Discrepancy In Pay

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pay difference:

I am an office manager, working full time. I recently learned a coworker is making twice as much as I am, working part-time and from home. How do I handle knowing the huge discrepancy in pay and responsibility?

Signed, Feeling underpaid

DearĀ Feeling underpaid:

We receive this type of question quite often-which I suppose points out why so many organizations don’t let employees know what anyone is being paid. In government jobs that’s not an issue because a GS-10 is a GS-10, apart from locality pay. It is also usually not a problem in unionized work, since there is most often a clearly defined pay scale.In private enterprise, work is often paid for by value of the work to the organization overall, not by title or the responsibility for others. So, if the employee has some special skill, has been doing the work for some time, provides something the company wants and thinks they can’t get from anyone else, that may be the reason for the difference in pay. Or, if the employee is a valued member of the team for some other reason. Or, if the employee works for someone who is higher in the organization and that higher person views that anyone reporting to them should be at a higher wage. Or,if the employee has education or training, or is available for after hours work, or handles special tasks or some other issue, for which a salary perk is provided. Or, the employee may be friends with someone who has authority over wages and has convinced them that he or she is worth the extra money, and friendships come into play when figuring the wage.

None of those reasons may apply, but you can bet someone, somewhere in the organization, who can approve salaries, reviews that employee’s salary annually and thinks–or is persuaded by someone–that it is valid for the person and the work being done. How you handle it will depend upon your organization’s culture. If you can communicate openly about it, talk to your boss or to HR. Explain that you feel there is an inequity and would like to understand what has created such a difference in pay.

If you can’t do that, focus instead on asking for a raise based on the quality and quantity of work you do, without comparing with another employee. If you know of jobs like yours in other organizations that pay more, you can use those as a comparison.Any statement you make should focus what you have brought to the organization–what challenges you confront regularly, the training you have received that improved your skills. You need to show that you are a valuable commodity, worthy of being paid more. The fact that you ask will likely make them think you will look for work elsewhere if they don’t at least consider your request. It may be they simply haven’t thought about whether or not your salary has kept up with the increasing challenges of your job.You may not be able to make a change, in which case you will need to decide what you want for the long-term. The other employee is not at fault. He or she tries to make as much as possible, just like everyone else.

So, the issue will be what relationship you continue to have with those who ARE responsible and can make changes if they choose, and if they have the budget to do it.When there’s nothing to be done about a wage disparity, I often ask people to think about this: If, when you were hired, you had been told that there are several people in the company who appear to have less responsibility but who get paid more, and that’s the way it’s going to be–would you have taken the job? Did your pay seem right, until you found out about the other person’s salary? Would you be happy with your salary if the other person’s salary was lowered?

Those questions for self-reflection can often help you see the big picture and decide what it is that is bothering you most. If the thing that bothers you most is that you know you are contributing more than the other person and you can prove it, then you need to show that contribution. You might even have to argue your point several times. Go to an internet bookstore and put “negotiating a raise” into the search. There are likely several book that may be helpful. Above all, continue to present yourself as a person who possesses knowledge, skills and a positive attitude–someone the organization will see merits an increase in salary.I hope these thoughts have triggered some thinking of your own, so you can develop a plan of action to deal with this issue. Best wishes.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.