I found out that a co worker is making 10,000 dollars more than me. My boss handed me a document that had increases for all our employees by mistake. He grabbed in back when he realized it had someone in my same position pay on it. I have been with the company longer and held more responsibilities than my co worker. I had an idea that he was making more but I no proof of it.

Last year, my boss emailed me the same information. I was able to read it before he came to my desk to delete it. I knew for a year my co worker was making more. So I went to my boss to ask for more responsibilities to try to help myself for next review. He definitely gave me more. So for a year, I kept my mouth shut and busted by butt. This review I received the minimum.

I also found out that he gave $1000 dollars of my bonus to my coworker. Every year we get $2000 dollar bonus. This year I received $1000 dollars and my co worker received $3000. That was also listed on the document.

How do I approach my boss?

  • 15
    What is your end-goal in approaching your boss?
    – Oded
    Mar 3, 2014 at 14:26
  • Try to get near what my co worker is getting.
    – alex
    Mar 3, 2014 at 14:43
  • How is this noticeably different than the linked question?
    – enderland
    Mar 3, 2014 at 14:45
  • 26
    @JoeStrazzere ? Seriously? If you add new information to the situation, that obviously can change relative contentment. If you learn that the market rate for your services is higher than what you're being paid, it can make you feel as though folks have been ripping you off, treating you like a sucker, etc. Or it can just make you feel there is an opportunity to seize. The only case that seems unlikely is that gaining this sort of new info would induce no change in your perception of your own satisfaction.
    – user12818
    Mar 3, 2014 at 14:58
  • 1
    ****comments removed****: Please avoid using comments for extended discussion. Instead, please use The Workplace Chat. On Workplace SE, comments are intended to help improve a post. Please see What "comments" are not... for more details.
    – jmort253
    Mar 5, 2014 at 6:01

6 Answers 6


First, let's gather the facts, according to the limits of this question.

  • You are paid about $10K less than your co-worker, I assume that's a yearly salary difference.
  • Your co-worker was, dubiously, paid more in bonus pay than you, in roughly the exact amount that your bonus was reduced.
  • Your boss did not intend to alert you to this difference.
  • You have longer tenure than your co-worker.
  • You have previously held more job responsibilities than your co-worker.
  • You have generally suspected there was a pay difference for some period of time.

Second, let's address the lingering questions.

  • What is the difference between the work you and your co-worker do now?
  • What is the difference in the results you and your co-worker produce now?
  • Why do you think that your co-worker is and should/could be paid differently?

Compensation should be a reflection of the value you bring to your firm. So it boils down to this: is there a difference in the value you bring your firm when compared with your co-worker? If so that would explain the difference in compensation. However, you must also remember that labor is a market. Thus, if you cannot translate the value you create for your firm easily to another firm, then that will negatively impact your value because it decreases competition for your services.

So my recommendation is that you start by really understanding your compensation situation and the market for your talents. Once you have that understanding, then I would immediately seek to negotiate compensation to a fair market rate. If that compensation is not forthcoming then I would seek fair market compensation in the open market.

My recommendation on the immediate re-negotiation is based on the fact that it shows urgency and forces your boss to assess your value seriously. Waiting until the next review is a weak negotiating position.

  • 1
    More importantly compensation is based on your perceived FUTURE value to the company. What promise of future value do you bring?
    – Bryce
    Mar 3, 2014 at 19:53
  • Created an account just to upvote this. Nice job. Mar 3, 2014 at 20:09
  • 4
    We should clarify that we're assuming that the OP's viewpoints are correct about his/her responsibilities; it could be that he/she is not as valuable as he/she thinks. Mar 3, 2014 at 21:33
  • 4
    I have to disagree that compensation is tied to one's worth to a company. At best, it's tied to one's perceived worth. More often than not, it's just tied to what the employee negotiated to at the time of hiring. Often a pay discrepancy between two colleagues has less to do the measure of their value and much more to do with the fact that one simply asked for a higher salary when they took the job. (And then there's the whole issue of pay disparities between the sexes...)
    – DA.
    Mar 5, 2014 at 8:19
  • 1
    To add to DA's comment. It is inevitable that long term employees tend to fall behind the "going rate" pay curve in industries where salaries tend to rise (e.g. software). If the industry average is going up 5% but your company is paying 3% raises then after 5 years your pay is going to be about 11% less than the equivalent new hire. This is the norm. That's why most people have to change companies to get back to the industry average. The other way is getting a promotion and hopefully a nice bump in pay, but at more senior levels those happen less often and finding a new job is far easier.
    – Dunk
    Mar 5, 2014 at 16:23

It would not be unreasonable to go to your boss and say "Hey, I know you didn't intend to give me the info, but... What would I need to do to get get a raise to Fred's salary level?" There may, in fact, be specific additional responsibilities or activities which merit the higher pay. (For example, I much prefer doing development than customer support, but I've been told I need to do more customer support if I want to push my performance rating up...)

  • Maybe the company is just not willing to give you a raise, and will just invent new tasks or responsibilities to motivate you to work harder. Maybe after that your value would be x > y, but since you don't know your own value and x is an acceptable raise, you end up being happy with that. Even though your coworker gets the same pay just by knowing his value and being a better negotiator. Bottom line: you need to assess your value first.
    – Spidey
    Mar 4, 2014 at 3:05
  • Disagree, @spidey. In my experience -- which admittedly is in a large corporation -- knowing your own value signifies much, MUCH less than demonstrating that value to the company... and managers are pretty honest about telling you what the factors are that are causing you to be evaluated at a particular level. Yes, I've had a few bad managers who have misdirected me, but they've been the exceptions. Developing more high-ranked employees improves THEIR ranking.
    – keshlam
    Mar 4, 2014 at 13:42
  • I agree, @keshlam. But in this environment the salaries are probably fair already, aren't they? I see this happening more on those pay-as-little-as-you-can-get-away-with kind of company. Those that just pay you enough to avoid you looking for other roles in the market.
    – Spidey
    Mar 4, 2014 at 13:49
  • 1
    If you're in the "as little as they can get away with" environment, they'll come back with "Fred gets more because he's worth more", which puts us right back into "OK, how do I become worth more", which is where I advise starting.
    – keshlam
    Mar 4, 2014 at 13:56

I would raise the question at your next one to one (Appraisal) in a tactful manner. However you will have to realize that even though two roles can be identical two candidates skills and experience levels can differ.

It might be helpful to do some research into 'market rates' for your current position and experience level and take them to the meeting.

This is based on my own experience of being in this same situation two times in the past when i felt i was being underpaid. If you are a valuable asset to the company and you approach asking for a raise tactfully giving thought out accurate reasons why you are entitled to a raise they will consider it.

I do not recommend approaching management at just any time as companies usually review wages at specific times of the year so as stated previously wait till your next one to one appraisal / review. If after the review you do not get the answer you desire then you can happily check the open market knowing you tried everything you could at your current firm.

  • Given the circumstances, I don't see the need to wait for the next review cycle to bring up the issue. You may need to wait for a salary adjustment to be made, but the topic should be addressed asap.
    – eflat
    Feb 5, 2015 at 5:03

What is missing is why you've never asked for more money? If you feel salary/bonus is limited by what everyone else gets, you have enough information to form a reason for more money.

You indicated you have more responsibilities, so that's another reason you should make more.

There is a risk to asking for a raise, so you have to decide how far you want to take this. If you can't find another job making more money, your company has a reason not to pay you more because there is no threat you will leave. A lot of pricing is based on what the market will pay; salaries are no different.

To a certain extent, if you don't ask for more money, how is anyone suppose to know they need to offer you more after you've accepted the lower amount?


I think you need to start looking for a new job. While a short-term goal is to talk to your boss about getting a raise and more bonus, this isn't the long-term goal.

My general feeling is that either your boss feels like you are under-performing (and this could be personal for sure) or your boss simply doesn't like you for whatever reason.

The starting salary for your position could have changed from when you got hired to when your co-workers got hired. 10K seems like a large gap. And a manager who values an employee will look to close a gap that big. You simply bringing it up could get HR to bump you. Or the manager can squish it for whatever reason. But I could see you getting some sort of raise even though the manager and you are not on good terms.

The bonus is different. This is the manager just flat out saying, I don't think this employee is worth much so I will take their bonus and add it to another employees. I am not at your work. So it is hard to tell if this is performance related, if he can't stand you, or if he just really likes this other employee.

So your out to the situation is to get a new job or wait for the manager to move on and hope this manager doesn't affect the new manager's opinion of you. If you are worth 10K more a year you will soon have a new job with a fresh manager after a short search.

  • 1
    Large gaps between new hires and equivalent long term employees is the norm. Companies seldom give raises that match the increases in the "going market" rate of employees. About the only time they do is when turnover is high. It doesn't take long working at the same company where a long term employee can fall 10-20% behind the industry average for their position. Long term employees who know they have fallen behind need to be brave enough to ask for a salary adjustment or go find another job that will pay them the going market rate. Don't expect an adjustment to happen automatically.
    – Dunk
    Mar 5, 2014 at 16:35

How do I approach my boss?

You don't, unless you already have a new job waiting for you. Obviously it was something he didn't want you to know about, so if you're smart, you'll forget it.

I was once at a job where I mentioned to a co-worker that the company was covering traveling expenses for me. She foolishly went to the boss and asked for the same. Next day she was gone...

  • 4
    …do you work for the mob?
    – bdesham
    Mar 3, 2014 at 23:47
  • 2
    @bdesham - No. I work for the government...
    – Vector
    Mar 4, 2014 at 10:48
  • 3
    I disagree that you don't approach your boss. However, I would not even mention that it was because you saw something you weren't supposed to. I would research industry standards and make sure that I am meeting or exceeding what is reasonably expected out of the "industry standard" person. If not, then keep quiet. Then it is nothing more than selling yourself and your value. I would keep it all positive and certainly not mention anything about going elsewhere if they don't give a salary adjustment, but I would start looking elsewhere if I didn't get one.
    – Dunk
    Mar 5, 2014 at 16:43

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