Your Co-Workers are Paid More: What Can You Do About It?

Ryan Ong



I remember when I found out my co-workers were paid more. Boy was I mad. At two in the afternoon, I stormed into the boss’s office and was like: “Why does my pay suck compared to Tim’s?” and our boss was like “Ryan, you have to stop drinking that beer so I can hear what you’re saying. Also, you forgot to wear pants to work again”. I’ve learned a lot since then. And here’s how you can get your employer to address your pay issue:

So Your Co-Workers are Paid More, and You’re SURE of It

Maybe your office allows salary discussions. Maybe your co-workers like to brag. Maybe you accidentally picked the lock on the accounts office, and accidentally hacked their computer.

Whatever the case, you have absolutely verified that you are being paid less. You are not going on the claims of a co-worker, or on personal speculation (because if you are, try this page instead.)

Well calm down. Stop getting all worked up. Straighten your tie, and follow our steps:

  1. Understand Why It Happens
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Compile Your Accomplishments
  4. Stage a Presentation
  5. Seriously Consider Leaving (If All Else Fails)


1. Understand Why It Happens


Drinking at contract signing
At MoneySmart, the only thing you usually remember about signing your job contract is posting bail.


Once you have a rational handle on this, you’ll be more capable of negotiating. And you can start by understanding it’s not the company’s fault.

I mean, when you applied for the job, you agreed on the salary, yes? You may even have made the initial offer. So let’s put that in perspective:

I buy fish-ball noodles from two different hawkers, because mum likes hawker A and I like hawker B. Hawker A charges $3.50, and hawker B charges $4.50.

One day hawker A finds out. His most reasonable action would then be to:

(A) Raise his price to $4.50, and explain it to me

(B) Throw a tantrum like a five year old in a candy store, and demand I explain why I pay Hawker B $1 more

Keep that in mind before charging at the boss.

Your employer gave you a contract for your services. There was a mutual agreement on the price of your labour. You chose to charge less than the next worker, and your company did what any business logically does: Be grateful for your lower price, and give you the job.

Why should they tell you “Oh, but person X charges more than you do, and he does the same thing. We’re paying him, so you should raise your price“?

No one stays in business that way. They’re the client, and you’re the one selling them a service. If you wanted to low-ball the price, or you didn’t research the right price beforehand, then it’s pretty much your fault.


2. Do Your Research


Roomful of books
Irony: When you look up average salary for Internet writers in a book store.


Go to sites like Payscale or Monster, and check the average pay for your job. You need to collate and print out the results of your research. Compile them so you can present them to the boss. Include:

  • The pay scale shown on current job offers
  • Percentile comparisons based on the Mercer pay scale
  • E-mail or written correspondences with counterparts in other companies

Never use internal payroll as a benchmark for comparison.

Are you insane? Even if this is allowed in your company (and where the hell do you work?) it results in disastrous situations later. Bosses don’t like to keep employees whom they know are unhappy. If it turns out that you’re already highly paid in your industry, just skip ahead to point 3.

Otherwise, organize the printouts in a file. You may want to do a bar graph to illustrate the pay difference.


3. Compile Your Accomplishments


Roomful of books
A pic for compiling my accomplishments…oh hey, I get to use the same pic. (You reading this boss?)


Document your major projects or accomplishments, dating back six months. Stuff this in the same file with the pay comparison reports.

Don’t go any further back than half a year. Yes, you may have had earth-shaking victories in 2009, but you know what? You’ve already been paid for that, as far as your company’s concerned. To raise salary, you need to demonstrate what you’ve done now.

Depending on your relationship with your immediate supervisor, you might have some help. Go up to them and ask which of your achievements have impressed them of late. This will give you ammo when making your case.

And yes, of course they’ll tell the managers their suspicions (i.e. you are going to ask for a raise). Good. That gives management time to prepare.


4. Stage a Presentation


Dinosaur drawing
Presentation 101 – “And here’s a diagram of the company if I leave…”


This is almost similar to asking for a raise. Almost.

Just remember one thing: It is very important to not  mention your co-workers. So if your co-workers are earning $4,000 and you’re earning $3,500, your argument is:

I think $4,000 is about fair for my job, based on market rates. And totally not based on what that mindless Bimbo across from my desk is earning.”

Unless your boss a complete moron, I’m sure the amount you’re asking for will clue him in to what’s really going on. Keep it subtle like that, if you have any appreciation for civility.

Be sure not to put your boss on the spot. Tell him to please think about it, and you’ll get back to him by next week. (Anyway, it’s unlikely your boss has the authority to change your salary at that exact moment).


5. Seriously Consider Leaving (If All Else Fails)


Truck crashing into wall
…and so I’m quitting. Oh wait, this isn’t the exit? Sorry about that. Let me back up and try again.


If your request is refused, you have two options.

You can keep your head down, and just be appreciative of having a job. And oh my, don’t you wish you had a spine too. The alternative is to give serious thought about how your company sees you. If they don’t think you’re worth as much as the industry standard, what does that say about your advancement prospects?

It may be time to scout around for someone who appreciates you better. In which case, follow us on Facebook, and we’ll give you more career tips.


Image Credits:
Engin Erdogan, The Next Web, Friar’s Balsam, Trinity, ER24EMS

Do your co-workers earn more than you? Comment and tell us why you think that is!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.