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A coworker in our group was hired last year and I happen to know his base salary recently. I have 5 more years of experience than him and my base salary is $40k less than my new coworker.

I understand the market was hot last year and the title/salary inflation really was high so I'm not too surprised to see that I'm severely under paid at this point.

My question is how could I use this information to negotiate a higher salary for myself? Is knowing this information enough to start an conversation with my manager? Do I have to get an external offer as a bargaining chip?

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    No, don't use your colleagues salary as the reason to ask for a rise. First of all, it's not clear how did you "happen to know his base salary". Are salaries in your company public? Instead I'd recommend checking what is your value as a professional in the job market and ask your manager to talk about "Updating your salary to match the current market value"
    – Elerium115
    Apr 25, 2023 at 15:28
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    Take a look at this question if you are feeling underpaid workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/1025/…
    – Elerium115
    Apr 25, 2023 at 15:43
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    @SembeiNorimaki thanks for sharing, i'll read it
    – olala
    Apr 25, 2023 at 16:39
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    @iLuvLogix Not all salaries are confidential information. In my location, government salaries, including those of faculty at state-run universities and IT workers for the city government, are public information. Also, in some locations, salaries are shared publicly as a matter of course.
    – shoover
    Apr 26, 2023 at 20:56
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    Does this answer your question? How should I properly approach my boss if I'm feeling underpaid? Apr 29, 2023 at 13:11

4 Answers 4

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I shared these steps with a colleague, and she got the promotion she wanted.

  1. Decide what you want: job, salary, ...
  2. Think of ways to get there - just mental preparation; it might help you when talking to the manager;
  3. organize a face-to-face with the manager
  4. explain to the manager what is your target (see 1. above) and that you are ready to prove that you are worth that promotion
  5. "Negotiate" with your manager what task yo have to do in what amount of time and with what amount of quality in order to get what you want. Make sure you get the agreement written and signed by the manager. An official e-mail is probably enough
  6. Do the task
  7. Get the promotion.
  8. Come back here and ask another question if something goes wrong :)

Please note that the same steps apply for getting any benefit, including a salary increase.

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    The question was about pay rise. I agree a promotion would be a great way to achieve that, but it's only one way - and you've not put it into context. Also, we don't know whether that's really an option - both in terms of aspiration (maybe OP likes the current job) or skill/experience, or the company even having a career path for OP.
    – bytepusher
    Apr 28, 2023 at 6:59
  • @bytepusher: so you imply that an increase of the salary is more like a loss, rather than like a promotion? Please explain, how would the steps change if I would change "promotion" with "salary increase"? According to my experience, salary increases are only possible as a result of some kind of promotion (when you already are at the maximum salary level in the salary range of your job).
    – virolino
    Apr 28, 2023 at 8:33
  • "when you already are at the maximum salary level in the salary range of your job" but from the question, the OP is clearly not at the maximum salary level
    – Elerium115
    Apr 28, 2023 at 11:34
  • @SembeiNorimaki: So? Did I have to answer something, or you just made a statement? :)
    – virolino
    Apr 28, 2023 at 12:04
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    I changed "F2F" to "face-to-face" (easier to read, less cognitive load). Feel free to adjust and clarify as necessary if this is not what you meant May 3, 2023 at 8:26
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I was the engineering manager for a previous job and this happened to the QA manager. He had hired two women as testers and one of them put in her notice. On the way out the door, she told the other woman how much she was earning and her salary was a fair amount higher. The woman who was remaining with the company was much more competent at her job and went to the manager demanding a raise and citing the departing employee's salary vs. her job performance. The manager straight up told her that the market was different when they were both hired and the departed employee's salary negotiation was not relevant to her own negotiation. She demanded a raise and threated to leave and the manager told her to do what she needed to do. So she quit. A few weeks later she contacted him asking if he would take her back but at the other woman's higher rate. He declined.

The moral of the story is to negotiate your own salary and benefits based on your value to the team and within the marketplace. Never cite another employee's compensation as the sole justification for why you "deserve" more. There are a variety of reasons why one person gets paid X and another gets Y. Do your research to determine the pay scale within your area and approach your manager with those facts as opposed to some web site that may or may not have the correct information for your colleague. Good luck.

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  • this is what i'm thinking now, i'll go get an offer and test my market value. I'm pretty sure i'm underpaid too much at this point so we'll see if i'm right
    – olala
    May 1, 2023 at 1:46
  • @olala I would also use accepted web sites like salary.com or whatever is used in your area to get a feel for the pay scale for your title and experience. That can be used as hard evidence to present to a manager.
    – rhoonah
    May 2, 2023 at 12:21
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    Actually the motto is to keep working until you can get a raise, either there or elsewhere. May 2, 2023 at 16:21
  • @BarryDeCicco I think you meant the "moral" of the story, not the "motto" but either way, your suggestion should be common sense for anyone that is currently employed and requires a regular salary. My story had a different moral about not using another employee's salary to justify your own.
    – rhoonah
    May 3, 2023 at 21:19
  • The moral of the story is that it is very important to be a good negotiator, and that you should be prepared to take the consequence of a failed negotiaion. Unions can help. May 9, 2023 at 7:38
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As pointed out elsewhere, simply negotiating based on your colleague's salary is very unlikely to work.

However, some things I have found can work:

  • argue "market value". Use some independent sources. Argue the company should keep up with market value to retain employees. I've seen companies do outside assessments and adjust their pay scale in that way. If you're underpaid by that much, this would help
  • argue your personal contributions and why you deserve more. This works, but when you're really far behind, it won't get you there, in my experience. They've settled on a salary for you, and adjustments based on merit are usually small (relative to what you're trying to achieve, percentage wise), I've not heard of 30% or more raises based on "good performance last year"
  • use your personal achievements to aim for a promotion. Take care to ensure that this includes a pay review. This is a much better negotation, as you can make it into the accepted band for that new title.

Keep in mind that whatever you want to do needs to be workable and, best case, a good thing for your manager to do. Having a great employee that's promoted? Good thing for a manager (usually). Nice.

Having to fork over way more money for the same result? They probably don't have the budget anyway. Arguments with HR / finance / upper management may ensue. That's not nice.

Promoting a general pay evaluation? Out of the managers hands, probably, but they can definitely help. This may well join up with other efforts by other managers / employees, and the argument of "a lot of good employees will leave if we don't" is IME going to go better than "I will leave unless you pay me X"

The other option is to get an offer from a different company. In my personal opinion, I would take the offer in that case - once I've gone to the trouble of interviewing, I'll probably find a better work place anyway - but if you're invested in staying, you can use such an offer to renegotiate your pay.

Mind you that this kind of negotiation is fairly delicate, you have to walk a fine line to avoid anyone feeling betrayed or giving the impression you'll leave soon anyway, etc. - which is why I'd personally not go for counter offers, really - but I have seen this work for people.

Of course, that's the standard SO advice - get a new job. But really, that is how most people get significant pay rises, as most companies are not that great at keeping up with the market (either because they hope they save money, which they probably don't, having to replace at market value, or because they're just struggling to do this well. Or because they've managed to somehow make people stick around anyway).

Good luck!

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  • were you successful negotiating your salary using those techniques? Do you know any specific person who was successful with negotiation the way you presented? Is there any scientific research with those results? In your answer, I only see opinions.
    – virolino
    Apr 28, 2023 at 12:10
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    "Having a great employee that's promoted? Good thing for a manager (usually)." - practically, never - because promotion means to provide the employee a bigger salary, which they hate.
    – virolino
    Apr 28, 2023 at 12:10
  • The only way I've seen people get significant pay rises is through a promotion (rarely) or by finding a better paying job elsewhere. No, this is not a scientific study, but based on my experience and that of people I know. Please feel free to add data that you have. I do find it strange on workplace to ask for answers to have scientific studies backing them up. Not seen many of those here yet.
    – bytepusher
    May 1, 2023 at 2:05
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All discussion on salary from an employee towards his/her employer should be held with the issue of value at the forefront.

If you want a 20% raise you should start the discussion by either saying the value you bring to the organization is 20% more than what it is currently reflected in your salary or you have to discuss how your value has increased by 20% since your last salary negotiations.

Too often employees just simply suck arbitrary numbers out of there thumbs and decide that is what they are worth, but if you do a bit of research on what is considered "market related" (Dirty word I know.), consider how what you do is reflected in cash on hand for the company and how truly hard it will be to replace you, then you can go into salary negotiations with a decent chance of getting what you want.

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