how much should years of service matter when setting salaries?

A reader writes:

I have a question about how much value is placed on years of service vs. actual job duties.

I started at my current job 10 years ago, under a coworker who had already been there 20 years. Initially, he was my manager, but as I took on additional responsibilities over the years I was promoted a few times and we are now at equal levels, performing similar (and overlapping) duties and reporting to the same boss. Our job titles are the same. If anything, it has been acknowledged that at this point I have more responsibilities than he does. Our boss likes my work and I’m frequently pulled into new projects (which I love). My coworker, on the other hand, is eager to retire but can’t afford it quite yet.

Despite the additional work I have taken on, I’m still earning 20% less than he is annually. I know the exact amount because our salaries are publicly posted. I think this is because I I was working my way up during the recession and raises have been few and far between lately (despite advocating for myself – there just isn’t much wiggle room here), as opposed to when he started.

I haven’t really spoken up about it, because I’ve always assumed that it’s fair to make more if you have been somewhere longer. But now I’m wondering – if we are performing the same duties, and I’m repeatedly being chosen for additional projects, does it make sense that length of service impacts pay this much? Is this normal (as I’ve always assumed) and I’m just feeling whiny? It just doesn’t feel very fair to me, but I’m wondering if I’m way off base.

It’s not terribly uncommon, but there’s certainly an argument it’s unfair.

Personally, I’d argue that the biggest determinants of your pay should be the market rate for your work and the relative level of your contributions. I’d argue that pay for length of service does have a place (if you want employees who stick around and/or it’s important to your company to reward loyalty and longevity), but it shouldn’t be the most heavily weighted factor … and that if after 10 years, you’re making 20% less than someone who’s contributing significantly less than you, of course that’s going to grate.

But it really comes down to your company’s values. Some companies really value loyalty and longevity, and they use pay as a way to demonstrate and reinforce those values. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, especially if they’re transparent about it and it’s applied consistently. Some people really like that kind of company and find security in that approach.

Other people don’t like it and chafe against the kind of situation you’re in.

The biggest problem with your situation is that it doesn’t seem like your and your coworker’s salaries just reflect a strict seniority system; they also reflect changing market conditions when each of you started and more recently. That’s led to a greater inequity than was likely intended by your company’s salary structure, and that’s worth your company revisiting.

{ 66 comments… read them below }

  1. LouZ*

    At one position I had many years ago, seniority wasn’t a factor. The boss said “this is what the job pays.” It didn’t matter that I had been there longer than the new hire.

  2. hit the wall*

    My friend is in a situation where she is making less than someone she manages. The person she manages has been at the org for ten years, while my friend has been there for maybe less than two. The problem is that the person she manages contributes jack shit but still got minimal merit increases each year and even though my friend got promoted to be this person’s manager, is making less. So the real issue is maybe lack of accountability regarding performance issues, but length of service at this org definitely factors in.

    1. Jaguar*

      I don’t know if you were arguing for meritocracy, but the opposite does happen as well. I was part of a small consulting firm that was purchased by a much larger one. It was engineering, so while clients and active projects were definitely of value and consideration, the real assets were the employees. The purchasing company, fearing that people might quit and start their own firm, hired an engineer of their own “to work with us,” but it was pretty obvious he was their backup plan to run the division/purchased company. He was incompetent, but he was paid higher than anyone else on our team.

    2. NonProfit Nancy*

      I also think it’s hard when you’re promoted internally. They often don’t give you the bump they might give an external candidate, since they know exactly what you were making before and that you’re not likely to turn down a slight raise. So if you’re promoted and your direct reports are external you can end up making the same as them, or less.

      1. Boop*

        + five billion. Climbing the ladder internally actually punishes people at my organization. I’ve moved up enormously in ten years, but they could hire someone with less years of experience and pay them more. Actually, in my current position they could hire someone with zero years experience and pay them the same, since I am at the first step on my current pay grade.

  3. Girasol*

    Isn’t it often true that companies limit raises to a certain percent each year and salaries are negotiated separately, so someone who entered the company in a down market is slow in catching up to the newbie who happened to negotiate well when hired in a boom year?

    1. Mike C.*

      It’s certainly possible, but it’s a bad practice. That, and similar rules limiting the amount of a raise someone can get from being promoted.

      1. AMT*

        Yep. Companies with overly rigid salary policies risk losing “discount” employees when the market improves and they begin to sense they’re not compensated fairly.

  4. Mike C.*

    Seniority should be a factor but I think 20% is bit much. It seems to me however that the real issue is that this workplace needs to make up for bad raises in lean years and equalize wages better within job categories.

  5. olieme*

    The difference in salaries might simply be because he’s had 20 additional years of cost-of-living style increases. It’s too bad OP can’t find out how much he made when he had been at the company for 10 years, because that would be an apples-to-apples comparison.

    1. OP*

      I think this is the case – it’s not so much that the seniority is valued, it’s mainly that the COL was going up more quickly in the past than it has since I started and those raises accumulated. We all get the same COL raises (on years where a COL raise is approved for everyone – there haven’t been many since I started). There are occasional merit increases, but those are rare and hard to push through – I’ve had a couple which has really helped narrow the gap but we still have that 20% discrepancy.

      1. Brett*

        Are you by chance public sector local/state government?

        Everything you have described sounds like that, and you unfortunately entered your organization when merit raises were being phased out while your co-worker entered during a period when 5%+ merit raises were common across the country in state/local gov and COL raises were still common though not annual. (Many state/local govs have not had annual COL raises since the 80s.)

        This is an unfortunate problem of the government merit based system, your lifetime earnings are strongly dependent on your initial salary and the economic conditions when you enter.
        The plus side of this is that when you are also 20 years into your career at the same employer, you have a decent chance of making up that 20% discrepancy, even inflation adjusted. Economic downturns, though, can result in lengthy wage freezes that will damage your earnings through retirement.
        (This does also have a side effect of driving out potentially expensive top performers mid-career before they reach full retirement benefits, with them often going to other state/local gov agencies where they do not have enough service time left to reach full retirement.)

        1. OP*

          Yes, it’s a government job! Thanks for this perspective. I wasn’t really aware of what it was like before I started, although I was obviously aware that the economy got much worse shortly after I started!

    2. nonymous*

      but then you would have to account for the fact that when coworker was at the 10 year mark it was likely 1986, and there’s inflation involved to translate to OP situation. Plus the market demand for this job title may be very different now in 2016 than when either OP or coworker were hired.

      Unfortunately employment compensation nowadays rarely fits the ideal formula of:

      market rate at hire + X years of COLA = market rate with X years experience

      What OP is facing is:

      (job title + 30yrs experience) = (job title + 10yrs experience) *1.2

      Which I’d argue is a bit high, unless the senior teapot maker has some niche skill that is extremely difficult to find (like legacy system maintenance that no one gets trained in anymore). Even the federal pay scales stop raises in the same classification after 18 years, and the difference between a 10yr person and a 30yr person would be on the order of 7-8%.

  6. Marcy*

    Would it make a difference if it wasn’t just seniority, but also years of experience? If the co-worker had 20 years of seniority but they’ve both been in the industry for 30 years, I could see why a 20% increase would grate. If the co-worker had 10 years more of both seniority and experience, I can’t say I’m that bothered by it, especially if this is a government job (which is not explicitly stated, by I’m assuming this might be the case if salaries are publicly posted and there’s not much advancement options).

    1. CM*

      I was also wondering if it’s government; if so, seniority is typically a huge factor and matching market rates is not.

      1. Mona Lisa*

        Academia is similar. I have a co-worker at my current job who is 10 years older than me and worked at this institution for a couple of years a while back, and she makes 3% more than I do for the same job title and role type, even though my boss mentioned to me at one point that I was the top pick for the department. I could see this compounding the higher up in the organization/experience level you go.

          1. doreen*

            Is locality pay determined by market rates or a cost-of -living comparison ? It seems to me that it’s the latter, mainly because I found some charts that show a locality payment of XX% across the board for all ten steps of salary grades GS1-15 in a specified locality. If it were determined by market rates , I wouldn’t expect an across the board percentage – if market rate for a nurse is X% higher in NY than it is in Atlanta, that doesn’t mean that market rate for an auditor is higher by the same percentage.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Locality pay is determined by a cost-of-living comparison based on regional economic data at the MSA level. For federal pay, everyone essentially starts with the same baseline pay table based on national averages (there are a few different baselines depending on your job category—e.g., defense has a table, lawyers have a table, etc.). From there, amounts are adjusted up in locality pay tables based on COL so that federal employees’ purchasing power is roughly equivalent across geographies. In addition to that, depending on the federal budget, employees may receive annual COLAs.

            The salary negotiation process usually happens at hiring, and it’s all about which grade you enter at and whether the position you apply for has a grade cap (sometimes you can’t be promoted beyond a specific level, so step advancements are your only option for raises). Your grade is often set by your prior work experience (with some caveats and exemptions), but your steps are set through years of service+merit.

            So it’s totally possible for someone to stay at the same grade and step but ultimately end up with a higher salary than a “better qualified” peer because of historic COLAs.

    2. OP*

      It’s seniority (at this particular job) and years of experience (at this particular job). I’m a lot younger than my coworker and haven’t been in the workforce as long. That’s actually exactly my question – we have exactly the same job title, and I perform all the same (+ more) job duties. But our salaries are different. I understand that my coworker has more experience, but since my coworker isn’t in a senior position to me, how is that additional experience relevant? Even though there is a 20 year difference in experience, it seems like at a certain point in a particular job our experience levels have caught up to each other, if that make sense. At this point people are just as likely to ask me about how something works as they are to ask my coworker – those extra 20 years aren’t really factoring in to how we do our jobs.

      I’m not trying to be argumentative or a jerk, BTW, and I’m not discounting the importance of experience. I’m genuinely curious about if this is standard and how it usually plays out. Reading all these responses has been really interesting!

      1. Anxa*

        When I interned at my local county, I was incredibly saddened to see people who had worked there for 30 years earning over 70k for doing the same work, more slowly and more bedgrudgingly, than the newer workers who were handling at least 2x the responsbility. I tried to accept that of course to a degree that would be the case because they got in when those types of jobs were good and they had more expenses, but the new hire that was also over 50 and had a ton of experience outside that position (and worked harder and more efficiently than both the long-timers and the younger hires) was earning under 30k.

        It seems kind of iffy to me, because sometimes the higher pay is pushed as a reward for “years of service,” which I understand is because at some point maybe they turned down higher wages to work for the government. But a full-time job with benefits and security seems like a reward on its own, but I admit that’s probably a bias from my own experiences.

      2. BRR*

        This might all be moot since you’re in government, but the thought for factoring in experience is that there are usually expectations for more and better work being produced.

      3. Former Retail Manager*

        I am in Government (federal) and that’s just how Govt. works, for better or worse. As someone else said, in the federal pay scale, you can remain at the same grade on the GS scale for 18 years before maxing out for that grade. As long as you meet basic performance benchmarks you automatically receive a pay increase to the next step on a specified schedule. As you move up in steps and make more money, more time elapses between the step increases, but you still automatically get them and honestly, the benchmark you have to meet is low. So in Govt you will never surpass this person in pay unless and until you promote past them and move on to a higher grade, or whatever the equivalent is in your Govt organization.

        There are plenty of other people at my grade level who perform at a lower level than I do, in terms of quality of work, and yet we are paid the same. It’s just how the system works and it’s the price you pay for job security and good benefits, IMO. There are also people that are higher graded than I am (some who make $20k more a year than me) that don’t do as good of work either, but that’s the way it is. I just try to focus on my own work and do it to the best of my ability and be grateful for the benefits that my job affords me.

  7. Emma*

    I wonder if OP is a woman. Sounds like a gender pay gap, whether intentional or subconscious by the company.

    1. Marcy*

      But it wouldn’t be a gender pay gap if the man has 10 years more of experience or seniority, would it? They wouldn’t be similarly situated individuals.

  8. Christine*

    What is the sex of the letter writer? It would be a serious issue if it’s a woman and the man is getting 20% more. Maybe the LW can campaign for a higher rate of pay.

  9. PK*

    I work in government and this type of difference isn’t that unusual. Years of service mean a lot here (although we also receive merit raises based on performance). The difference adds up over time.

    1. LQ*

      I had the same thought about government.

      One of the things that has made a difference for me in government work is getting promotions, sometimes this means to a different kind of job, but most of it has been “keep doing what you are doing” and I’m promoted to a pay grade/job title that more closely matches what I do. Moved from Teapot Handler to Teapot Specialist 1 to Teapot Specialist 2 to Teapot Specialist 3 to Teapot Specialist 4. Most of my coworkers have been promoted to 2s or 3rd, but no one else is a 4 basically. That might be worth looking into. Similar work, but a slightly higher level. (Also Jr/Sr, etc)

      1. OP*

        Yep, it’s a government job. I’ve had enough promotions that I’ve been moved up to the same job title/level as my coworker, but somehow his salary is still 20% higher (I’m assuming from accumulated COL raises over the years when the economy was better, we haven’t had many since I started). I’m not sure how this works out, mathematically, actually, with a job with regulated pay bands, but since I can’t see his salary history it’s hard to pick it all out.

        1. PK*

          Well, could be merit raises. I’ve been with this government office for 2.5 years and I’ve already received two of them myself as well as a yearly raise. Having that happen repeatedly over 10 years would add up pretty quick.

        2. LQ*

          I’m going to guess then (this may differ depending on the government) that it would be a big challenge to actually get that 20%, it would never happen here, partly unions, partly internal restrictions, etc.

          For us we have salary bands, so I am at like step 3 or 4 in my band, a coworker who is at a lower pay grade but a higher step (been here for more years) would have a higher pay. But the steps cap out, and the raises for COL are for everyone. And absolutely the way to get more money is through promotions. And here you can push for not just higher grade, but sometimes, an extra step or two as well. And that’s made a huge difference. I don’t think I’ll ever make more than the guy 3 grades below me who has been here for 35 years, but when I’ve been around for 35 years I will be way way way higher than him (col not included, with that even more – I hope).

          I’d definitely think about still pushing for a higher title/level if you are doing more complex work.

          I get what you mean, but it is a little the nature of the way that it works out in a lot of government work, so sometimes, yeah, you just have to remind yourself that once you’ve been around a couple decades you’ll be at the top of your band.

          Alternately? Leave and come back, sometimes that can help!

          1. OP*

            Thank you! It’s helpful to hear this. I think our system is set up the same as yours, except it’s never mentioned that steps come along with seniority – they usually advance you up steps for merit increases that don’t necessarily come with promotions (promotions would bump you to a different level). We don’t get advanced up steps just for time of service, though, so you have to fight for them. I think in the past they were more generous with giving out increases and advancing people up steps. Lately, it’s like pulling teeth to get a minor increase.

            1. LQ*

              Ah, yeah, ours at least the steps are pretty easy. (For me it’s never even been a question that I should get a step bump every year, and when I’ve gotten promotions I know my boss and up the chain have fought to get me 3 rather than the usual 1 step+level, hasn’t always worked, but…a couple.)

              If they’ve cut back on giving steps up then it makes it a lot harder, but I think that is a great place to make a strong argument for extra work should absolutely merit a step increase at your annual review. I’d also seriously consider if your boss is the one not advocating or if your HR department is like ours and has a bit of a strong arm on those changes, if it is your boss, then is there another place you could go, transfers sometimes help? (Depending on what branch/what kind of government it may be harder or easier said than done.)

              Good luck!

        3. LawCat*

          Could he have come in at a higher pay level initially? That has a cumulative effect over time. My former employer would hire people for more pay if they made more before coming to the agency, but if you made less, you came in at the bottom.

  10. Mononymous*

    I think it also matters whether the coworker is at market rate for the job and OP is 20% under market, or OP is at market rate and the coworker is 20% over. If OP is getting a fair market rate and the other guy just has the advantage of 20 extra years of merit/COL raises, that seems more okay to me than if OP is way underpaid and the coworker isn’t, somehow.

  11. OP*

    Thanks for answering my question, Alison! I think it is the economy that’s made the discrepancy as wide as it is – we’ve had very few COL raises since I started, and it used to be an annual thing everyone counted on. It’s helpful to know that this happens, but also that I’m totally irrational to be irritated by it.

    I’m not really sure how to approach asking for a raise based on this information. I could try to advocate that since we have the same job title we should make the same salary (or closer to the same) but what makes it awkward is that even though our salaries are public and everyone knows it, it still seems to be considered in poor taste to mention that you know what other people make. No one ever discusses the fact that our salaries are public (I can’t be the only one curious enough to check and see what other people are making, right?!) so I’ve never brought it up with anyone. Unfortunately, my job is very niche, which makes it difficult to determine what a market rate would be for my work, so coworker salary is pretty much the only benchmark I have.

    1. Brett*

      It may be niche, but there are probably other government agencies with the same position.

      Fortunately for you, their salaries are also likely published, making them easy to collect. Also, there are a lot of groups out there that do public sector industry services for niche positions (e.g. the International Association of Accessing Officers does salary surveys for several specialties related to property assessment for taxation, the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association does surveys for mapping related specialities, the Management Association for Private Photogrammetric Surveyors does photogrammetrist and surveyors).

      In most gov orgs, salaries are periodically brought to market rates with organization-wide salary studies. But if you have a niche position with only a few people in that role, those are often completely excluded from the salary study and not adjusted to market rate with everyone else. For larger orgs, there is often a merit review board that can grant exceptions to limits on merit raises; your supervisor would have to request the exceptional raise and defend your case to the board (which is where your market research comes in). For smaller orgs, your supervisor might have to go directly to your department head who then has to present to your governing body for direct authorization (e.g. city council/county council). These processes are very dependent on the internal operations of your department though. For example, I previously worked a professional staff position in a law enforcement department, and the department was unwilling to raise any merit review cases outside of command staff because of concerns it would damage negotiations for general officer salaries.

      1. Brett*

        That should read “public sector industry salary surveys for niche positions” not “public sector industry services for niche positions”

  12. Jesmlet*

    If you really are taking on more responsibilities than your coworker, I’d argue at your next performance review, you should push for a higher raise and speak only to the quality of work and the additional responsibilities. Hopefully that’ll close the gap a bit.

    1. OP*

      This is the approach I’ve been taking for the last several years (I’ve never mentioned the salary discrepancy to anyone at work since it seems taboo). I’ve gotten several promotions, but since the economy has been low they haven’t been willing to bump it up more than 3% each time (it is very, very hard to get a raise here and my manager has tried hard to push for more). Those promotions have gotten me to this point, where we have the same title but I’m still 20% below on salary. I think this may just be the way the system works at my job, sadly.

      1. Jesmlet*

        That’s unfortunate. I do agree that mentioning the discrepancy might be the wrong path to take but I’m curious what their logic is for having that info be public. 3% is still a decent raise but it probably feels a bit demoralizing feeling like your real value doesn’t match what the company thinks your monetary value is.

        1. LQ*

          In government it is law that those salaries be public. So…you tell us…
          I’m hugely pro public salaries and think they help a lot in many things like identifying discrimination, and negotiating. But most people (at least where I’ve ever seen it) have a general idea and that’s usually where it stays, very few people go in and actively check on all their coworkers very often. A few, but not many.

      2. Marcy*

        I was where you are now when I started my career. It did grate on me, but eventually I accepted that it was just part paying your dues and how government works. But remember, the other part of how government works is that you can use it to gain a bunch of experience and move to the private sector. That is what I did. I volunteered for all the assignments, got my name on some big projects, and moved to the private sector for double my former salary. After a few years I moved back to the public sector and kept most of the high salary. That’s the other quirk of government: they’ll lowball internal hires, but shell out the big bucks to lure in the shiny corporate laterals who, for the most part, don’t know anything about how government works. Recently we just hired another corporate lateral in my office, and my coworkers with seniority were absolutely fuming over the idea that the newcomers might be paid as much as they were.

  13. Christine*

    Some state & federal employers are totally oblivious to the fact that salaries are public. Others hope the employees will be too lazy to pull up the data.

  14. Lia*

    I work in higher ed for a public institution and this is very, very common here. We’ve had a few bad years of no COL increases, and the structure in the last 5 years has given merit raises as an annual bonus instead of adding them to the base salary. Prior to this, COL increases were annual, and merit awards were raises that went to the base salary.

    The discrepancies here are crazy, especially because salaries are public, so sometimes applicants see someone making 90K as a Teapot Administrator and then get shocked when they are offered 50K for the role, because the one here has been working here for 25+ years.

    1. OP*

      I’m in a similar position. This is so sad, but I’m also kind of relieved to know it isn’t just me. Thank you for commenting! That’s exactly what has been happening here, I think. Too bad it seems to be standard in this type of job!

      1. Lia*

        I’m in the same boat as you, actually. I had the same total years of experience as a colleague, but she had 10 years here and I had 4. She made significantly more than me, all due to timing. It bites. And like you, raises are nearly impossible to get (I’ve gotten two, one to “bring me in line with others in my level” because they realized I was severely under-grade in pay and one because the new hire they wanted to bring on, with less experience than me, was asking for 5K more than I made. They gave me 2K, LOL).

        No coincidence I am looking in the public sector now…

      2. CM*

        Yes, I agree it often doesn’t make sense, but that’s the way it works. One suggestion I have is to speak plainly with your manager about how it feels unfair, and ask if there is anything you can do about the salary discrepancy. I think a lot of people in government are willing to acknowledge that the way the system works isn’t ideal, and when it’s brought to their attention your manager may be willing to work with you or at least give you some suggestions or a reality check. Or they may be able to explain to you in more detail how salaries are set, which would help you understand the opportunities and limits for you to advocate for yourself.

        1. CM*

          Re-reading my comment, I want to amend it a little: I wouldn’t go in saying “this is unfair,” but rather something like, “I really enjoy working here and taking on more responsibilities. I realize that salaries here are largely based on seniority, but I’ve been feeling a little discouraged by the 20% discrepancy between Bob’s salary and mine given them we’re doing the same duties. Can you explain to me why that is, and whether there is anything that can be done to narrow that gap?”

  15. Pari*

    Rewarding Years of service is rewarding institutional knowledge. It’s very very helpful to have someone on staff who can say “we tried that or did that in the past and here are the problems we had” or “I know what to do. We had one of those before your time.” Sure in some professions and companies its less relevant but in others it’s hugely valuable.

    1. Product person*

      It’s very very helpful to have someone on staff who can say “we tried that or did that in the past and here are the problems we had” or “I know what to do.

      Sure, but I’d argue that ten years of experience is just as good as thirty — there’s diminishing value after a certain number of years the person has been with the company.

    2. Snarkus Aurelius*

      But that approach also allows for, “This is how we’ve always done things and it has worked so why do we need to change?” This has seriously the reason why my government agency still records vendor payments by hand in a large accounting paybook. In 2016. With a calculator.

      I suppose institutional knowledge is helpful, but I see longevity rewarded for the sake of longevity. That’s not an accomplishment; that’s just showing up.

      1. Pari*

        That has more to do with an organizational culture or leadership that doesn’t place value on continuous improvement.

        Or if you’re in government, it’s possible that that improvement just never climbs the budget priority list.

  16. crazy8s*

    this is such a problem where i work in public sector employment. I was not used to this having come from private sector and i think it makes it hard to get good people. You should not get paid more just because you sat in your chair longer than somebody else. If you want to reward longevity, then give a bonus based on years of service, but base pay should reflect your contribution to the organization.

  17. Anonymous Educator*

    Honestly, I wouldn’t be bitter about someone with seniority making more than me, as long as that person is doing good work. If she’s a total slacker or, worse, toxic, then I’d be bitter about it.

  18. naiive millenial*

    How do you all feel about someone making more for having more work experience, but not necessarily more relevant work experience? There is a new hire in my department who is transitioning from a different type of role, and had only a year or so of experience in the industry before, but several more years of work experience generally (think a 25 year old vs. a 30 year old). While our positions are different, they are at the same level and I was told when the position was posted that if I was to apply it would not be a step up, but I’ve learned that this new colleague makes significantly more than me (we are the same gender and I believe the difference is around 20%). It may have been that there was more negotiation involved (I naiively did not negotiate at all), but it has still made me quite dispirited to learn this and I’m having a hard time not letting it go. I’m just not sure whether this is something that I should expect to be typical of all workplaces. I should note that I’ve been in my position for 2 years now and that while I was also new to the industry when hired, my experience was quite relevant and it was probably a similar type of jump to this new colleague’s. Is this how all workplaces operate? Does seniority in terms of age count for that much? Or are offers so closely tied to previous salary that these types of gaps inevitably occur?

    1. LQ*

      Eh, this to me sounds like negotiation more than anything. Generally a few years of experience might matter and if you are talking 20% more at 30K I can see negotiation vs your no negotiation making that difference.

      If you have been there for 2 years and you’ve learned a lot…maybe it is time to go looking for some place new. Generally the biggest pay jumps happen from job to job, not within the same company. (Not saying never, but in general.)

    2. Alexa D.*

      Well, look at it from the other side: if you were 30 and had 5-7 years of work experience and you found you were being paid the same as an entry-level 25-year-old, how would you feel? Work experience has base value even if it’s in a different industry. I would expect a 30-year-old to have a base skill set, including a professional/emotional skill set, that is more developed than that of a 25-year-old for whom this is their first job. Not all 25-year-olds are comparable (you may have skills above and beyond the average 25-year-old), as are not all 30-year-olds, but my good faith assumption is that the 30-year-old is generally more experienced and, yes, with that comes higher pay expectations. It’s also very likely they negotiated. As someone else suggested, in this situation, your best bet to make a significant jump is to find a job elsewhere–usually once you start somewhere, you are locked in on a slow salary/promotion progression. It’s the curse of the post-recession Millennials. They’ll pay you as little as humanly possible while milking as much work out of you as they can.

  19. Nanani*

    Are you in a unionized environment?
    Sometimes, seniority-linked pay that makes sense in a collective bargaining environment can create massive disparities when someone ends up in a role not covered by the union (like management often is) or when people hired after a certain date are not offered the same benefits/protections as earlier members for whatever reason.

    If the words “salary compression” are being tossed around, this may be what you’re looking at.
    There probably isn’t a solution other than leaving for a company that will pay your what you’re worth.

    That said, if your pay is satisfying APART FROM being lower than another person’s, maybe try to focus more on that?

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