Thursday, July 19, 2012

What If You Find Out Your Co-Workers Are Making More Money Than You

March 12, 2012

The conversation started innocently enough.  Me and my buddies from work were driving home from lunch and talking about the local job market, and how it looked like companies were starting to hire once again.  A friend who was sitting in the backseat with me mentioned that a previous employer had reached out to him to see if he was interested in returning.  He said that he wasn’t interested in going back, but told the rest of us that the job had decent pay, and he threw out a number.
The number he threw out was a good ten grand more than I was currently making, so my jaw dropped a little bit upon hearing this.  I wasn’t especially interested in leaving my job to go to this company, as they were retail-driven and had a reputation for regular layoffs, but the realization that folks were getting paid that much to do a job very similar to mine was startling.  I exclaimed, “Wow, that is a huge number!  That is a lot more than I am making.”
As soon as I said this, I couldn’t help but notice that my two friends in the front seat cast a quick look to one another.  They didn’t say a word, but I knew right away what that look meant.  Every company in the world strongly discourages their employees from discussing salary.  Some companies even mention in their employee handbook that this is grounds for termination.  It is easy to see why companies take this stance,  as it is only going to lead to somebody getting upset if everyone knows how much everyone else is making.
I have the kind of friendship with my co-workers where we are free to call each other out at any time.  When I saw their silent glance, I immediately spoke up.  ”Uh.. guys, I saw that look.  I assume that means that this number is not as shocking to you?”  They again looked at each other, apparently trying to decide exactly what they wanted to reveal, so as to minimize the damage.  After a few seconds, one of them just said “Let’s just say that..  you should probably take a look at  Wanting to avoid further awkwardness, we agreed to end the conversation there.
I hadn’t heard of the site before, but I quickly learned that glassdoor is one little jewel of a site.  If you list your employer and job title, they will give you the min, max, and average salaries for that position.  If you work for a large employer like me, you will be able to quickly determine how you compare to your peers.  After the earlier conversation, I wasn’t surprised to learn that I was on the bottom of the range for my job title.  The average amount that my company was paying folks to do the same job as me was ten to fifteen thousand more than what I was making!
My first reaction to this news was shock.  This was followed by anger, frustration, and a strong desire to quit.  I had been a great employee for this company and had received many accolades for my hard work.  While my teammates were all good employees and fairly hard workers, I was confident that the work that I was doing was just as good (if not better).  I had been perfectly happy with my salary before that day, but now I was pissed!  No wonder companies try to keep this type of information secret :-)  At this point, there was no going back.
I didn’t want to leave my job, but it isn’t in my personality to just sit around and be angry about something like this.  That being the case, I immediately went to work.  I started building a detailed case of  why I deserved to be paid like I was one of the top performers on the team.  I carefully outlined how my work  compared with my peers, including information like:
  • The amount of projects that I ran, compared with my teammates.
  • The critical nature of the projects that I was assigned to.
  • The fact that other folks on my team, and on other teams, always come to me for assistance when there are issues.
  • The fact that I am the Subject Matter Expert on more technologies than anyone else on the team.
After putting together my list and supporting details, I scheduled a meeting with my manager to discuss it.  I didn’t want the content of the meeting to completely catch him off guard, so I named the meeting “Jefferson’s Career Path.”  My boss ended up rescheduling the meeting into a lunch conversation, which made me nervous, but ended up well.  He carefully listened to my points and agreed with everything that I said.  In our meeting, of course, I didn’t mention the conversation with my co-workers in my car, but instead pointed to as to what clued me in.  We concluded the meeting with my boss stating that he would do all that he could during the upcoming calibrations to get my salary adjusted to an appropriate level.
If you are curious to find out if you are being underpaid by your current employer, I  encourage you to look into it and follow a similar path.  It would be incredibly tacky to start a conversation of this kind with your co-workers, but nothing is stopping you from looking at the web resources that are freely available.  If you *do* find out that your co-workers are making more than you,  then don’t be afraid to build a case and to ask for the situation to be corrected.  You deserve it!

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