Is Your Co-Worker Earning More Than You? Here’s How to Find Out.
Talking about money is considered highly taboo. This is especially true in the workplace.
It’s rare for employees to have even the slightest inkling of what everyone else in their company is earning. After all, how much you earn isn’t exactly appropriate water cooler conversation. Even if you bring it up casually with a co-worker, it’s sure to raise eyebrows.
In fact, a lot of people believe that worrying about how much others are making is a no-win situation.
“Of course everyone wonders if they're being treated fairly,” Rob Huwiler, a Louisville-based project manager, said. But “the value of that information's usually more than offset by morale problems, coming to conclusions without all the facts and...unnecessary tensions.”
Still, Is the Information Worth It?
Nevertheless, knowing how much your co-workers are earning can be a valuable piece of information. You may be planning to negotiate for a raise with your boss, and you need the leverage of knowing what those at your experience level are making. Or perhaps you’re concerned that you’re being discriminated against.
Sometimes there’s a reason why the person at the next desk over from you is earning more. It could have to do with job performance, a stronger skill set or how long they’ve been on the job. But if someone has similar credentials and is doing the same job as you but is getting paid considerably more, it’s not unreasonable to question the disparity.
Regardless, whether you’re addressing pay equity issues or you’re simply planning to ask your boss for an annual pay increase, knowing how much your co-workers earn can be incredibly useful.
Here are eight ways to find out what your colleagues are earning, along with advice on what you should do if you discover that someone with the same job and level of experience is getting paid more.
1) Check Job Listings
Keep track of listings on LinkedIn and on job boards such as Indeed, Craigslist and Glassdoor. They won’t always list a specific salary, but they’ll often give you an expected range. Do the math and figure out the average.
This also gives you an opportunity to learn what those with similar skill sets are earning at competing companies, which could give you a leg up when it comes time to ask for a raise.
You should also check out your company’s jobs page. If you see a listing that’s similar to your job description, don’t be afraid to ask someone in HR about the salary range. They just might be open about it since they’re looking for leads to help them recruit a new hire.
2) Ask Someone Who’s Exiting the Company
Don’t be shy about reaching out to someone who’s recently left your company or who will soon be leaving. Usually, they’ll have nothing to lose by being transparent about what they were earning. Make sure it’s someone who held a similar role to yours, or at least had the same experience level.
You could also broach the topic with someone who has recently been promoted. Often, someone who is in a different role entirely won’t have a problem disclosing what they were earning.
3) Take Advantage of Water Cooler Conversation
Discussing what you earn with anyone outside of your family is generally considered socially unacceptable, but there can be a time and place for anything if you find someone who’s open to it. Ask the person who you think would most likely dish on the numbers.
We’re all aware of that one person in the office – the one who likes to blab and spends an inordinate amount of time at the water cooler telling anyone who passes by more details about their personal life than you’d like to know. Take him or her out to lunch, and engage them in a friendly chat. Don’t just come out with a blunt question such as, “So how much do you make?” Talk about the cost of living in your area, and then slowly start to drop hints asking if they’re satisfied.
It’s usually best to be open and honest about your own salary first. That way, the other person will be more likely to reveal their own in turn. But be sure not to seem like you’re trying to make a comparison and one-up them. If you say something that sounds like you’re earning more or rolling in the dough, it will come across as pure bragging, and you’ll be quickly shut down.
4) Talk to the Millennials in Your Office
In your quest to get a colleague to spill the beans, you might consider targeting a younger co-worker rather than one of the Baby Boomers in your office.
A survey from Cashlorette found that Millennials are far more likely than their older brethren to share what they earn with co-workers. Approximately 30 percent of Millennials will loosen their lips about their salaries, while only 8 percent of Baby Boomers will do so, according to the survey.
5) Ask Your Supervisor
A lot of companies expect management to stay mum on salary information, but every supervisor is different. The key is to do your research beforehand and be up-front with your manager about why you’d like to know. For instance, do you feel that you’re deserving of the same pay as your colleague?
Once you’ve sussed out what your co-worker is earning, it’s time to get down to business.
“I’d look back over the year and note some of your personal contributions to your company that really made a difference and have a chat with your boss to discuss a raise you’d be thrilled with,” says Gina Pell, content chief of The What. “I have a friend who says: Do your research, show up with encouraging hard data and metrics on your performance, and think of a number you’d be really happy with then add 20 percent in case they negotiate down.”
6) Use Online Salary Tools
A bevy of websites and tools can help you see the average salaries of those in your field who are at your experience level. LinkedIn’s Salary feature provides a full breakdown of salaries based on job title and location. You can tailor the tool to specify company size, education level and industry. It’s free to premium members or to those who anonymously submit their compensation information.
Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth tool looks at millions of salaries and open positions in your field to help you determine if you’re being paid fairly. You can also use Glassdoor to look up a general pay range for people in your job position – sometimes even specifically within your own company.
Robert Half’s Salary Guide and Calculator helps you calculate the pay range for an open position based on experience, location, job title and so on. Similarly, PayScale’s Salary Survey and other tools let you research salary information for your current job or evaluate the fairness of a job offer you’ve recently gotten.
7) Talk to HR
Most human resources departments are typically unwilling to discuss salaries, particularly if it’s a small business. However, revealing salary numbers isn’t totally off limits for HR at all companies.
Get to know your HR team and be friendly with them. You never know. They might at least be able to provide you with a general range for your position. After all, they’re usually well aware of the salary numbers when they’re making new hires.
8) Check Public Records
If you work at a non-profit, you can check out your organization’s latest tax returns or their Form 990. These public documents show compensation and benefits figures for board members and top employees.
Similarly, if you work for the federal government, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management keeps records of federal pay scales.
What to Do If a Co-Worker Earns More Than You
So what do you do if you discover that a co-worker is earning more than you? What should be your first reaction? The key is to know what not to do. Figure out whether now is the right time to take action.
Here are four things to do.
1) Don’t Jump to Conclusions
Sometimes your suspicions are just that – suspicions. Before barging into HR to complain about pay disparity, make sure you can back your assertion with facts.
This ties in with the above tips such as talking with former and current colleagues and doing your research.
“If you have a close co-worker, you might want to privately broach the topic,” Pell said. “But it’s also helpful to look at what your company’s competitors are paying for the same position, or check out salary ranges for jobs in your own company and in ideally the same department.”
2) Assess the Reasons
Be sure to step back and look at the situation fully. Does your co-worker have more experience than you or stronger knowledge of the latest technologies? Instead of griping about the pay difference, you may need to work on improving your own skill sets.
Keep in mind that sometimes a new hire may have negotiated their starting pay more aggressively than you. It’s also possible that the market value for your position has increased since you were hired. If you were hired during a less stable economy, the average pay at that time might have been less.
Some companies will try to address this difference with current employees, but oftentimes it will be up to you to have a frank discussion with your boss.
3) Stay Level-Headed
Don’t lose your cool and get angry. While you might be tempted to rush into your boss’s office and demand more money, take a step back and think about it rationally. Is this the right time to ask for a raise? It might make more sense to bide your time and wait for your next performance review.
During your review, you could calmly mention that you’ve become aware that others are earning more than you – without mentioning names, of course – and point out the value that you bring to the company.
Instead of comparing yourself to a specific co-worker, focus on your performance and explain why you’re deserving of a salary boost.
4) Talk to Your Supervisor and HR...and Maybe Even a Lawyer
If you do become aware of a pay discrepancy and you suspect discrimination, meet with HR and your supervisor to discuss the next steps. You should be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Hopefully, HR will resolve the issue before it needs to go any further, but if not, consult with a lawyer to get a firm understanding of your rights. The laws surrounding discrimination in the workplace are continually changing, and they vary from state to state.
A lawyer can help you navigate which laws will best protect you, and often, you’ll be able to settle a dispute before it ever reaches a courtroom.