Feeling that you are underpaid is frustrating. Finding out that you aren’t making as much as people with both less experience and less education can be infuriating.
This week, leadership coach Lolly Daskal helps a reader figure out what to do in this difficult situation.
I’ve been at my job for eight months. When I accepted the job I didn’t think the salary was high enough, but I accepted it because the company has a great reputation. I have a master’s degree and 10 years’ experience, and I spent the last two years before this job in a management position.
However, I recently found out that all of the people I work with make money more than I do, although we all have the same roles and responsibilities. Some of them have several years of experience, but I’m the only one with experience and a graduate degree. In fact, there are even people I work with that have less education and less years of experience but still earn more money than me. This is frustrating because I feel that my education and experience are not appreciated.
Should I go to my manager and explain my concern? Or should I wait until the end of my first year when I do my performance appraisal and ask for a raise?
I can imagine that learning people getting paid more money with less education shocks and infuriates you.
But what happens to other people is ultimately not the issue here. You can’t know 100% of the context of their hire, background, or record. Other salaries may reflect increases awarded for performance or longevity, for example, and yours will catch up (or even exceed them) in time. If salaries for similar positions are uniformly higher at your company, that’s definitely a factor—but only one of many, and not even a major one.
Your mission is to make sure you are recognized for your own gifts and talents, experience, and credentials. You have to take care of yourself, and in your current position that probably means advocating for what you’re worth.
Here’s a plan to go about it:
Start a working document of all your projects, tasks, responsibilities, and achievements. This document should have lots of details, especially focusing on your accomplishments in the workplace. Who have you helped? Where have you assisted? When have you taken on extra work? Has your workload increased? What things have you improved? Remember that while this document will be all about you, the perspective should focus on your value to the company. Stories and narrative are great, but the more quantitative data you can include, the stronger your case will be.
You seem to already have a good sense of what people within the organization are making. Now do your research to learn what people in other companies, locally or regionally, are making in your line of work. That number is very important, especially if you can show that you are making less than the standard for your position and level of education and experience. Be sure you’re making the comparisons as tight as possible. If you’re working at a small nonprofit, for example, you aren’t going to earn as much as someone at a large corporate agency.
Let your manager or boss know that you want to meet. Send an email with the subject line of “career path.” Say you want to schedule a meeting to discuss your work and future path with the organization. Keep the tone neutral and don’t mention compensation as an issue unless you’re directly asked.
Going into the meeting, make sure your research is well documented and presented. Just as important, make sure you have the right mind-set. Don’t speak about what your coworkers are making, but use your document and your research as talking points. Make your case clearly and concisely. If your boss sees your worth, then they will work with you on a plan for increasing your salary.
If you learn you are underpaid and take the time to make your case, and your manager still does nothing to rectify the situation, maybe it’s time to start looking for a new job. You won’t help yourself by staying somewhere where you’re underpaid and underappreciated.
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