2. ClaireS*

      My company does the same thing. Or at least they did for me. When your fair with your salaries it makes a big difference in moral.

  4. Allison*

    If I felt overpaid, my main concern would be that I’d be the first to go if the company needed to lay people off.

    1. Dan*

      Yup. In my latest go at jib hunting, I had two offers. In terms of raw cash, the second offer was 10% better than the first, plus offers a lot more security.

      When I rejected #1, they were really disappointed, and “wanted to know what they could do.” I didn’t negotiate. Why? Because for me to take that job, they’d have to beat the second offer by 10%, meaning thry ‘d have to come up 20% from their initial offer.

      Even if I could get them to do that, I’d feel like a sitting duck when business turned south. Considering that I had just been laid off from a federal contractor, and this job was with another one, I didn’t feel that I was being irrational.

      So I just turned them down, even if I left money on the table.

      1. TrainerGirl*

        I got laid off from a federal contractor last year for just that reason…they picked off the two highest paid people on the team. When I was called about a job I applied for, I turned it down because the salary they initially quoted me was more than $25k less than my previous salary. They called back a few weeks later to say that my salary was now “in the range” (more likely that they realized they couldn’t get anyone with the qualifications they wanted at the salary they posted), I was interested in the position but figured that I’d be the first to go if they needed to cut someone.

  5. Adam*

    Naturally we don’t know the whole story and there will always be incidences of people who make more than the norm typifies (although I’m usually very hesitant to state that people don’t deserve to make however much money they do) I think this is more just a simple case of the higher ups thought you deserved to be paid more and reacted accordingly. Considering the state of the economy and how I hear about “budget issues” everywhere I go, I think if your employers thought you merited a higher rate of pay you likely deserved one. So congratulations! Sometimes it can be hard to feel good about our own accomplishments and we are our own worse critics, so consider this a sign that what you do is really appreciated and makes a difference even if it doesn’t seem like to you. Sometimes the simplest explanation really is the best one.

    Also, sometimes job titles can vary widely in compensation from company to company. I understand admin/executive assistants salaries can have a surprising range in this regard. Maybe your current company places a higher wage on what you do than you’re used to?

  6. Sara*

    A few months back, I had a pretty good job offer, while I had just started an internship that I was happy with (I had interviewed for this position prior to the internship). I decided to take the other job offer. When I was giving my notice, the owner of the company said (amongst other things): “This is a good problem to have.”

    Of course a problem si a problem nonetheless, but I would consider this a “good” problem to have……certainly better than the opposite.

  7. Rachel*

    Actually, being too thin is very detrimental for your health, even more so than being overweight.

    1. Zillah*

      Yeah, I was going to mention this, too. I don’t want to get wildly off-topic, OP, but one of the things I hate about our society is how women get pitted against each other over things like weight, and it’s literally a no-win situation.

      Being very thin can make it virtually impossible to find clothes that fit well, which makes it difficult to feel good about your body. You’re told not to complain, which can be alienating. Most importantly, it truly can be detrimental to your health. I have friends for whom doctors have actually blown off their concerns about their weight or health because “Everyone would love to be skinny.”

      People who are very thin don’t face all the same struggles that people who are overweight do, but they do face their fair share. I know it’s not the subject of your letter, OP, but you brought it up a couple times, and the thinking behind it is understandable but also really problematic.

      1. Adam*

        Our bodies really do have a mind all their own, and the only consistency seems to be is that very few people are ever completely satisfied with the one they got.

        I knew a girl in middle school who was really thin, so thin in fact that her school once called her parents because they were concerned about her. Thing is, the girl ate like a horse and had no issues with food that anyone could see. She was just a natural bean-pole. Metabolism is weird that way.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP was casually making a point about complaining about a situation that — rightly or wrongly — many people would like to have, not initiating a serious conversation about weight.

      1. Zillah*

        I don’t want to get into a huge discussion about this because it’s wildly off topic, so feel free to delete this if you feel like it’s getting too off-topic, but:

        I get that the OP wasn’t initiating a serious conversation about weight, but she did say that she wants to “deck” her friend for complaining about her weight because the friend is thin. We’ve noted passing problematic language about other issues (people offering unsolicited medical advice, assumptions because someone is overweight, sexist assumptions, etc) – how is this very different?

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think it’s different; I think it’s in the same category of other stuff we’ve been asked not to digress about.

        2. Gloria*

          Totally agreed. The letter would have been just as interesting without that colour commentary. I felt taken back by the “humour of “haha, I want to punch her in the face!” I tried to forget it, but the letter ended that way too, and it felt uncomfortable.

          1. Letter Writer*

            Sorry – I was trying to be cute and preemptively shield myself against the reaction of “In this economy where jobs are scarce and thousands are under-employed, why don’t you shut up until you have something real to complain about?”

            I should have thought better than to use a hot-button issue like weight though.

            1. Kate*

              Actually, I was much more bothered by the mention of wanting to “deck” her than why you felt moved to violence. Probably because your use of the word “girlfriend” indicated to me that it was a domestic relationship … though I see now that that was an assumption on my part.

              Anyway, not to pile on, that sentence just really threw me.

              1. bridget*

                I get that violence is a big deal, but LW was clearly not “moved to violence.” This is just a colorful (and not uncommon and usually completely unalarming) metaphor. There may be an argument that it’s not really necessary to have violence-related idioms in our language, but I don’t think anyone should be worried that LW’s friend will be receiving a punch in the face next time she’s lamenting about the fact that she is thin without effort – that is very likely to be something that someone in her audience would kill for (in the non-literal sense).

    1. Letter Writer*

      So, here’s the thing, it’s not that I am overpaid per se given the company’s benchmark for my position in my market (Bay Area, yes, very expensive). And in my line of work and the position I hold, the salary range is very broad.

      I think that part of the problem is that the job itself has not turned out to be especially challenging. When I think back to how hard I was working 2 years ago (at the non-profit) for about 60% of what I make now, I just can’t square the circle. So, while I’m not being overpaid for this job on paper (according to the market) I am being drastically overpaid for the work I’m doing.

      My boss is new, still trying to get up to speed on her job, and I am hopeful that once she gets her arms wrapped around her role, that more significant and challenging work will come to me and my team. Note – I’m her chief of staff, so my job is more or less whatever she wants it to be. Meanwhile, I’m making up work for us to do, mostly organizational development projects and competitive intel research, which is all fine and good, but certainly not worth the money they’re paying me.

      1. Jen RO*

        I can’t comment on specifics, but have you considered the idea that you are simply very good at your job, therefore it feels easy to you? I’ve been in that situation before – some things come naturally to me, and coworkers who were not naturals saw me as some kind of wizard.

        1. Adam*

          +1 to this. Sometimes you just are that good. And it sounds like you reasonably enjoy the work you do so it may lack a sense of difficulty that would make the salary feel “justified” to you.

          Also you went from non-profits to for-profits, and non-profits are famous for often having to make do for less.

        2. hamster*

          sometimes you can end up really overpaid for the work. It’s true and it’s scary. I used to work as a developper/consultant for a small firm ( i quit to finish my masters degree). After finishing i took a job at a huge corp, for a position they were opening , passed all this test and doubled my salary. And then, for 1 year i did secretary work. Not any real troubleshooting ( as advertised-tech support) , but mainly triaging incoming request, appeasing customers , etc . Really, why my job description was really pompous/pretentious i was doing mostly nothing. In that year i learned for two industry certifications and had a significant course , that coupled nicely with my experience allowed me to get a “real” job doing what i was supposed to be doing. Increasing responsability 3 times, lots of overtime ( paid, but still), hectic changing pace, etc. My own boss commented that it’s a gladiators arena. Since i arrived 2 people quit , 1 has moved internally . Still, i’m feeling better about myself since 1. I LEARNED A TON 2. I’m still getting prais but now it feels earned 3. I feel now i can easy command the money i make in other job. Before i used to lay at night thinking “Omg if BigCorp notices how under-worked i am ( measurable, not a hunch) I will have to go back to rent in a bad neighborhood/I will not afford this and that” .

          1. Jen RO*

            Good point, though the OP seems to be actually doing valuable work. I was definitely overpaid in my previous job, for example, but I literally (in the true sense of the word) did nothing but watch movies online for the last 3 months. Management was apparently ‘impressed’ by the great job I did and felt very sorry that I was leaving. I still wonder if they were lying or just clueless.

            OP, does your manager know what you actually do day to day? If s/he does, I think it’s safe to say that you really deserved the raise. (But putting some money aside is never a bad idea.)

            1. hamster*

              Yeah. I totally get it. I actually left for same money because i felt that if i can get bored enough with looking at shoes and learning ( though related not necessary to the job stuff) that i watched all the life with louie episodes, it’s really time to go.
              People were asking me if i’m crazy. But nope. I can go back to mint rubbing any day. Working hard is a good habit to have .
              Yes, i think OP is overly stressed. I mean, the managers are afraid you’ll leave if a direct report is earning more. One of my past managers did just that.

            2. Letter Writer*

              She knows what I do, and that I have the bandwidth to take on more, but she/we haven’t quite figured out what that will look like yet.

              And yes, there’s no excuse for not saving more; a big part of the reason I gave up the non-profit world was so that I could send my kids to college. Giving more to charitable organizations may also make me feel less guilty.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                We don’t know what the future holds. It could be that you take on more and get NO increase in pay. It could be that they suddenly freeze everyone’s pay for a couple years.
                I have taken a couple jobs where I felt I was over paid. I tend to think the employer fronts some money. The employer knows the longer I work there the more I will take on and I probably won’t get compensated for everything I do. The pay at the beginning is more or less a good will gesture. That is how I think of it sometimes.
                You could wait six months or a year and see if you still feel the way you do now.

      2. neverjaunty*

        There is no direct correlation between “worth of this job/how hard the job is” and “pay”, particularly in the Bay Area. As long as you are within the appropriate salary range for your position – and apparently you are – why stress about it?

        1. Adam*

          Also true. Pay norms are established mainly so everyone, both employers and employees, has a good sense of what a specific job is “worth”, and it’s helpful when job searching to know if you’re making a good choice on whether to accept offers or not.

          But ultimately whatever an employer agrees to pay you is between them and you. If they want and have the means to pay you $60K to sit around and answer the phone once in a while that’s up to them. It may not be the wisest idea for numerous reasons, but it’s their prerogative.

      3. CTO*

        I wonder if your boss knows that you’re a little unhappy with your workload, and gave you a raise partially to encourage you to stick around regardless. She might worry that you’ll leave if you’re bored/unchallenged and she wants to pay you more in recognition of that.

      4. bridget*

        Have you considered the possibility that the last two years have been a learning curve, and now you are good at work that you previously found really difficult? If you were challenged before and now you aren’t, that could just mean you are progressing.

        That said, not being challenged at work is it’s own potential issue, regardless of pay. If you’re bored, or don’t feel like you’re learning and progressing, you could ask for more responsibility, not because you’re currently underpaid, but because you like pushing yourself forward.

  8. Lamington*

    Can you check internally the salary ranges for your position? When I started I felt overpaid and when I saw my range I’m not even close to the starting range.

    1. Letter Writer*

      I tried typing “Chief of Staff” into glass door, and came up empty-handed. It’s a weird job that can mean any number of things — Alison was a chief of staff at one point in time, and the snippets I’ve read of her tenure in that role, it sounded like she was practically running her boss’s department. My job isn’t close to that. The closest thing I can find is Consulting Manager, which is close – I guess – and if I were employed by a Big 5 firm, working 90-hour weeks and travelling at 50%, I would feel justified earning the median salary for that position. But this job is turning out to be pretty fluffy, which is why I’m so nervous that I’m not building the skills I need to justify my salary and position…

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, I was running the day-to-day operations of the organization — managing many of the department heads and the overall planning and operations of the organization, etc. — more of the Leo McGarry / congressional model. There are also chiefs of staff who don’t manage anyone but instead manage the operations of the executive leadership team, working closely with the organization’s senior leadership. It can mean different things depending on the organization. But it absolutely doesn’t require working 90 hour weeks or ton of travel; in fact, it shouldn’t, particularly outside a nonprofit context. I think you’re applying a nonprofit “work all the time” ethos to this, but you actually shouldn’t be.

        1. Letter Writer*

          I’m definitely in the latter category, although I do have direct reports.

  9. KrisL*

    Even if it turns out you’re not being overpaid, it would be a good idea to put the extra into savings. You never know what the future holds, and it’s always nice to have a little extra to dip into if you need it.

  10. S.A.*

    Congrats to the OP first and foremost for getting a raise. In every past job I’ve held I would have killed for a raise! It may feel odd being paid more than what you are used to, especially if the raise is larger than any previous increase.

    I would personally live on the old budget and cinch the belt (if possible) and work your butt off to ensure that the raise was well deserved since some can be taken away. You could also see where your pay and experience are ranked nationally against averages. I’ve found I have been chronically underpaid, and have left former positions in search of higher paying work.

    I’m applying for an entry level position and am completely rewriting my resume and cover letter to target this job. It would pay well and allow me to transfer out of an area I can’t stand living in right now. So far the advice has been spot on and a friend of mine wanted to know where I got my information. The Ask A Manager site of course! ;-)

    I should know next weekend if I even get an interview. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Great point here about banking the overage or even tightening your belt for the OP.
      There is something about putting money in a “do not touch” place that helps to balance the thoughts of being paid too much. If you are getting $Y and you only see $X, you might find that this helps to ease or satisfy your concern. It is really odd how this works. In a similar vein you could start or increase your donations to charity.
      This should help, also.

  11. GrumpyBoss*

    Leaving my overpaid job last year was at once the most rewarding and most difficult thing I’ve ever done. Rewarding because I was miserable and I really felt like I was trapped, but once I worked some math out with my husband, we realized it wasn’t worth the angst. Difficult for all the reasons Allison listed. Even when I gave my salary requirement to a potential employer as, “I’m open to negotiation, I’m sure you have established a range for this position that is inline with market conditions”, when a company asked specifically what my current salary was, I would receive the automatic rejection letter within minutes. I received 15 rejections in 3 months where I had active interest and then went instantly silent when I provided my current pay.

    At the end of the day – are you happy with your job? Is your boss happy with your performance? If so, I think being slightly overpaid is not anything I’d lose sleep over. If it eases your conscious, you can always asks your boss, “I really feel like I can make a bigger contribution. Is there any additional tasks or responsibilities that I can take on?”

  12. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    Interesting. I was going to ask a similar question. I recently discovered that I’m being paid far less than peers as an independent contract part-time editor. One friend, who has a master’s degree [I don’t even have a bachelor’s] and lives in the same area, who is full-time but also an independent contractor, is making far less than I am!

    The odd thing is, before I could ask the question here, a situation came up with my boss. In a review of my duties, he mentioned that he wished he could pay me even more. I told him that I’d found he is overpaying me, and told him what I’d learned. I added that I am fine with my current salary (and hours). His response was to say that I am worth the money and that he was very happy with all my work. That was a nice ego boost.

      1. Former Professional Computer Geek*

        Holy typos, Batman. I found out that I am being paid far MORE than my peers. Sorry about that.

  13. newb*

    You’re either locked in golden handcuffs (if your hunch is correct) or you’re suffering from impostor syndrome (like others have already mentioned). You can find out for sure by looking to see what others in your position in your area are making.

    If you’re in golden handcuffs, welcome to my club. I’m as bored as hell, but I can’t complain to anyone. Especially now that the economy has turned. You’d probably be locked up in a mental facility if you started complaining about making too much money! Ask if there’s more challenging work you can take on. Don’t say anything about wanting to earn your pay. Just say you feel you have room in your workday to take on more workload. You don’t need more of a reason than that. You do want to stay out of an insane asylum : )

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Exactly. Don’t. Ever.
      Instead, offer to do more, and seek out other projects. You will be seen as valued and a hard worker.
      Enjoy the fact that your company values it workers and pays them well! It’s so rare nowadays.

  14. Brett*

    This makes me think of two questions.

    The first, how do you figure out if you are an “above market” person or doing “above market” duties?
    Alison’s USN post here helped some with that one.
    But I still struggle with figuring where my specific skill set fits in the industry. Job duties also feel murky to me, since it seems like actual job duties performed so rarely match up with the duties of the job description.

    The second, how do you compare yourself across geographies? State of California has a massive database of public sector salaries ( But it is California, so these salaries seem completely disconnected from reality, e.g. for my field, I can find several dozen entry level techs making 80-100% more than I do in a senior position in Missouri. Cost of living alone does not account for those kinds of differences.

    1. CAA*

      Have you looked at There’s a ton of current and historical data comparing various occupations from state to state. It can be tricky to find the right job, but if you can find something in the CA data that looks right, see if it has a NAICS code. You should be able to match that to the MO data from BLS. At worst, you should be able to get some rough idea of the differential between MO and CA across your profession and apply that to your own situation.

      1. Brett*

        My professions does not have an NAICS code, and there is a lot of opposition by federal vendors benefiting from this ambiguity. It fits in two broader NAICS codes, and vendors in those codes are bidding on contracts and subcontracting the work to companies that specialize in it but cannot get a code. Unfortunately, that makes BLS data somewhat useless for my specific profession; but California and other western states can provide lots of relevant public sector salary data.

        1. Brett*

          (But those ideas are going to be useful for a lot of professions, even if the BLS has a lot of issues with tech professions, in particular.)

  15. Stephanie*

    You’re welcome to send the overpayment amount to me. I take PayPal or check.

    I kid. I get that golden handcuffs are a legitimate concern. I think I was paid pretty fairly at OldJob, but I have had issues before if asked OldSalary as OldJob was in a high COL area. I had a recruiter grill me like “What? Why are you asking for $15,000 less than your previous salary?” I said something about significantly lower cost of living and some salary research on my part, but I don’t think she bought it.

    Is salary information truly confidential? My first job was at a government agency, so that definitely wasn’t the case and I don’t recall signing any confidentiality agreements at my next (private sector) job.

    1. Dan*

      I don’t think you were selling her that much BS. I looked at a job in ohio, and would have taken $10k less than my best offer in high col area and called it a better offer.

  16. Emm*

    Sounds like a case of imposter syndrome to me. AAM is right on–unless it’s wildly disparate, you’re probably not overpaid.

  17. MissDisplaced*

    If you worked in nonprofits and are now working at a for-profit company, chances are you are NOT being overpaid!
    For-profit companies typically have a market rate, while the nonprofits are often 10-20% below this, so I’m thinking that you might not really be overpaid, but are just feeling that way. Even if your company is being generous with its compensation and benefits, LIVE UP TO IT, work hard and do a ‘banging job, because no doubt you deserve it. Feel good that they value their employees!

  18. Artemesia*

    After a merger, my salary was about 30-40% lower than comparable people in the organization. It was a combination of rising entry level salaries and the standards of the new organization. My boss gave me 15% raises a couple of years in a row to bring me more or less into line. I later was a manager and discovered that the person who had created our most successful project with enormous payoff to the organization was grossly underpaid. We were allowed 2-4% increases for those we managed. I successfully argued equity for him and got him 30% over 3 years.

    For the OP — fake it until you make it. Act like somebody worth what you are paid; apparently your boss thinks you are fairly compensated.

  19. Kiwi*

    OP, it doesn’t matter if your direct report is a “rock star”.
    You are the manager. You get paid more. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s just how the world works.

    If anything, the more “rock stars” you manage, the better your department’s/company’s performance is likely to be and the more you are likely to be paid. Managers clip the ticket. Great ones make out like bandits. It’s a fine gig.

    As others have mentioned, check out “Imposter Syndrome” and make sure to never undervalue what you do and what your posistion and experience are worth in the open job market.

    1. CAA*

      Your experience that managers always get paid more than their reports doesn’t hold across all industries. Most large technology companies have career paths for those who stay on the tech side where a senior person will get paid more than a beginning manager. It’s completely expected and normal and how the world works in that profession.

  20. Weasel007*

    I want to add one more risk to being overpaid: Being a target during cutbacks. We just went through a huge layoff (we make the newspapers all the time) and for the first time my team was hit as well. Normally, we are not targets because of the structure. However, interestingly enough, the person cut on my team was the highest paid. It wasn’t a secret (though we didn’t really discuss it), but he’s been here the longest in his pay “band”. If they are looking at cutting positions, sometimes they go after the most expensive head. Sometimes, being under the radar is a good thing.

  21. Steve G*

    I always volunteer to deal with difficult problems and people so I never feel overpaid. + every once in a while, even if you are not in sales, sell something – and if you literally can’t in your position, then at least volunteer to talk to a difficult customer or one that wants to leave you. You will feel alot less guilty about your salary if you deal with the worst problems and unpleasant tasks than if you are just sitting in your office “pushing paper” and delegating everything difficult to other people.

  22. Steve G*

    And we are curious what the difference between what you get paid and what you think you should be getting paid. I was discussing with a fellow NYC resident the other day, how even though I make well over $30K more than when I started at my current job 4 years ago (and I started at an ok salary), that sort of jump isn’t enough to have a significant impact of your lifestyle that it would have in other places. It’s “only” $1500 more per month after the increased tax bracket + retirement deductions . With rent differences between OK and nice neighborhoods being in the $1000-$1500/month range here, I can’t even afford to move to a nice neighborhood. I mean, I could afford the rent increase, but not all of the other increased (food prices, etc.).

    Not to ramble on about me, but I wanted to put the $$$ in perspective. Not everyone (including your managers) is going to think what you think are big differences in salaries as big amounts of money.

  23. Befuddled Squirrel*

    Salary isn’t just about workload or how challenging the job is. It’s also determined in part by less tangible factors such as level of responsibility, access to confidential information, and how specialized you are (i.e. how hard it would be to replace you if you left).

  24. Letter Writer*

    Thanks everyone for your advice and support. Here are my takeaways from this dialogue (so far):

    1) Consider the possibility that I might have Imposter Syndrome. I don’t believe it, but that’s a symptom of the syndrome.
    2) Save money while I can because I should be able to do so now, and one never knows when hard times could come
    3) Sit back and relax a little bit, try to enjoy this as a happy circumstance, and stop fretting so much.

    And Never Ever Again joke about weight (or violence).

  25. Letter Writer*

    And I forgot to add that Alison’s advice and the advice from her readers has made me feel TONS better. I am very grateful that this community exists – so much less expensive than therapy!

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