What can you do if you discover that your co-workers are getting paid more than you are for the same or a similar job? Besides complaining to yourself and griping about the fact that life isn’t fair? Pay equity issues, and strategies to address any inequities, will vary by your employment situation. In general though, it’s tricky.
There are reasons you might be paid a different salary than your colleague in the next cubicle, and your talent might not be one of them. Salary is a sensitive issue for everyone concerned and the reasons that some people are paid more and others less aren’t always quantifiable.
With many employers, wage and salary information is private, confidential and between the company and the employee. Salaries are often negotiated, and factors like education, experience, job performance and skills all can make a difference in what people are paid. The job itself and the value the employer places on it factors in, as well.
What to Do When Your Co-Workers Are Paid More
In general, it’s not a good idea to discuss compensation with co-workers given the sensitivity of the issues involved. Resentment, anger, and hurt feelings can easily be sparked among colleagues who share salary information. You’ll feel bad, your colleagues will feel bad, and it probably won’t get you any more money.
Even worse, your employer may label you as a trouble maker or problem employee if you create a stir about compensation. That’s especially true if you bring other employees into the discussion.
Addressing Pay Disparity Issues
All that said, if it comes to your attention that you and your colleagues are not receiving the same pay for the same job with the same success and experience, you do have a right to address the issue.
You can let it go, which might be smarter, or you can bring it up with your manager or Human Resources manager. You could also wait until it’s time for your performance review when your salary may be up for discussion anyway.
Keep it Confidential
If you decide to seek redress regarding pay differences, do so by approaching your employer confidentially and carefully. Before you start, review these salary negotiation traps that you will need to avoid.
If you suspect but are not certain about pay differences carefully research pay rates for your occupation through salary websites like PayScale.com, professional associations and colleagues from other employers in your sector. Use tools like these rather than asking what your direct co-workers are receiving as compensation because you don’t want to create friction within your department or with your boss if word gets back
Some workers, like union and government employees, have contractually stipulated levels of pay. In those cases, union representatives and Human Resources staff should be contacted regarding the processes in place to ensure pay equity. That’s a much simpler process when pay is defined and regulated.
The Equal Pay Act
Gender makes a difference. Women receive some protection from pay discrimination under the Equal Pay Act. The act prohibits employers from paying men, with equivalent experience at the same location, greater pay.
Other minorities are also protected from discrimination. You can contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for assistance if you suspect a gender, age or disability based violation.
For Everyone Else
Most employees won’t be covered by legislation. So, you will need to decide whether or not to address your grievance with your employer. Be really sure that you want to bring it up before you start making an issue of your compensation.
Make Sure You’re Worth a Raise
Before moving forward, make sure you have a track record of success in your job. Otherwise, your employer is apt to point out performance differences between you and any higher paid colleagues.
If you have any doubts about how your performance is perceived, you may want to take some measures to enhance your productivity prior to addressing this issue. Volunteer to take on new challenges, work extra hours, make sure your attendance is stellar and exhibit a “can do” attitude. Review any issues cited in past performance reviews and make sure that you address them.
Do all of that before you ask for a meeting to discuss salary. If you’re going to make the case for getting a higher salary, you’ll need to be able to show clearly that you’re worth it.
Internal Pay Equity
Some organizations will have a process to address internal pay equity. Consult your employee manual and/or your Human Resources office to investigate any mechanisms in place. If you contact Human Resources, ask if you can have a confidential meeting about a pay policy issue. The right Human Resources representative might have some very useful perspective on how to address the issue within your organization.
Asking for a Raise
If you decide to move forward, you will most likely need to enlist the support of your supervisor. During any meeting with your boss, be prepared to present a case for why you deserve greater compensation based on performance, credentials and the value you add to the department.
Be as specific as possible in referencing your accomplishments and elements of productivity. General statements suggesting that you are entitled to equal compensation are unlikely to be well received. Avoid any negative characterizations of co-workers whom you believe are receiving higher pay.
Here are tips and advice for asking for a raise:
A New Job is Another Option
Quietly and confidentially looking for alternative employment is another option if you believe your pay is below market. Some employers will match an offer if you are a valued employee.
However, do be careful not to issue any ultimatums that you are not prepared to carry out. Also, be prepared to move on if your employer isn’t prepared to offer you a raise to stay.
Handle With Care
Discussions about salary aren’t always comfortable or easy, but if you handle them carefully and tactfully you’ll be able to get paid what you’re worth. It might not be at the job you have, but moving on may end up being the best option if your current employer isn’t going to come through with the salary you need.