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One of our IT members got fired today, before his departure he sent a company wide email with details of employee salaries. Based on the information contained within this document I've discovered that myself and a few coworkers are grossly underpaid compared to our peers.

How would I approach my supervisor asking for a raise based on this information? I feel like it's a bad time obviously but I don't want to keep getting screwed.

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    Were you satisfied with your salary before the the leak? – sf02 Sep 5 '19 at 14:49
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    Everybody wants more money obviously. I wasn't satisfied with it but now I know how badly I'm being compensated. – Kyle Sep 5 '19 at 15:52
  • So Which Idiot let him back to his work computer to do this? See workplace.stackexchange.com/q/143459/75821 – Solar Mike Sep 5 '19 at 17:08
  • I foresee a disgruntled employee about to become even less gruntled when they have to answer for sharing confidential information without authorisation. – HorusKol Sep 6 '19 at 1:47
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Here's my suggestion:

Don't try to take advantage of the current situation to negotiate a salary increase. Any action on your part is going to be seen for what it is, an attempt to take advantage of what sounds like an already bad situation. That won't bode well for you in your negotiations.

Take your new found knowledge, research the local job market for salary ranges for your position, experience level, and years of service at companies of your size, write up all of the reasons why you think you deserve a salary increase, including what value you bring to the company that would justify a salary increase... and then hold onto all of that until your next performance/salary review.

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    Why would a competitive analysis of other companies be more pertinent then the information within a company? I mean if I'm buying a condominium, the pricing information about an identical unit 1 floor down is going to be a lot more relevant than the same information about a "similar" condo 10 blocks away. – Charles E. Grant Sep 6 '19 at 3:40
  • What if the units in the same building are over-priced relative to the market? Similarly, what if the company is underpaying it's employees relative to the market? Find out what other companies are paying for similar positions in your geographic area, business market, and profession. – joeqwerty Sep 6 '19 at 4:14
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In an ideal world, salary would be a negotiated compensation for the value you provide the employer. It's hard to make arguments based on peers, because individual skill levels and performance can vary. Of course, if you're making 60% less than people who you're obviously outperforming, that's an issue. But in many employers, there may be legitimate variances between individuals with the same title, due to differences in performance or skills.

And at the end of the day, you should want to be paid what you are worth, not what your coworker is worth. So - before making any argument for a raise, be prepared to back it up based on the current and future value you are providing. To play devil's advocate, imagine if you based your argument only on the assumption that you and your coworker are worth the same amount - what's to stop your employer from just giving them a pay cut to equalize the salaries? After all, that would result in equal pay.

And, as a final thought, consider: acts of sabotage are sometimes done with specific motivations in mind. People who are willing to break policy or distribute private information on their way out the door may not be the most trustworthy sources.

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    I agree generally however, anything beyond 10% (maybe 20% )pay difference for exact positions but drastically different performances is still something to argue about. If the outperformer is so much more worth to the company, they should likely be in a different position to justify a large pay. – morbo Sep 5 '19 at 15:14
  • Yes - and the devil is in the details, in terms of how a company chooses to handle poor performers vs high performers, and how much stratification they want. At some point, it becomes very hard to tell the difference between a fairly implemented strategy that causes "peers" to have different pay, versus an employer who unintentionally or deliberately is under/over-paying certain people without diving way into the details of the specific situation(s), which I think is outside the scope for this question. – dwizum Sep 5 '19 at 15:22
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    And sometimes paying an employee less for bringing less "value" is thinly veiled discrimination too. It depends on whether the measure for "value" is subjective or not. – jcmack Sep 5 '19 at 16:56
  • @morbo, why should the high performer be in a different position. Maybe they really like what they are doing and are just ridiculously good at it. They should be paid for the value they bring regardless of position/title – cdkMoose Sep 5 '19 at 17:23
  • 'And at the end of the day, you should want to be paid what you are worth, not what your coworker is worth.' The trouble is that what we are worth is not something that can be plucked from the platonic forms. In a market economy the only way you can know what you are worth is from pricing information, and employers go to great lengths to insure that they have more and better pricing information than the employees. The OP has just been given a boat load of pricing information. Sure it has to be analyzed to make sure it's an apples to apple comparison, but they'd be a fool to ignore it. – Charles E. Grant Sep 6 '19 at 3:34

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