Pay Vs Other’s Pay

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about asking coworker about her/his pay: What should I say?

A co-worker, who’s been on the job longer than me, has been passed up for a position which I got. Now every time I see him he wants to know how much I’m making.

Signed, Annoyed

Dear Annoyed:

This sort of thing is not unusual; to have one who’s been in a job longer to be passed by another to get the job he wanted. Nor is it unusual for coworkers to compare pay and to think they should be paid as well as or better than others. Pay is usually considered private and not announced. Yet, pay differences are used to motivate. Only a few companies make pay common knowledge. So how have you replied to your coworker?

You have options:

-Tell him the truth.

Tell him a lie.

-Jokingly exaggerate, “My pays been tripled.

-Ignore his question by asking him about something that is personal, such as, “How much money do you have in the bank? Or “What did you pay for your house?” Then say before he answers, say, “Sorry, I know that is your business, not mine. I shouldn’t ask.”

Say “That’s for me to know and you to find out.”

-Say, “Sam (or whatever is his name), if our company wanted you to know, you would be told.”

-Say, “Sam, I know you are curious but I don’t want to talk about that. It is not polite to badger me about money. Can’t we just talk about how we can make this place money? Please don’t ask me again.”

You might think of other ways to respond, but the last one is the best one I can think of. To have a frank conversation with him about how you feel uneasy that he apparently is unhappy you were promoted instead of him is also an option. If you talk, he will appreciate your understanding his frustration at being passed over. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of suggesting that what you should want for him and for yourself is to work in a place that is successful and produces goods and services that help people.

William Gorden