Are you being paid fairly? What to do when you're not

The New York Times columnist, Maureen Franks wrote,

"The minute you settle for less that you deserve, you get even less than you settled for"

As someone who once experienced the 'joy' of finding out I was being paid less than my peers - I agree!

It not only impacted my pay packet but my perceived 'ranking' in the hierarchy, perceptions about my negotiating ability and once I was aware of the situation, my sense of being undervalued.

There are lots of reasons why we work. But unless you are independently wealthy or have significant 'expectations' - money is one of them!

It may not be your only motivation but it is one of them. Often we want to do something worthwhile, make a contribution, be challenged and be paid fairly.

It's when you find out that you are being underpaid compared to your peers who have the same role, skills and experience that resentment sets in.

The Capuchin monkey in this experiment literally showed his feelings quite plainly when he realized he was being ripped off and paid in cucumber rather than grapes like his friend next door. (This video was showcased by Frans de Waal during a TED presentation...view the whole video here

Or just see the monkey's reaction...

Personally I am not a big fan of cucumber so if it was socially acceptable I would happily throw it across the room...however tempting I find it - social convention dictates this is not an option that I have. I can't see a waiter being all that thrilled with cucumber missiles ending up in their hair.

The same way that your manager may feel ambushed if you confront them about pay inequity. 

They might not realize this is the case or they may not be be responsible for the situation. (In large companies that have restructures and reorganizations this may well be the case.) 

They may not be empowered to deal with the situation immediately (larger organizations = multiple approvals, varying delegation levels and human resources teams). 

Or the jungle drums that you have picked up on that lead you to believe you're being paid in cucumbers rather than grapes might not be accurate - or there might be more to the situation than you know.

Now this may seem to be being extremely empathetic to the managers position - and they may just be trying to get away with whatever they can - but this is often not so. So a measured approach would be my recommendation.

If you do find yourself in this situation here's some ideas I would consider:

1. Take a deep breath and work out your plan of action. Flying off the handle with an emotional reaction is unlikely to resolve the issue in your favor. Tempting may be but others will just become defensive. 

2. Confirm your facts if you can without breaching anyone's privacy or upsetting them.

3. Meet with your manager to discuss the issue. Let them know in advance that you would like to discuss your salary/bonus (whatever the issue relates to) as the meeting may be much more effective if they are not caught by surprise.

4. Raise the issue - calmly and factually.

5. Listen to the response and take notes if that helps you stay focused. 

6. Have the data available that supports the value that you are contributing. This might be the results of your last performance review, current sales numbers, productivity figures or cost savings you have made. Know your numbers. Ultimately the issue is if you are being paid what you are worth not what others are receiving.

7. Be prepared to negotiate as the issue may need to be rectified in line with the company salary review cycle or there may be performance achievements that you can tie to a commitment for a future salary increase.

8. Don't let it fester and build up resentment against your manager, colleagues or organization. The only person that will feel bad is you. As long as you approach the issue in a professional manner in line with your own operating style raising the issue will enhance not distract from your credibility. 

If the situation can't be resolved and you need to appeal to a higher manager or hr this is something you will need to do on a case by case basis. Talk with a mentor or trusted adviser (not the person in the next cubicle) if you need to make decisions about taking the situation further or voting with your feet and leaving the organization. This can often help to provide unbiased and helpful input to your decision making.

Go for the grape - don't just throw the cucumber! 

Karen Adamedes is a career strategist & mentor, author, speaker and experienced business executive. These tips are from Karen's forthcoming book "What to do when... ideas for everyday career dilemmas" (2013) For more articles and tips:

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