How to Take Advantage of a Surprising Job Discovery

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Each week, our workplace whisperer Shane Loughnane answers a reader-submitted question about workplace issues. Something bothering you? Ask Shane here.

I came across a spreadsheet that had annual raises and salaries for some of my colleagues. Although I was really happy for them, I noticed that I was between $20,000 and $30,000 behind everyone else on the list. I am younger and I know that my salary will not be as high as that of some of my more experienced colleagues. However, I’m hesitant to mention it in a performance review because I honestly think I’m doing a good job for my business (and I have the stats to prove it). Thoughts?-G. in OKC

As I smolder in the afterglow of fiery March Madness support, it’s nice to see a potentially distressing situation handled with grace and perspective. And, if you allow me to further encourage your pragmatic view, who needs an extra $20,000 to $30,000 in taxable income to deal with this time of year?

Without knowing exactly how you encountered this data, it’s hard to assess whether addressing your finding (in a performance review or earlier) is a good idea. If there’s a risk that others might get there, for example, your boss or HR might appreciate knowing it’s public. Doing this (now) also quietly signals that you are likely aware of your salary relative to your peers, which can benefit you (later) in salary discussions. On the other hand, if you have any reservations about how the news might be received, I’d probably keep them under my hat – after all, the real power of this information is simply that you own it.

Which brings us to your performance review, where you should always proactively discuss your salary goals. Pay gaps happen for a variety of reasons, one of the most common being that some people defend themselves more consistently. While you don’t have to divulge all of your secrets, knowing your company’s apparent ceiling allows you to set your expectations with more confidence. Bring those performance stats and find your fair market value; if it’s more in line with what you know your colleagues earn, that’s reason enough to ask for compensation closer to their level, regardless of their age or experience.

And if not…I’ll ask anyway. The only thing you have to lose is more taxpayers’ money.

If you have a problem at your workplace, share your concerns and we may get back to you in a future Brew.

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