I may get a promotion in the upcoming month, and I want to know what sort of pay to expect or negotiate for. My senior colleague is in the same position I would be promoted to, and I would like to know what his pay package looks like for comparison.

What is a tactful way to approach my senior colleague about what his pay package is?

  • 6
    Hey shaan, and welcome to The Workplace. I am going to edit your post to make it a bit clearer. Feel free to edit yourself if you think I missed something important or this isn't what you mean to be asking.
    – jmac
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 4:43
  • 1
    @jmac thanks for editing as i am new to this site I think the post which i posted earlier wasnt good thanks for helping me to understand how to post a question here
    – suhas
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 4:52
  • 2
    @enderland Knowing someone similar's salary gives you a strong advantage in negotiations, because you know how far your employer expects to pay you. That's also why it's kept confidential. That and when everyone knows everyone else's salary, the only person happy with their salary is the one getting paid the most.
    – Muz
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 11:01
  • 2
    Most employers will have policies in place prohibiting this exact discussion Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 2:48
  • 2
    @happybuddha If they do, and they're in the US, they're breaking the law.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Feb 27, 2014 at 0:06

5 Answers 5


Ask him.

What would you consider it reasonable for me to be offered if I was promoted to ....?

That way he can choose to tell you what he is getting if he wishes to, even if he does not tell you what he is getting now, he may tell you what he got when he first got promoted.

Also it may be better that you prove you can do the new job well before asking for lots of more money, your “market value” will not take into account the new job until you have been in it long enough for anther employer to believe in your new skills.

  • 2
    I believe this answer solves the actual problem: how to find out what to negotiate for with the promotion. The coworker's salary isn't the actual issue here, but if they have been where the OP is now, then they have the knowledge to advise on the situation.
    – Brian S
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 15:50
  • 1
    This would be my solution as well if I felt I needed input from someone else.
    – Adam Davis
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 19:46

This is in the realm of "use your empathy" - if you feel that being asked about your package would make you uncomfortable - don't do it.

Mileage will vary based on culture, friendship, and other norms. I've asked friends of mine what their packages are, so I could get a baseline for myself, but it's not an OK thing to ask to every random coworker in the US. I wouldn't feel comfortable asking the majority of my colleagues or anyone I consider a purely work acquaintance and not a friend.

If him asking him (or a similar relationship but in the reversed position - i.e. junior to you) would make you uncomfortable - live with the lack of knowledge. In the end, there really is no perfectly comparable situation - two people of the same rank are NOT the same person, and will offer different things to the company, which may make their salaries slightly different - so the best you'll get from a single colleague is a single datapoint.

Another option is that if this person is someone you'd consider to be a mentor, you may ask a more abstract question - "what salary should I expect as a starting senior engineer?" - means it's less personal and less specific, but also more reasonable to answer across many data points - I can answer that for my role without disclosing my particular salary.

  • The last paragraph in particular. I've used that several times, and nobody's ever minded - and on top of that, add "What should I expect, and what is the upper end of a good Senior Engineer after 5 years in the position" or something like that. If the range is starting around 120k but maxes out at 130k, that's very different from starts at 110k adds 10k a year usually up to 160k.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 22:00
  • Good point. Ask me about how long people stay in senior or how raises work, and I can actually take on on a mathematical journey - companies have all sorts of crazy rules for this stuff. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 22:38
  • @JoeStrazzere Strangely, the company that runs this site is completely equal, as the formulas for compensation are public and strictly adhered to (as far as I know).
    – corsiKa
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 0:07

Here is how you diplomatically determine your salary band in relation to others without anyone knowing the exact figure (unless you watch their faces).

It requires at least 3 people (A, B, C).

  1. Each of you add a random value to your current salary.

  2. A writes down their total and hands the paper to B.

  3. B adds their total and gives the new total to C.

  4. C adds their total and gives the new total to A.

  5. A removes the random amount they originally added and passes the new total to B.

  6. B does the same and hands to C.

  7. C removes their random amount, then divides the value by 3.

You now have the average salary between the three of you.

That said, there is more to a persons role then their salary. So even if s/he is at the role you are moving into you also need to factor in their experience so far, other areas the work in you won't be doing, etc. So it is rare that salaries will equate 1:1.

  • 4
    This solution is beautiful. Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 17:28
  • 2
    Very cool ! Is there a name for this algorithm ?
    – user
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 19:30
  • 3
    This is so convoluted as to be ridiculous, and as you know your own salary, you now know the average comp of the other two. And how did you know they did a good job negotiating their comp? They could still be on a salary scale based on when they started in the mail-room.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 21:39
  • @buffer I don't know if it has a name. It's actually one of those interview questions you can get (like how many piano tuners in ...). Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 4:38

In the USA, it's actually illegal for an employer to prohibit salary discussions amongst employees, according to section 7 of the National Labor Relations act. If that's your company's policy, and it is a US company, they are breaking the law. Here's 29 U.S. Code § 157 - Right of employees as to organization, collective bargaining, etc.:

Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 158 (a)(3) of this title.


Regardless, your fellow employee may feel uncomfortable discussing their compensation. You can try to warm them up over a beer, but how do you know they even did a good job in negotiating their own compensation? Your best barometer for your worth to the firm is to talk to other people who might want to hire you, and see what they believe you are worth.

If they think you're incredibly more valuable in another firm than where you're at, I would suggest, for the good of our economy, which benefits from a proper allocation of valuable resources, that you consider taking the other offer in spite of the discomfort of leaving a firm to which you have grown accustomed.

  • 2
    Thank you for that. I needed the reminder (I see this happening too often.)
    – 2rs2ts
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 22:48

First of all, be aware that some companies have very stringent policies that explicitly prohibit compensation discussions between employees. As in, it may be a fire-able offense (it was in every company I worked for).

Sources: [1], [2], [3] (which actually makes legal argument that such policies are tricky in terms of enforceability), [4] (again actually casting doubts on whetehr such policies are OK).

Second of all, if the company is reasonably large, check it out on GlassDoor. It has anonymous salary ranges for many jobs.

If your company doesn't expressly prohibit salary discussions, you can then approach your coworker with GlassDoor data (for your company, or a close competitor) and ask him if he thinks the range is reasonable. That way they don't have to divulge their own personal numbers but can still provide useful feedback to you.

  • 1
    Good lord, I can't imagine that being legal. I would not work for a company like that.
    – Joe
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 22:02
  • 3
    It may be fire-able, but to fire someone because of that would be illegal in the US. It's amazing that some employers (typically small businesses) are so ignorant about something that could cost them so much for screwing up. It might be feigned ignorance, if they think they can get away with it.
    – Aaron Hall
    Commented Feb 25, 2014 at 22:11
  • 1
    Hey DVK, and welcome to The Workplace! Great first answer with a lot of great information and sources. Glad to have you here!
    – jmac
    Commented Feb 26, 2014 at 1:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .