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I work in a software company and my 2 year contract ends in a few months. The management wants to take me on in any case, because I was able to take over personnel responsibility and lead a team in a very short time and performing good (although it' s my first job, and I got all this responsibilities because we are lacking of manpower and other suitable candidates).

Due to my role as team leader, I was asked in a management meeting about the future of one of my colleagues, who also has a 2-year contract. The colleague in question is performing rather poorly and it was unanimously agreed not to extend his contract. By chance, however, one of the managers blabbed by mistake the annual salary of the colleague, which is quite a lot higher than mine. Now that I have to negotiate my salary for a permanent contract soon, I wonder if it would be a good idea to say that the colleague in question earns more and that I think I should earn at least the same (if not more). Officially, however, I do not know what the colleague has earned someone else has blabbed.

Is it a bad habit to lead a salary negotiation like this? Because it could really bring my manager into embarrassment and I do not intend to do so. Would it be better to totally skip this information and lead the negotiation like I would not know about the salary of the colleague? Thanks

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  • Do you CARE? And I am serious - what is missing here is your context. If you shoot too high, and they bulk out - what happens to you? it is a very different position if you need to pay next month's invoice, or travel to holidays first class. I.e. I would hit them hard - no way I am doing a good job and get less than someone being let go for underperformance. And I would not care about blowing up the whole thing. Your financial and life situation are pretty critical for this question.
    – TomTom
    Jul 5 at 16:06
  • Does this answer your question? How can I determine a reasonable salary to ask for?
    – gnat
    Jul 5 at 16:34
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    You don't mention that you know their salary. You just (privately) use that information to decide how much to negotiate for.
    – Kaz
    Jul 5 at 17:03
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You don't ever mention somebody else's salary. Don't bring it up, no matter what. You are your own person and the focus should always be on you and the value that you bring to the table.

But you do use that information to judge what the company is willing to pay people in your role, how much you should negotiate for, and how firmly you should stand your ground if they try to make excuses not to pay you as much as you’re asking for.

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    I think a little elaboration why you should never ever mention someone else's salary would make this a better and more useful answer. Jul 5 at 20:14
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You deserve to be paid what you are worth. If you are not being paid what you are worth and your colleague is, that makes the negotiation a lot easier: "I have looked at the going rate in the market and it seems the market rate for someone of my skill level is X, and I'm being paid Y; I would like to be paid X if I join the company" (you can do this even if you have not actually done a lot of research; you should do some cursory research to make sure you're not lying, but you don't need to go super in-depth).

It is a lot more difficult if you are being paid what you are worth but your colleague is being paid more, where they can come back at you and say "We're not going to pay you X, we know the market rate for your skills is Y; if you don't like us offering you Y, then go and see if you can get X somewhere else". It is also difficult if your colleague is your superior (in terms of seniority or job title): "We pay senior developers X, and we pay junior developers Y; if you were a senior developer then you would be paid X, but we believe you are only a junior so we'll only pay you Y".

If your colleague was making X and you are only being offered Y, and you are sure that you have the same title and responsibilities as your colleague, then you can say, "You are only offering me Y, but I understand that company policy can pay someone of my responsibilities and expertise up to X", without naming names or saying how you got that information.

I would avoid mentioning your colleague's or boss's name as much as you can, because that could get someone in trouble and you don't want that. These are a few possible options for how you can get what you want without causing friction. Another way may also be to simply go to your boss, privately, and say, "I noticed you said Bob makes X, I only make Y, why does Bob make more than me and, when my contract is renegotiated, do you think I should negotiate for X and will you help me if I do?". Sometimes your boss may be amenable to lobbying for you to get more money, if you have a good relationship.

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  • We have a good relationship yes. Yeah I will try to keep the discussion flat and first of all just negotiate a sum above the colleagues salary. I don't want to play with such foul tricks like " I know XY gets amount xx". First I thought I could live with it because I am also really dedicated to the product itself but as time passed it was nagging at me and feels more and more unfair as longer I think about it
    – Zaragesh
    Jul 6 at 12:49
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Perhaps, in the salary negotiation, you should not mention the salary of that colleague, who performs poorly and gets higher salary. The two possible reasons are:

  1. You could accidentally get the one who reveals the colleague's salary in trouble with HR.

    Many companies discourage workers to reveal the salary of another worker as it is considered private or confidential info.

It is a matter of common sense.

Do you feel happy if someone else reveals your private phone/address, or salary ?

If you post the phone and salary of a private citizen on the internet, would that be considered legal or illegal ?

A worker may reveal his own salary, but he doesn't have the right to reveal someone else's salary without his/her permission.

  1. Also, management may mistakenly assume that you either don't get along with that colleague or often compare and envy other workers about the salary, and you may not be a good team player. (Of course, that would be the wrong assumption from the managers if they do have that view).

If you want to negotiate your salary, perhaps, you can do some research on the internet to have some proof to show to management that your salary is below the average for your local city/state and industry. That could be more effective and professional.

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    "In many companies, it may not be legal for someone to reveal another worker's salary" . and in many countries, this "illegality" is a made up fiction by HR and not enforceable. And on top, "you should not know this number" is not an argument to pay it to me. Even mentioning it may be illegal for me to know is just more likely to make me stand up and say "a million if you want to go on talking, be cause I am done with you clowns". So, the legality, is of ZERO consequence in actual negotiations unless you are a replaceable drone.
    – TomTom
    Jul 5 at 16:29
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    -1 The "In many companies, it may not be legal for someone to reveal another worker's salary" cannot possibly be literally true. First, companies don't make the law. Etc. Jul 5 at 18:31
  • @Daniel R. Collins, Why don't you try to do this : Find out your coworkers' salaries without their permissions, and reveal their salaries to the whole company ? Next, try to tell HR that you just reveal the coworkers' salaries without their permissions. You will find out what HR will do to you immediately. (I would NEVER try to find out and reveal someone's salary at all with or without permission). Jul 5 at 20:27
  • @DanielR.Collins, I also think that companies can define their own private laws, rules, and regulations (LEGAL or ILLEGAL) that apply to their own private workplace and environment as long as their laws/rules do not conflict with other local, state, and federal laws. So, if you violate the company law, i.e. do some thing "ILLEGAL" according to their definitions, you will be justifiably FIRED. Jul 5 at 21:06
  • @Job_September_2020: FYI, the salaries of everyone where I work are already on a publicly-available website. "I also think that companies can define their own private laws" -- this is so silly it doesn't deserve a response. Jul 6 at 0:17
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Being paid at least the same (if not more) than someone who performs much worse is actually a rock solid and persuasive argument I think. In no other market it would be viewed as logical that a superior product is much cheaper than an inferior product. But maybe indeed this argument might ruffle some feathers when presented to your manager and/or HR. They might argue that it is an unfair, unethical or irrelevant argument, when off-course it clearly isn't. However sometimes you just have to stand up for yourself and ruffle some feathers.

Note also that if you decide to use this argument you don't have to reveal the source of the information. You can just refuse to reveal the source, tell them you forgot or make up some other source, for example the departing colleague in question (you could even ask this colleague about his salary so it even wouldn't be a lie).

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  • I agree with you. But I do not want to bring my manager in a weird situation because we get along really well.
    – Zaragesh
    Jul 6 at 12:45

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