“Bill” and I spent the last year and a half working alongside each other. We handle the same job duties and were hired at roughly the same time. Three months ago, he decided to start his own business, and his work performance went downhill. Last week, our manager fired him.
That’s when I learned Bill makes $800 a month more than I do. I couldn’t believe it. I work as hard as Bill; I have the same education he does; and we have similar experience levels.
So, how come he’s paid more than me? It’s not that I don’t do a good job. My manager regularly praises me, and I’ve taken on increasing levels of responsibility. It feels like my company has taken advantage of me for 18 months. I don’t want to create an HR or legal fight; I just want fair pay.
Here’s how to get your raise:
Explore why you’re paid less.
Your email addresses four common reasons employers pay one employee less than another: different job duties, different levels of experience and education, and being hired at different times. Given the labor shortages in recent years, many employers pay recent hires more than continuing employees.
Bill may have negotiated more effectively than you at time of hire, particularly if your company urgently needed a new hire, and Bill wouldn’t join for less than a certain salary. You may have been so excited to be hired, you didn’t realize you could negotiate your starting salary. Additionally, many employees assume their coworkers do the “same job” they do, only to learn that their coworkers aren’t their coworkers, but instead individuals charged with higher levels of responsibility and expectation. Your employer may have felt Bill would produce work of a higher quality or make better judgment calls than you.
Your employer might have discriminated against you, because Bill was male or younger or had other characteristics your employer preferred to yours, If so, you have a legal basis for claiming discrimination. Bill may have also lied to you, claiming a higher salary than he makes.
Make a compelling case.
The wage discrepancy you’ve uncovered is the catalyst for your asking for a wage increase but can’t be the crux of the argument you present. You need to make a case for why you deserve greater compensation — based on what employees in similar jobs make and the value you offer your employer.
You can learn what others make by reviewing Salary.com, PayScale and industry-specific websites, and by reaching out to others in your professional network and that you locate on LinkedIn. Create a spreadsheet that provides evidence you’re underpaid.
Next, outline why your skills, commitment, hard work, work quality and accomplishments merit a salary increase. Praise isn’t the same as bottom-line results. Have you hit all your targets, boosted productivity, saved the company money, or implemented new programs? Paying you more needs to create a win-win in value for your company as well as you.
At the meeting itself.
Set up a meeting with your manager and present your spreadsheet and case. If you’re angry, dump your emotion ahead of the meeting or use the other “cooling” strategies I present in Chapter 18 of “Navigating Conflict.” Start the meeting by saying, “It has come to my attention that others make much more for doing the same job.”
The best negotiations are conversations and not monologues. Ask your manager questions such as, “Is there a reason I make less than my coworker even though we do the same job?” and listen to the answers. During the meeting, leverage silence. For example, after you ask, “Can you talk with me about how to close the gap between what I believe I’m worth in the marketplace and what I’m making?” stop talking.
Come prepared to work through any objections. For example, if you’re told “There’s no money in the budget for a salary increase,” ask “When will the next budget be prepared?”
Don’t take “no” for a final answer.
If you’re not given an increase, you can ask for additional time off in lieu of an increase. You can also look for a different employer, or you can rethink whether you want to make this an HR or legal problem. Your employer may be violating the Equal Pay Act. If you and your coworker handle substantially similar duties, in terms of skill, effort and responsibility, you may have a case. Good luck.