22 Comments

  1. Country Girl

    I’m afraid I have to disagree. I don’t think bringing up another employee’s salary is the best option to start a discussion about a raise.

    The fact is that you are the one who agreed to work for the salary you are currently earning. If you want to receive or believe you deserve a raise, I believe a better way to get the ball rolling will be based on your own merit and not on a “he said he makes more than me” basis. I would at least begin the conversation by saying something like “I wanted to discuss the increase in my responsibilities and work load since starting with the company. I’d like to find out if these make me eligible for a raise.” This way you give the employer an opportunity to give you a raise on the spot instead of allowing them to put it off until next year. Also as EPI acknowledges, your coworker could very well be padding their salary, which will make you look silly if you go to management complaining. ($7000 more a year translates to a little over $500 a month which, depending on your salary range and how long you’ve been with the company, could in fact be somewhat minimal.)

    • Vanna Keiler

      I agree with Country Girl on this issue. I think the person who found out about the salary and the one divulging it are both in broach of office and business etiquette: one should not have asked (if that occurred) and the other should not have offered. As many posted have suggested, there are a myriad of reasons why one salary is higher than another’s (especially if your co-worker is one year ahead of you at this firm), and to question it is to question management, in essence. The more tactful and pro-active approach would be to stop comparing yourself to your co-worker in terms of salary, work on your own accomplishments and performance, and as others have suggested, find ways to get more responsibility and recognition for the responsibility. Secondly, if you feel you are inordinately taking on many of your co-worker’s roles, you need to stop that immediately and both of you should bring it to the attention of your supervisor, so you may switch tasks and make your job experience more rewarding, instead of shouldering the burden of helping your co-worker in silence and feeling resentful about it.

  2. Winifred Rosenburg

    I wonder how others feel about how this fits in with equal pay laws that only work if you know your coworkers’ salaries.

  3. polite punk

    I think I agree with Country Girl. More than anything, this should be chalked up to a lesson learned. Some people are much better at negotiating their salary while others (myself included) are usually more inclined to settle at whatever we are offered.

    • Elizabeth

      PP – this is one of the reasons that women are statistically more likely to make less than men for the same job. It’s important to educate and empower yourself and negotiate for what you deserve!! There are a lot of great resources out there (online, books, coaches, etc) to gain these skills.

  4. Alicia

    One annual raise could easily account for the difference. Also I know as a manager I often have a range I am willing to pay. I always offer assuming that they will come back and ask for more and plan that into the budget. Recently I hired two employees for the equal jobs. They were both offered both the same salary. One asked for 5% more then that. That employee is making 5% more. Had the other at time of hire asked for 5% or actually either asked for 10% more they would have gotten it. Now however their annual assesments and raises will be a percentage as keeping with company policy. Another thing is two years ago in a better economy I would have as a starting offer offered more then I did a few months ago as due to the down economy there are more people looking for work and one can hire better canidates for lower pay.

    • Elizabeth

      This is really helpful to know Alicia. It’s important for everyone – but especially women – to learn how to advocate for themselves when it comes to salary and benefits. We all too often just accept what we are offered, and hence we statistically make less than men doing the same job.

    • Lilli

      100% agree! I recently had a similar situation where I hired a bunch of new staff at similar pay rates for comparable positions. Two of the new hires are making more than the other simply because they asked and she didn’t. I would gladly have gone higher for her since she has the most experience, but as a hiring mananger you need to make the first offer a little lower so that you leave yourself room to negotiate and she chose not to negotiate.

    • Pam

      Alicia, you are saying that the employee who did not ask for a raise is not being paid what she deserves for the quality of her work, but what the company can get away with paying her?

      • Vanna Keiler

        Pam, I would not make that assumption from what Alicia wrote. I believe she is trying to convey that as a manager, for each position she supervises, each position has a salary range and pay raise that is considered by industry standards (and her company) to be acceptable. I’m sure she is within her firm’s guidelines to comply with the salary each employee is receiving. I believe the decision to offer raises or agree to them per each employee is solely the discretion of a manager, based on each individual’s performance, the manager’s perception of this performance, and the assumption that the manager is doing her job well in evaluating each employee she supervises.

      • Alicia

        They are new hires so it is a new hire thing not a raise issue. Gender is not the issue as both are men just by random chance.(about 80% of the resumes I recieved were men)Quality of work was unknown but assumed at time of hire. Yes we work in a capatalistic society. Market forces are very much at play here. Since I was prepared to negotiate starting salary up to offer+10% and one only asked for 5% more and one did not ask for more yes both are getting less money then they could have gotten. Now as to a question of what they deserve for the quality of their work well that is a tricky issue. In economic terms the value of your work is the price that you are willing to sell it for and that someone will pay. So both are getting the price that they value their own work to have. This is how almost all companies work. You get less if you fail to ask for more. Always ask for more money when offered a job in a polite and gracious manner it is shockily easy at that point to get much more and since raises are often a % that means that it is a % of the higher starting number. It adds up.

        • Pam

          Perfect proof of the downside of capitalism. So I guess that is just the way it is in the business world, the problem is trying to apply the same idea to the public sector, which has people not selling work, but providing a service.

          • Elizabeth

            Pam, I’m not sure I understand the distinction you’re making between the market and the public sector. People advocate for better pay, benefits and working conditions all the time in the public sector, through unions and collective bargaining or individually. As an employee who could work in the private or public sector, you are essentially in the same position – you are selling your knowledge, skills and labor to do some job that somebody somewhere decided needed to be done, and the salary negotiation and your acceptance of the job is really the only place you get to help determine how much your time, skills, knowledge, etc are worth. I think what Alicia’s pointing to is that some people appear to value what they have to offer less than others in the way that they accept what’s offered or inquire further. Obviously, the ball isn’t only in your court, and the salaries/benefits in many public jobs can be much more predetermined than they might be in the private sector. But I really think there isn’t anything wrong with politely and straightforwardly making a case for why you are worth more.

            I actually believe that people who are willing to do the negotiation are actually worth more to the company/institution. Presumably they have done their homework, they know something about how the business/institution works, perhaps they have networked to get a sense of it or read up on it – but they’ve done research which allows them to say: “Actually, people with my qualifications in this position and industry normally earn X more, and given my experience with X,Y,Z I think you’ll find that I am a great benefit to you and worth the money.

            People who are more inexperienced, less sure about themselves professionally (or personally, I suppose), who have less knowledge about the industry/sector – they will not feel as confident about asking for more money, and will hence make less.

            I’m not saying it’s a perfect system. It requires you to advocate for yourself (in a calm, pleasant, upbeat and straightforward way). And that’s not rude to do.

        • Country Girl

          Alicia I think we all would love if you could share the most effective, gracious ways for job hunters to ask for a higher salary, as many people (like Polite Punk mentions) are a little shy to do so.

          • Alicia

            I’ve always gushed about how much I like the company and department and then said something like “I’ve very flattered by this offer but I was wondering if the salary could be a bit higher, maybe something closer to….” And named a figure about 10-15% higher. I’ve always gotten more money as a result although not always 10 or 15%. But you do not do that unless you are ready to accept the job offer if you get the 10-15% higher number. I’ve taught this trick to my friends and it never seems to ruin the job offer and almost always but not always gets people more money.

          • I Do Not Like the Cone of Shame

            As a manager, it surprises me how much people ask – and often get – better salaries when first hired, and how much leeway the recruiter or hiring manager often has to offer you more than what was initially offered. I say “surprised” because as an individual, I have not been an aggressive negotiator myself, so seeing this from the other side definitely inspires me for my next job hunt!

            This is an unpleasant conversation to have as an individual – similar to why I hate buying cars and dealing with car salesman – I will always wonder if I really got everything I should have. But on the other side (the employer), I realize that the employer has much less emotion about this.

            Occasionally, you’ll have a candidate who goes overboard to the point that you have a bad first impression of a new employee. Overboard meaning they come back with a laundry list of demands in addition to salary. For that reason, I’d say don’t be an ass, and focus on one or a few items in your negotiations.

        • Winifred Rosenburg

          I’m suspicious of the effects this kind of practice might have. Beyond the fact that it’s not really fair to pay someone based on his or her negotiating skills when negotiating skills are most likely not relevant to the job, I suspect it would also have a negative impact on the business. If this woman found out she was getting paid less then others doing the same job and at the same seniority level, she would obviously not be pleased. Worst case senario: she could sue under the Equal Pay Act. Best case scenario: you would have a disgruntled employee on your hands who would likely work less effectively because of her unhappiness and leave as soon as she found another job that pays slightly more. Why stay at a job where she’s not appreciated? You would then have to start over finding and training a new employee.

          • Vanna Keiler

            Winifred, I would have to respectfully disagree: this “practice” has been going on for many decades, probably around the turn of the century when big businesses became prominent. People in every industry who have engaged in the interview process over the course of their professional career are familiar with negotiating a salary. For those who are not, they are probably new to the job market or own their own businesses. If an employee or potential employee does not speak up and enquire about the possibility of a higher salary, they will not get it. Being confident, pro-active and having the finesse to fully discuss all aspects of a job position at the appropriate times may sometimes make the difference between getting a slightly higher salary than a slightly lower salary, but not always. Some recruiters do have leeway in offering slightly more, some don’t and the amount they put out there is the final offer. I have experienced both scenarios, but it certainly never hurts to ask for more. Most recruiters expect it. Some people have more on their resumes and/or can offer more to the company than others, and hence deserve a higher starting salary. Regarding the original post, in one year’s time, that other employee may have done some pretty fantastic things at the company and deserved not only her starting salary, but any bonuses/raises she received. Just sounds like a bad case of entitlement to me, unfortunately.

  5. Chara

    You might also be careful when discussing the salary of other individuals in your company for the simple fact that some companies have a policy against disclosing your salary to your coworkers. Mary could find herself in some trouble with her boss for violating company policy.

  6. Pam

    If you work as a public employee, your salary is easily obtainable with a quick Google search, so salaries of co workers may be discovered through completely legitimate terms in that case.

  7. Kathy

    Very interesting insight. I just found out that my coworker, who started one year before me, makes $5000.00 more than me. However, she is always coming to me for my opinion on her assignments. That was disclosed to me by an attachment emailed to me by my manager. I am sure it was not intended for me. But, now that I know….I am very discouraged!!! Probably the fact that I did not negotiate the initial offer has doomed me since the annual % will never make up the difference. I am really struggling with this new knowledge.

  8. Elizabeth

    I think these are all good suggestions, but if you don’t want to be at the mercy of an employer to pay you a low wage for your hard work…it’s best to start your own business ladies. That’s what I did. I was tired of having others in management try to put a price on my worth (which is ridiculous imo). I had a coworker who made a little bit more than I did at the time, and would constantly cut out early, talk on her personal phone, go shopping online all the time, book personal vacations on company time. She would also try to dump her busy work on me. When she tried to do that I would flat out say NO loudly in front of everyone. She was so embarassed that was the first and last time she ever asked me to help her. So what you need to do is establish personal power and boundaries with others, especially in the workplace these days. If your job description is to do certain tasks…do them to the best of your ability, if not don’t do them. I’m telling you right now, you won’t be getting a pat on the back or a raise for that matter for going above and beyond. Most of the time once you help someone they think you will do it all the time and they will get paid more for doing less (I know it’s not fair but that’s what happens most of the time these days)…the only time you should help another coworker is when you are on a team together doing a project with one another and even then you shouldn’t be shouldering all the work. If you don’t know how to negotiate salary, then you should get some good books to help you on the topic because most of the time unless your good at negotiating, management will expect you to work at an entry level rate. If your profession doesn’t pay enough, either move to another firm that will pay you more or make a plan to go back to school part-time to change your profession because there is always room to better yourself. I hope this helps those going through salary discrepancies. I’ve been there and I empathize with you.

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