Q: I'm so angry I could scream! I just found out that my co-worker makes $12,000 more a year than I do for the exact same job. Unfortunately, I can't share with my manager how I learned about the salary difference because it might get a friend fired. What can I do? - Ellen
A: J.T.: Let me turn this around. What would you do if you found out you were making $12,000 more than your co-worker? Would you go to your manager and ask for a pay cut? Probably not. More likely, you would be able to justify why you deserve the extra pay, right?
Dale: Right, but now you have Ellen knowing not only that she makes less than a co-worker, but also focusing on why she should make more.
J.T.: I want her to understand that companies often are faced with the dilemma of needing multiple people for a job, and to get them, they must hire people at different salary levels.
Dale: Exactly. Hiring managers pay every employee exactly the same amount: as little as possible.
And that's the same amount your next raise will be, Ellen. The question now is how to elevate your manager's perception of what it will take to keep you.
J.T.: So don't get angry; get busy. Go to your manager and find out what it will take to get a raise. Maybe there are skills they would like for you to master, or perhaps a certification. Now, if your manager says there is nothing you can do, then maybe it's time to look for a job that pays better.
Dale: One sad but likely truth, Ellen, is that you came in low on the salary range and now it will be tough to catch up.
If you're at, say, $36,000 and your co-worker is at $48,000, that's a 33 percent increase to catch her. That's an unlikely raise at most companies, short of a promotion. So it's going to take some research: Study your co-worker and see what she does differently, if anything.
Talk to people at other companies about salary levels, and take a look at salary.com. If you learn that indeed you're getting chintzed, your research will become the knowledge and network to make some nice leaps in salary : and all thanks to a little information that was maddening at first, but in retrospect, was good news about bigger money waiting to be claimed.
- Jeanine "J.T." O'Donnell is the creator of www.careerjuice.com. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab.