0

I once discovered in a now past role that a junior employee made significantly more than me, as a senior employee. I had about 12 years experience and was hired for this expertise and experience, very quickly by this company for a role they were trying to fill for several months. The salary was good, one that was a bit more than my last. I then found a form that showed a junior employee, 1 year out of college, made 15k more than me.

My question might be how to explain this? It's in the development field. Let's assume he had some advanced skill they were seeking. Does that justify what might be twice an average salary for 1 year experience? Is it a matter of better negotiating for him, or poor negotiating for me perhaps? I feel like all this might get him a high junior salary, but this totally surprised me.

  • 4
    There is not really a question here that we can help you with. It is not our place to pass judgement on your company for the salary that they offered you. If you could focus the question on how to go forward with your career then we could help. I think there are a few questions on the site already that deal with similar situation you should check them. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 3 '14 at 20:43
  • Why would you worry about a junior making 2% more than a senior? Does it really matter that much? – CMW Mar 3 '14 at 20:48
  • 1
    For context, this question may also help: When is it acceptable for a subordinate to earn more than a manager? – user9158 Mar 3 '14 at 23:24
8

The reasons can be hugely variable.

No two people are ever the same.

One position could be that no two people are created equal. If the new grad had some particularly valuable skill set that you do not, then the company may be willing to pay for it. There's hot technology, and there are definitely "fads" out there where a given particular skill set will be the jackpot. Same could go for any difference in your two backgrounds. Maybe he's from a hot shot school. In this case, "hot shot" could be some place with an insanely good reputation, or it could be some place that the biggest boss graduated from and it's perceived value is far beyond it's actual ability to impart engineering prowess. Maybe he had a very competitive offer from the business competition, and/or he interned with some key business competitor.

Right Place, Right Time

Not every company is good at baselining their salaries. If he's got a different manager or is in a different department, organization or project from you - they have had bargaining power that your hiring manager/organization did not. Companies vary hugely this way, and a pet project with a better budget can easily be less frugal than a more carefully scrutinized counterpart.

Similarly, even a 6 month spread can drastically change the hiring market.

Less Savory Reasons

I like to think that the first two are more likely, but let's face it, the world isn't always nice or fair. Often getting into the blacker side of ethics is a slippery slope with far too many ways to easily justify inappropriate behavior.

Nepotism - he could be related to someone.

Diversity - he could be a strong enough diversity candidate. If he's a justifiable minority and your company has had trouble recruiting and yet must meet metrics - it can happen. The ideal world of diversity would be that opportunities are really equal - may the best candidate win. The harsh side is that limitations in opportunity to get education or exposure to science and engineering during the early parts of life means that there are fewer minority candidates available in the labor pool. Scarcity leads to increases in price.

Ageism - it sucks but the legal protections around it can be highly variable. In the US, there's a cut off age (?50?... I forget) for what is protected in terms of age discrimination. But flat out "we won't hire you because you are old" is rarely the case... balancing age in light of the complexity of characteristics a candidate brings to the table is more likely and more difficult to sort out.

Summary

There's no real way of knowing without digging much father into this than would be considered appropriate or polite. Unless your company has a salary disclosure policy, you've already found out something that would be privileged information. Digging further on why may not be in your best interest.

  • 4
    Can you add a reason about how the other person may be a better negotiator -- I think that's another possibility. – thursdaysgeek Mar 3 '14 at 21:49
  • I thought about it, but I really found it hard to buy that better negotiation skills alone would account for a 15K discrepancy in light of an experience discrepancy as well. Better negotiator + being in a position to make use of it -> certainly. All by itself, I have trouble agreeing. – bethlakshmi Mar 4 '14 at 19:55
  • Yeah, it makes me doubt my abilities. Even though I get good to great reviews from my bosses, my customers love my work, my co-workers enjoy working with me -- is it really just lousy negotiation skills for me being so underpaid? There's got to be more to it than that. Wish I knew what it was. – thursdaysgeek Mar 5 '14 at 0:17
  • This is a better/worst tradeoff this is a "hotly marketable"/"not hotly marketable" issue. The rate of pay is rarely a judgement on the value of the person or the quality of their work (at least not that first year), it's the "how expensive is it to hire for these skills?" For example, a software engineer is one price, a software engineer with certain security credentials or experiences usually costs more. The guy can be a jerk that takes too much time to get things done. It's still skill that costs more to hire. – bethlakshmi Mar 7 '14 at 22:18
4

Bethlakshmi covers a lot of ground, but I wanted to cover this line in more detail:

Let's assume he had some advanced skill they were seeking.

Salary is intrinsically tied to the value added to an organisation. The more value you add to an organisation, the more you can demand in return.

Lets assume the new junior just graduated university, but did a lot of research in a narrow field and is highly skilled. They are approached by a company that needs those skills for a project. That company has two choices:

  1. Pay the junior staff member according to the hierarchy, such that they are paid less than other staff members.
  2. Pay according to their skill and desirability and accept that some other staff members may be jealous.

If they want to take option 1, and the offer is too low, they either lose the junior member or have to pay every other staff member more, regardless of their skill set.

If they take option 2, they secure a staff member that is highly desirable. The existing staff may take issue, but they don't really have a bargaining position. if they were worth more, then they could get work elsewhere for a better price.

Ultimately, if you have issues with the junior staff members salary, thats a personal problem you have. Their pay doesn't necessarily mean you deserve more. Examine your skill set, look at the market and determine if you can command a higher salary. If so approach your employer with that information, and negotiate a higher salary. If you look at the market and see you are being paid fairly, and still want more money, then consider what skills you can learn that are valuable to you and your employer that give you a better bargaining position.

1

For some reason I can't add a comments today, if the mods would switch this over to a comments, I think my answer to this is useful here:

How do I renegotiate my salary when new hires start in higher ranges?

1

There's also the fact that you may not have asked for as much for the role as the other candidate did. If he for some reason was able to negotiate a higher salary than you, then even the most charitable of company's isn't going to give you the same amount that they paid him if you didn't ask for it. In fact, they may see you as having been a "bargain" and can get the same amount of work from you (or greater) while having to spend $15k less to do so.

You also didn't mention your educational background. If you had no degree or a degree in a field which wasn't germane to the needs of the company, then they are justified in paying you less than they would a candidate with a degree, or with a degree in their field of endeavor. While that may not seem "fair" it does occur daily and companies have few qualms about doing it.

Finally, many things in life are timing. If the junior candidate hit the ground at a time when the company was in need of employees with his real or perceived skills sets, he may have been offered the amount simply to attract him. You were already in place and showed no signs of quitting so there was no reason to increase your pay to met or exceed what they offered the new hire.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.