(Guest Post by “Your Boss“)
You and Bob do the same job. Both of you have worked the same number of years for the same company. One day you find out that Bob makes more money than you do. What happens then?
Let me tell you what happens: You get mad. Your start to resent Bob. You start to hate your boss. You lose sleep. You toss and turn at night, thinking about all the possible “whys.” You know it is not your performance. You suspect it is not your looks. You are sure it is not your personality. It has to be something else, right? Right. It is always something else.
So what are the potential reasons that your co-worker is making more money than you?
Reason # 1: Bob is a better negotiator
Bob probably did not accept an offer right on the spot. Instead, he negotiated. You, on the other hand, probably accepted what was offered forgetting that you could have asked for more. In my long career I’ve observed an interesting fact: men negotiate more than women. Women are less assertive in their negotiation techniques. I am not trying to be biased (I am a woman myself), but I have to admit that it took me a long time to learn how to be more aggressive without coming across as offensive. Or bitchy.
Tip: Start negotiating! When you opt out from negotiating your salary, you are more than likely leaving money on the table.
Reason # 2: Bob has more experience in the field (and you don’t know it)
I recently shocked a group of people in my office when I told them I used to work for the U.S. Small Business Administration. There is always something that we don’t know about our co-workers. Maybe there is a skill or experience that Bob brought to the company that is more valuable than yours?
Tip: Stay on top of new industry trends, attend professional conferences and seminars, and get additional professional certifications in order to increase the value you bring to your company.
Reason #3: Bob has a degree and you don’t
Some companies tend to pay more to people with degrees. I am a strong believer that a college degree is not a bad investment. It might be difficult to find a job after college, but once you do find it, you will probably make more than someone without a degree in that same position.
Tip: Get a degree.
Reason #4: Bob is a better employee
What I am going to say next might hurt. Have you ever considered the possibility that you might be not as good as you think you are? I know I have self-doubts. But I also think that people, in general, tend to overestimate their value to the company. It is not as easy as it seems to take an objective look at ourselves and answer the question if there is a reason why the company does not appreciate your work as much as Bob’s.
Tip: Volunteer more. People who volunteer to take on more responsibilities – without bringing up the money topic – are typically valued more than others.
Reason # 5: Your boss wants you to leave
It can be that simple. Sometimes we do not have the guts or legal reasons to fire you. Sometimes we feel guilty. Sometimes we just don’t want to deal with personnel problems. It is much easier for some of us just to not give you raises or promotions. We hope (sometimes in vain) that you are going to get the hint eventually.
Tip: Re-evaluate your relationship with your boss.
What You Can Do About All This
- Research your industry to find out what is the going market rate for the job you are performing. The site GlassDoor.com is a great place to start. After you are done with your research, you want to be able to say something like this to your boss: “The fair market rate given my skills, experience and responsibilities is ____.”
- Ask for a raise. However, leave Bob’s salary out of the discussion. Do not tell me you know that Bob makes ten grand more than you do and you think it’s unfair. What I will hear is this: “Bob is boasting about his salary, and you are using this information to extort your raise.” You can guess where we go from there.
- Work on building your relationship with your boss. I am personally willing to listen more to people who put in some effort to get to know me. You don’t have to tell me your life, but a simple question about my weekend is a nice starting point.
Remember, you cannot control how much money your coworkers make. But you can control your own performance, the value you bring to the company and, in most cases, how much money you make. Any questions?
“Your Boss” is the creator and author of the blog What Your Boss Really Thinks, where she expresses her opinion and advice on career, job search, management issues and office life. Your Boss created her site to help people to better understand their boss, give a direction and provide some guidelines on how to navigate life in the office. Feel free to ask her about your office or career dilemma by submitting an Ask Your Boss form on her website.