Paid Less Than Subordinate

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about pay: She makes a lot more than myself and others I work with, and there is no reason for it. She has no previous experience no extra certifications etc.

I recently got promoted to a supervisor position doing the same thing I’ve been doing and added duties. A few months ago my manager and I interviewed and hired two new employees with job titles below mine and who have less responsibility, who I would be supervising and training.

The company I work for is very hush hush about salary. I recently was explaining paid time-off to a new employee and she showed me her check to have me explain it to her. I was trying not to look but it was obvious that she makes a lot more than myself and others I work with, and there is no reason for it. She has no previous experience no extra certifications etc. I just acted like I didn’t see it and didn’t say anything to her. My feelings are hurt, I feel betrayed. I can’t figure out why and don’t know if it is inappropriate to discuss this with my boss because it is such a hush hush thing, or I could say “there must be a mistake?”. Please give me advice. Its eating me up inside.

Signed, Hurt and Underpaid

Dear Hurt and Underpaid:

There may be several issues going on that you can look into. I will make the assumption you work for a company that is large enough to have an HR section or person who handles personnel actions. So, let me make some suggestions and share some thoughts that might be helpful.

1. If you supervise and train the employee in question, I would think it logical that you do know her pay grade or job title. Consider going to HR and asking to have the compensation structure explained to you. (You may want to wait until after you talk to your boss, as mention ¬† in #4). There is nothing unreasonable about that and it probably is available through them. They won’t tell you what specific people are paid or even the salary for a job title, but they should have a schedule of titles and compensation guidelines. In many companies, compensation is so confusing it takes pages to explain it! For example, in some companies a lower title makes the same salary as someone higher, but the higher title also makes a large bonus. Someone even higher makes the same salary but receives a bonus as well as stock options. Find out how the salaries are structured and see if that helps. If they won’t discuss it with you, you can still consider #5 below, which is to ask for a salary review.

2. Another factor is that people who are hired at different times are often lured at different pay rates–sometimes without any reason that seems obvious. It could be that HR, in an attempt to hire quickly for a specific job, offered more than normal for the job. That’s one reason salaries are “hush hush” in those companies! It seems unfair to me too, but I know it happens and I can even understand it at times.

3. You would know if the employee is getting over-time pay, and if that is reflected in the salary you saw. Over-time needs to be watched carefully, since many employees plan on that to add to their salaries, but the work they do in overtime is negligible and could have been done during regular hours. (In some workplaces people are assigned overtime work whether they want to do it or not.) Could her salary have been inflated for one pay period for that reason?

4. If you are close to your boss, I think you should talk to him about it. Tell him the truth about how you know the employee had a larger pay check than you did. Be honest about how concerned you are but also that you don’t want to get in trouble for discussing pay with an employee. Surely if you two have been working together, you have enough of a relationship you can discuss this.Tell him your thoughts about checking with HR to see compensation schedules. Ask him if HE has that information instead.

5. Discuss with your boss or with HR how to present a request for a salary review. Timing is bad now, of course, but perhaps there is something you could do anyway. Or perhaps you could ask for a potential timeline for a salary increase. Or, you could show your evaluations and ask if there is something that would justify the increase at the first available opportunity.Those may or may not be practical, according to your company and your job, but they are something to consider.I can easily understand your frustration. The one thing to hold onto is that you were at least tolerating your salary before you found out about the higher salary of the employee you supervise. Don’t let it tear you up inside, if you like your work, you want to stay there, and there is a chance to improve your situation.The key is to find out if there really is a difference and why there might be one. Then, to find out if there is anything you can do to affect your compensation package. That can be accomplished without discussing any one person’s salary, just discussing compensation in a general sense.Best wishes to you as you deal with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.