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.
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.
Toni Bowers is the former 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.