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My performance appraisal is coming soon and I do not know how to prepare for it this time, due to the following factors:

  • A colleague told me his salary has been raised (now almost equal to mine); we started at the same time but I have increased my knowledge of programming languages, technologies, and methodologies.
  • My current income is at the end of the collective agreement, and asking for a raise would result in many disadvantages (loss of the dismissal protection, expectation to be contactable 24x7, etc.) because this can only be an agreement beyond the collective agreement.
  • I feel my income is fair and it feels uncomfortable to ask for more, but I feel my colleague's raise was unfair and is now demotivating me. However, talking about income is forbidden in this company (and this is a good example why), so I cannot confront my chief with this inequity directly.
  • I think my chief does not fully understand the difference between my colleague and I, and therefore doesn't realize the inequity.

Summary:

  • I cannot ask for a raise without losing too many advantages.
  • I cannot tell my chief that I have knowledge about this raise of my colleague.
  • It makes no sense to go to another company just to earn the same money or losing the benefits of the collective agreement.
  • I cannot motivate myself while I feel fooled.

My questions:

  • How can indicate that I do not feel comfortable in this situation?
  • How can I avoid to explode and destroy more than I want?
  • Are there any possibilities to solve this that I do not see in my mania?
  • Has your colleague given up the protections of this collective agreement? – pdr Jun 18 '12 at 11:09
  • @pdr: No, as he is just close to me, but not beyond, he still has the benefits. – anonym Jun 18 '12 at 11:44
  • What is your desired outcome here? You pretty much said you don't want to ask for a raise, so what do you want? For your colleague to get a paycut? Or just to express you discomfort and have someone explain the situation to you? – weronika Jun 19 '12 at 5:03
  • Also note that it's entirely possible that your chief does think you're worth more than your colleague, and would be happy to give you a raise as well, but the collective agreement makes that impossible. – weronika Jun 19 '12 at 5:06
  • @weronika : I definitely do not want a pay cut for my colleague! I’m looking for communication skills/ideas to keep myself calm and constructive. For the awareness, that there is a difference between performance and pay review (mentioned by pdr). Not to strive to situations until I’m myself overpaid just to have justice (pdr). Finding a way to become motivated again (in approaches explained by JohnFx). I know that there is no chocolate solution, but I found what I was looking for. – anonym Jun 19 '12 at 5:37
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If I were you, I would do my best to ignore what my colleague is earning. It's not easy, I've been in a similar situation, but I've learned over time that you can't worry about things like that. Simply worry about what you are earning and whether you're paid your worth. If you are, but other people are being overpaid, that's not really your problem. Overpaying everyone would just kill the business (and then you'd be looking for a similarly-paid job that you're not qualified for).

If, however, you feel that you are underpaid for your value, when not compared to other people, then you need to talk that out with your boss.

I would advise that, unless yours is one of the companies that still directly relate pay reviews to performance reviews, you don't bring it up at that time. Performance reviews are about your performance. What am I doing right? What can I do better?

Pay reviews are about pay, and if you're expecting a better-than-average pay review then ask for a meeting to discuss that before the company publishes the pay for the next year. It's my experience that complaining after they announce your review is more painful because the budget expectations have been set.

Finally, if your pay gain is outweighed by benefits lost then you have to ask yourself a few questions before you ask for it. How long are you willing to stay on the same wage to keep your benefits? How much are those benefits worth, financially, to you? Is it worth taking a relative cut now, so you can keep gaining without further loss later? Or is it possible that they will give you a significant bump in one go (now or in the future) to outweigh those costs?

I'm afraid no one else can answer those questions but you.

4

Would it bother you as much if you sold a TV for $100 at a garage sale and found out that an inferior TV sold down the street at another for $200? Would it bother you enough to track down the buyer and complain? Would it make a difference if the same buyer bought both TVs?

This is a good analog for your situation. You have to get it into your head that salaries are not a relative measure of worth. They are a price set for your services based on a number of factors, most importantly the supply/demand for your skillset at the time you were hired and your salesmanship.

This is pretty much why most companies have a policy against sharing salary information. If you look at everyone as if you hired them on the same day and compared them using salary it is almost always grossly out of whack. Most managers try to adjust these inequities over time, but only have blunt instruments like annual raises that are capped at a certain %.

They have a saying in prison, "Do your own time." What this basically means is focus on your own situation instead of worrying about everyone else's business.

BTW: No, I've never been in prison.

4

I had this same situation and what I did was rather than look for payment perks, I attempted to get other benefits as part of my package. Some of these for me included:

  • Working from home 1-2 days a week
  • Working with a laptop instead of a desktop to give me the flexibility of working from home etc more easily
  • Explicitly expressing a desire to be part of more exciting projects or taking a role that I am more interested in personally

The common theme always seems to be don't worry about the other guys pay or to just get over it but for me personally I can't get over something like that if I know the guy is no where near up-to my level. It tends to eat at me until I just don't enjoy the work environment any more.

So my tactic was to negotiate other things that would make the job more enjoyable without it effecting the company and my production. This has meant that my issues with the pay has lessened (although I still get irate and feel exactly as you do over pay in-equalities) and I know don't think about it all the time.

As for how I handled that negotiation. Of course it varies, but for me I used these tactics:

  • Timed my negotiation with when a couple of other people left so my value to the company was higher (luckily roughly fell around the same time of my review)
  • Expressed my desire to move up in the chain both professionally and financially and asked my boss how I can do that
  • Reminded him of my work that I've been doing and the parts I've been taking in them and without blatantly saying it hinted at my seniority over the other colleague I had a beef with i.e. I often mentored and helped James with complex situations

Good luck!

1

I think my chief does not fully understand the difference between my colleague and I, and therefore doesn't realize the inequity.

I think this is your biggest stumbling block. So long as she sees the two of you as equal (in terms of production, knowledge, etc.) she sees the two of you at equal pay and believes that's what's fair.

If you want to raise this point, you need to show her what differentiates you (not just from this person, but from others) - things like your level of production, quality of work, level of responsibility, knowledge about the company's systems, products, and procedures, etc.

Since you "don't know" about what your coworker makes, you will need to compare your current situation with either A) something external or B) your improvement over time.

For A, if you have a way of proving "someone in my area who does what I do usually earns $8K more than I currently earn", then that's one way to prove your value. (Be careful - this may sound like a threat to start looking at other companies in the area, or even like you're already looking.)

For B, when you were hired, you came on with specific knowledge and abilities. Showing how you've improved yourself and helped the company is the key to pushing for greater salary now.

  • These are all good strategies for getting a raise, but it sounds like the OP doesn't want a raise (because it would cause a loss of the protections from the collective agreement). – weronika Jun 19 '12 at 5:07
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Whether you want a raise or not, you want to prepare for the performance review as if you wanted a large raise. Document what projects you accomplished and what new skills you attained. The reason why it is critical even if you don't want a raise, is that performance evaluations may also be used in layoff decisions (especially when the department has to drop by a set percentage of personnel as opposed to when a whole group is being eliminated) and promotions and bonuses and transfers within the company to other jobs not just payraises. You want the best evaluation you can get. If you let the boss know you aren't interested in a payraise due to the collective bargaining thing, he might be even more inclined to give you a better evaluation since it won't come out of his budget.

As far as what your coworker is making. Life isn't fair, salaries aren't fair. Learn to live with it. Letting it demotivate you is cuttting your nose off to spite your face. Harming your own career because someone else got more is counterproductive. Let it motivate you to prove you are worth more or to get the skills/experience you need to go elsewhere at a higher pay rate.

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