IT Employment

When a co-worker makes more money than you

What do you do when you find out that a co-worker, doing the same job you do is making more money than you? It all depends on how you found out and what the circumstances are.

What do you do when you find out that a co-worker, doing the same job you do, is making more money than you? It all depends on how you found out and what the circumstances are.

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From an e-mail I recently received:

It has recently come to my attention that in my small IT department, our two part-time employees make more money hourly than I do.

I am equally as skilled and sometime more so than both part-time employees. I cannot explain why they would be making more money than me hourly. One does have a few more college hours than I do, but I am attending classes to get a few more myself. The other has no reason that I know of to be making more.

I did not find out their rates through any dirty deeds of my own. I am actually the right hand to the boss man, who mentioned it in my presence. Naturally it got me thinking.

So now I sit, wondering whether I should bite my lip and be thankful that I have a job at all, or if I should be pushing for that extra little bump? In these economic times, one can hardly work for less than my already meager wage, but at the same time should I even bother pushing the envelope knowing that I might possibly be replaced?

And if I pursue this, what is my argument? How does one tactfully go about asking for more money in these times in my situation?

First of all, you have an advantage in this situation in that you learned about the pay discrepancy through your boss. A lot of people stumble across the information -- sometimes sneakily, others due to conversations with other employees -- and this affects their ability to address it with the boss.

Since you have the good fortune, in this case, to have a clueless train-wreck of a boss, you are fairly free to raise the issue further with him. This doesn't mean you should kick his door in and demand more money. You simply ask to speak with him privately and then tell him that through his remarks it became clear that you're not making the same hourly wage as the two part-timers. Avoid a confrontational tone, ask if there are specific reasons for this, and if there is anything more you can do to change your pay rate. He will either give you the reasons you're not being paid the same or he will tell you that you're doing everything just fine. If he says the latter, then smile and quietly ask if there is any way he could remedy the pay discrepancy.

He may give you some valid reasons for the pay discrepancy. In that case, it may be painful but it's better to know than to stew over it and invent reasons that aren't there.

The issue of whether it is wise to ask for more money in a recession like we're in right now is a whole other issue. I'll talk about that in a future blog.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

39 comments
DaveSlash
DaveSlash

I haven't read every response to this article, so someone may have already mentioned this, but ... Don't worry about what other people are making. As I try to teach my kids, this world is NOT fair, and you can't expect it to be. If you were OK with your income before you found out what the others are making, you can still be OK with your income after you find out. Remember, the highest paid ones are often the first to be laid off. -- DaveSlash

vickaprili
vickaprili

Are you actually adding more value to the organization than your colleagues and can you prove it? The last one to make this assessment should be yourself. Do you meet all the essential criteria for your job and do you offer more than this and go beyond (ie stretch) If so, ask your boss to print the money.

daveevans28
daveevans28

My co-worker did make more money than me because he asked for more when he got hired. I did eventually ask for a raise to equal his salary and got it even though there were already salary cuts in the company across the board. So I'm saying it can't hurt to ask.

Rastor9
Rastor9

You could always work in a union shop OR for a government agency that defines your pay based on rank (GS12 vs GS15) or based on longevity/seniority or a combination (steps/ranks). That way the 22 year veteran who does nothing more than show up and go home gets more money than the person with the new certifications, college degree and advanced training techniques gets the "low man" pay. I got laid off due to the seniority status, even though the rest of the team and the manager knew they couldn't make up the volume of work I was capable of doing compared to the remaining workers. I got hired to handle some the newer technologies such as Ghosting and VoIP when no one else in the department knew how to work those programs. Now that I am gone, they can't even hire me back as a "contractor" because of union rules. They have to hire me back as a full time employee, and they have no funding for that possibility. Such are the pros and cons of pay systems. You get what you pay for...

Mr.Newman
Mr.Newman

I think it's common that when you work part time based you get more paid in hourly in rate than full time worker. This is the way how you make attractive part time jobs for the skilled professionals.

tdavis
tdavis

Some time, part time makes more than full time , the benefit, etc

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

to whomever is paying you. Go to management and say I should get paid as much as 'im. They are going to ask, Do you add as much or more value. If you don't, stop f'ing whining....

KSoniat
KSoniat

In my first few jobs I basically rewrote in-house payroll systems, an unfortunate side-effect was getting an idea of what people made due to the analysis and reports that were requested. No two people in any department EVER made the same amount of money. It is what experience the person has and how they negotiate when they are signed on. One company owned radio stations and newspapers, and we discovered a "bug" in the bonus system for the radio jocks: it didn't go out to 6 significant digits. Their base pay wasn't out of this world, but their bonuses were incredible. The first year the payroll clerk cut two checks to get each persons bonus out. The next year I had the appropriate changes in place. I also NEVER BREATHED A WORD about any information I became privy to. JD's right - they were happy, but one word from me could change that? No thanks.

remix_cta
remix_cta

I read an article that said that in order to get a raise you should talk about the pure benefits that you bring to the company , and this issue should never be started by : a co-worker earning more/as you you need more money for the new house mortgage etcetera ... the advice you received is the perfect way to put it , in my oppinion . good luck and hope we hear a good news from you :)

jdclyde
jdclyde

it has NO barrings on what someone else is getting paid. It is pathetic people that love their jobs, up until the point they find out someone else makes money than they do. If you think you are worth more, it has NOTHING to do with what anyone else is making. You do NOT deserve a raise just because someone else gets one.

santeewelding
santeewelding

You mean, I should be paid more than the people I hire?

jmgarvin
jmgarvin

Doesn't hurt my feelings...

SKDTech
SKDTech

Such as health/dental/vision or other insurance through your employer? If so the disparity may not be as great or in the direction you think.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

It's not at all unusual for qualified part timers to be paid at a higher hourly salary. The company doesn't have to cough up benefits which can add 20-40 percent to your posted salary . And I won't even start on 'consultants' who may well be very experienced in a particular area but may not know your job or your environment nearly as well as you do. They may offer the key you need to uncover a shortcut to streamline a process or to resolve a problem, or... they may just be management's way of trying to show their boss that they're really trying to address something neither he nor those above him understand. In any case they often demand and receive a per-hour salary that would make a Wall Street Banker proud.

tech4me
tech4me

An example of injustice is not getting same value for money as someone else where all other factors are equal. I think when people see wrong in the world, they should try to do something about it. Not stand back and do nothing and try to live in ignorant bliss that karma or God will sort it all out in the end. I feel sorry for your kids. You should be teaching your kids how the world SHOULD be, and not defeating them with pessimistic reality of the world and telling them to just accept it. It doesn't have to be as petty an emotion as jealousy to want to do something about someone unfairly getting paid more then you. There are decent honest and honorable people out there that care even if a random colleague at work gets much less then someone else in their team who everyone thinks is incompetent. When someone earns more then you, it isn't always a case of wanting to earn more then what they're getting paid. Sometimes all people want is to see the other person earn less (to what would be a reasonable rate based on their skills/experience/competence), while they still earn the same. What I'm trying to say is yes, you can still be happy with what YOU earn, but rightfully upset about what other people earn. Great and relevant quote: For evil to triumph good men need do nothing...

jtwylie
jtwylie

I've been in many positions where I get paid more than most in my group. I usually negotiate rates and on one recent occasion I was employed at a govt job and they all knew my salary. I would say from this standpoint it wasn't very much fun having them confront me and question my worth. Funny thing was that I was only making 15k more which is not a great deal for the big fussing that was going on. My basic concept with compensation is that there is always somewhere I can make more money. Money isn't the end all be all to a position. So I make a few thousand less now but am a whole lot more happy.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

In most cases, the budget for hiring is influenced by HR and is very often higher than the budget for raises. I've also been in a position where I got my first raise after a year's experience and ended up working alongside a new-hire making more with less qualifications - or experience. That, I'm glad to say, was corrected by the department manager with performance bonuses and the next couple raises which, again, is a plus for 'merit' systems and how they can be manipulated in your favor when it's appropriate.

jdclyde
jdclyde

justify your existence, and what it is you bring to the table. There are a lot of people that could never live off their check if they really WERE paid what they are worth. B-)

FranklyTech
FranklyTech

A sense of self worth drives a persons confidence and certainly determines what they are willing to spend their time doing in order to make a living. Not everybody has the science down on how to translate this into adequate compensation. In my perhaps limited experience, you are not paid what you think you are worth, you are paid what the company thinks you're worth. It's when the company doesn't use an even playing field to determine what they think you're worth that situations such as the one noted here occur. You should absolutely be happy with what you're doing, and that should already take into consideration what you are being compensated for doing it, but it's well known to me that many companies look to underpay employees to save on the bottom line unless they are forced to do otherwise. There is a reason why some positions require open disclosure of their compensation. This is to encourage transparency. I understand that some companies actually operate on a open-books concept where all salary information is known. I suspect the transparency issue is why most companies would choose not to disclose their compensations. It means they have to account for any abnormalities. Knowing the playing field you're on helps greatly, and the only way to get a better idea of where that is to see what the other players are doing.

LocoLobo
LocoLobo

when you stumble on the info that "Joe the Lazy" makes more than you do it makes you feel like the boss values him or her more. But you're right. Self worth is what YOU make it not what the boss pays you.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

In the IT world of 24x7 support, and with non-exempt staff sucking down overtime pay, night shift and weekend/holiday bonus pay, etc, it sure doesn't work out that way at times....

Wizard-09
Wizard-09

My flat salery was more, on top of that I get company laptop, mobile, bb paid for call out charge 2x hourly rate company mobile.

tech4me
tech4me

I've worked in a few government organizations before and everyone's pay-scale is made public. Just look up someone's job title and match it to the pay-grade system which is made readily available to all staff. Although I detest a lot of what government organizations do, I think this is a good fair system. It stops employees from getting stupidly high pay and bluffing or blackmailing (like being the only one able to maintain a critical system) their way to higher salaries. If someone in my team is getting paid a lot more or a lot less then me, I want to know why. If I'm overpaid, I'll feel guilty and undeserving unless I can justify to myself and others why the difference is so great. There's a lot of people who need to get off their high-horse and out of the whole modern-day greed mentality of "you deserve as much as you can get". Having said all that, there's still a virulent plague in my workplace.... contractors! A contractor in my line of work can still earn TWICE as much as a fellow contractor for doing the exact same job. Hourly rates are kept secret so your pay is generally decided on how much you can bullshit out of your agent when you first apply for your job. How can any of you say it's a better system when pay rates are confidential and whether or not people are getting overpaid or underpaid remains secret? Anyone from the USA? - don't you care how much politicians get paid? If you work in government, then tax-payers have a right to know how much you get paid. If you work in a publicly-listed company, don't share holders have a right to know how much you (your position) gets paid? If you work in a large family owned business, shouldn't your co-workers also know how much you get paid? If we're all watching each others back's, will it not be a fairer workplace?

tim.moreman
tim.moreman

Part timers even when paid a little more than a full time employee usually saves a company money. It is also more difficult to find and retain qualified part time employees because MOST people perfer full time. If that is the reasoning behind the decrepency here, it should not be viewed as a slap in the face. If you are the full time employee your boss obviously feels you are worth the extra cost of your benefit package. Take it as a compliment.

TonytheTiger
TonytheTiger

The one where you didn't know, didn't have a right to know, and were considered extremely boorish to ask, what someone else makes. So many people nowadays spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy worrying about what someone else makes or has. Is it jealousy? A quest for victimhood status? What? Oh well, you know what they say.... "Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat!"

pwoodctfl
pwoodctfl

Let's start with your boss....he is either an idiot or is trying to get you to do something stupid - like quit or get an attitude (feeling sorry for yourself or angry). Don't fall for it. Everything that has been said so far is true. Differences in education, benefits, environment at time of hire, etc. impact compensation. Before you get cranky or start feeling undervalued, be aware of these differences. Then, unless you suspect that the differences in compensation are related to your age, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender, discard the information that your boss told you. It does you no good to know it. If you were satisfied with your salary up until now, remain so. If you always thought that you were underpaid, stand pat until you have a good opportunity to move to a better paying job. In the meantime, continue to do what you were doing...finish your education. At work, be cheerful, take on new tasks, be genuinely helpful to your colleagues - and that is what they are - not your competitors. Focus on the value that you deliver and if you are not being compensated accordinly...you know what you have to do. If they don't value you, then they lose your services....it is a simple as that. It is unfortunate that your boss dumped this unhelpful knowledge on you. Don't let it tempt you to do professional harm to yourself.

Shellbot
Shellbot

Maybe they negotiated a higher rate when offered the job? Maybe they started at a time when it was harder to fill the job? Hence the pay being better to attract canidates? Being part-timers..I'm assuming that they are not receive the same: holiday pay, sick pay, health insurance, ect ect. Are they permanent employees, or on a fixed term (ie: 1 yr). Less security, more money. People can be very quick to say its all very unfair..but no one is eqaul (despite all our little darlings growing up thinking they are exactly like everyone else). I'm enough of a realist to know that my 8 yrs experience is different than someone elses 8 yrs .. and when i'm offered a job, unless I'm desperate, I negotitate..or i refuse it if its too low. I don't care what my peers make..

The 'G-Man.'
The 'G-Man.'

If so the hour costs go to the agents who then pay the staff less.

Wizard-09
Wizard-09

It or not the last company I worked for I was on more than my manager who reported to the I.T director simple reason being I was the senior engineer it's all down to your skill set and the years on the job that count for it.

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

As a field rep, I worked at literally hundreds of customer locations. Other than in a union environment where everyone in the same job description is making the same bargained-for rate, I've found that most companies which use a 'merit' raise system have a policy which will regard discussion of salary as an offense punishable by escalating severity up to and including dismissal. And I'm not so sure that's a bad thing. As mentioned in many of the responses here, self worth and job satisfaction provide a great foundation to help you rationalize the emotional hit that comes from learning "Joe-the-Incompetent" is being paid more for doing a lousy job - especially where you continually have to bail him out. Like many of you, I've been-there-done-that, and even got downrated on reviews because it took me longer on average to complete trouble calls since I often had to fix what "Joe" had screwed up on the previous shift before I could fix the original problem. But hey... nobody said life is fair, and it usually works out in the end as "Joe" is the first to be ejected in tight times since he was paid more, managers change and the scale tips in your favor, or you finally get fed up and move on to somewhere your talent is appreciated.

jdclyde
jdclyde

Sorry, can't stop myself sometimes. :D If a company does not pay you what you think you are worth, either change what you think you are worth or find another company. The BAD thing about transpericy in pay is when you see that you can NOT excel based upon your efforts, but rather upon how long you have been working at a job punching a clock. Might as well be union if you don't know you are above average in your work quality and effort.

jdclyde
jdclyde

maybe they were the kid of a friend of the bosses boss? does it matter? it doesn't effect you, or change what you agreed to work for.

JamesRL
JamesRL

In most companies with decent benefits, we calculate the cost of those benefits as about 30% of the salary. James

Datacommguy
Datacommguy

I grew up in the Midwest. But if you lived in West Virginia coal country, for example, where 'everyone' worked at the mine and was paid union scale, the only reason it wasn't discussed was because everyone knew what everyone else was making. However if you were boorish enough to ask what your neighbor paid for their house the relationship might well become strained. With virtually universal access to city, country, and state records these days though, what you paid for the house, how much it's worth (or at least the assessed value) and what you paid in property taxes is public knowledge. In fact, the average Joe might be quite surprised at what public information is available. The last speeding ticket you forgot to tell your significant other about, the donation to the home for unwed cats, the jerk you sued in small claims court, that time the cops hauled you in for being in the wrong place at the wrong time... it's all out there. And that goes for your salary too, if you work for the same folks who are making all the rest of that personal information available.

H3LPU
H3LPU

Its what you negotiated for in the beginning. This is sad but true for full time employees. Contractors have agencies that dictate the current market trends. Contractors also know what they can work for. When you understand what your current worth is in the market and area you are in, let your boss now how you feel politely. Then act out your decision with integrity and good character by staying and enjoying what you do, or find another job. The annual review is usually the deal breaker for me. This is the time the bosses listen to your concerns and compensate you accordingly, if not, the ball is in your court. Staying in the job and culture of people you love working with, is sometimnes more important than more money.

Owen Glendower
Owen Glendower

"...self worth and job satisfaction provide a great foundation to help you rationalize the emotional hit that comes from learning "Joe-the-Incompetent" is being paid more for doing a lousy job - especially where you continually have to bail him out." Agreed--except that discrepancies like this one are a hallmark of incompetent management. I'm not talking about situations where someone with critically-needed skills or knowledge was able to negotiate a higher salary when he was hired. That's just the market working. But the "Joe-The-Incompetent" situations--or the "style without substance" new hires who have hoodwinked their bosses; or the flashy, know-it-all consultants; or the excessive pay of almost anyone with "Coordinator" in his title--these situations where it's the fakes, frauds, and charlatans who are making the big bucks are absolutely devastating to employee confidence in management.

geostall
geostall

Part time employees are generally not paid the same in benefits, be it health insurance or 401k match.People tend to forget the value of their benefits package. The higher pay is generally designed to make up for the the benefit shortfall. With the high cost of healthcare, I'd rather be paid less and have health insurance. Let it go, you'll sleep better. GS

jdclyde
jdclyde

because weaker minded fools seem to draw their determination of self-value from external factors, rather than their own internal sense of worth. "Fair" was left behind on the 1st grade playground, and has no place in an adults life. Even if someone else IS paid triple what they are worth, it doesn't change what I am worth. Cheers. jd

FranklyTech
FranklyTech

I agree with you 100% "If a company does not pay you what you think you are worth, either change what you think you are worth or find another company. " Most certainly the case. It's as much when you find this out as it is what you find out. The issue arises when you find out that the company DOES think you're worth more indirectly, based on what is hopefully objective information, but has decided to pay you less because it simply helps them make profit targets. They can do this because they keep everyone's compensation a secret. You do the same job as the guy beside you for 2 years and do it better then they do based on performance feedback and open discussions with your manager. You are fine at this point not knowing what the compensations are specifically and know you are being paid fair market value. You then find out that the other guy is paid 10% more as he was chummy with the CFO when hired. Your self worth doesn't change, but the perception of your worth to the company now has. Now all of a sudden you're perhaps not thinking you're being paid what you're worth. In this case and based on your comment above you are to either move on or think you are worth less based on something which IDEALLY shouldn't be used as a criteria for performance compensation. Not fair, but who said life was, right? The issue perhaps stems from there being 3 "worths" out there. 1. Market value - which even this changes when you travel from one locale to another. 2. Company value - which can be effected greatly by internal socio-political influence. This is what a company pays you... end of story. 3. Self worth - A combination of your self esteem and in some part by the first 2 based on your research and haphazard cooler-talk. Methinks that rarely the 3 do meet. The issue you raise in regards to the problem with transparency is in fact a presentation of one of the problems company's have. IDEALLY one should benefit from their ability and effort, but a 30 year veteran who may not have kept up with the times (either by choice or by lack of management involvement) gets compensated more despite their actual value being less. But it's hardly an IDEAL world out there is it? Edit - spelling and to JD - While I didn't anticipate the Frankly line when I created the handle, I shall expect it more often now =)