Six things you should NOT do if you find out a colleague is earning more than you

Today is equal pay day. Which means that women are, effectively, working the rest of the year for free.

Sadly, despite much work being done, the gender pay gap is very much still in place. According to figures published in the Financial Times, the median pay gap this year was 11.9%, compared to 11.8% last year.

And, shockingly, there are still no sectors in the UK economy where women are paid the same as men.

So what do you do when you discover that a colleague – male or female – is being paid more than you for what appears to be the same job?

We’ve included some links to advice to asking for a pay rise at the end of the article. But before we get to that, financial adviser Lauren Cochrane from health and lifestyle brand LastVerdict shares six things you absolutely don’t want to do if you find out a colleague is earning more than you.

1) Don’t name and shame

Learning that your colleague is earning a higher salary than you can be incredibly frustrating. And it can be tempting to meet with your boss and name the people who are out-earning you and how you learned this information.

If this is your plan of action – stop! Leading on emotion may be human nature, but naming the colleagues that you believe are higher earners is confrontational, even if that is not your intention.

Inevitably, the interpretation will be that you don’t believe they contribute as much to the workplace, or are below par, even if this is not the case.

Instead arrange a meeting with the appropriate people to discuss your progression within the company and keep it personal to you. Position the meeting as an open discussion that will review your work, development and future objectives.

2) Don’t assume you know the full truth

Office culture can often involve idle gossip. For this reason, the workforce often believes that they are ‘in the know’, with office happenings, when this is not the case at all.

A lot of the time, people only tell you what they want you to know. And, even if your role is the same title as your colleague, your workloads are very unlikely to be identical.

The truth is that you can never be 100% sure of your colleague’s previous experience, current workload or what they are accountable for. So it is not your call to determine if you deem their salary as fair.

It is wise to use this situation as an opportunity to identify areas where you can improve and what unique opportunities your skillset can bring to the workplace’. 

3) Don’t give ultimatums – unless you are prepared to see them through

It’s very tempting, when you discover that you’re earning less for the same work, to get angry and start making demands. But be careful what you say, and absolutely never issue an ultimatum unless you are prepared to execute it.

Ultimatums can often put the recipient of them in a difficult position. It may be that they genuinely can’t deliver on what you want, even though they may want to. Or they may not want to, and use your ultimatum to their own advantage.

If you genuinely feel that an ultimatum is your best route in this situation, make sure that it’s realistic, with an outcome that you are not afraid to commit to.

4) Don’t hide your wins

Some people – especially women – can feel uncomfortable sharing their wins in the workplace, afraid of appearing boastful or arrogant. However, if you don’t share your wins, then how do you expect to be rewarded?  

Often, colleagues are so focused on their own workload that they don’t see outside of their own remit. So don’t be afraid to share your wins with your colleagues and managers to highlight your worth within the business. This can help enormously when it comes to being offered – or asking for – a pay rise.

5) Don’t take it up with your colleague – or others!

When you discover a colleagues is earning more than you, it can be tempting to spring question upon question upon them. But don’t do it.

Your colleague does not have the final say with regards to how much they earn, and making your feelings known to them will only cause resentment, awkwardness and one hell of an atmosphere.

Do not choose to discuss it with other colleagues either. It is incredibly unprofessional and the only person that it will reflect badly upon is you.

6) Don’t be intimidated by heading to HR

If you feel that your salary is unjust, then don’t be afraid to go to HR. While this isn’t a move that should be take lightly, it’s also important that you don’t see HR as an intimidating place. A meeting with HR can provide clarity, reassurance and perhaps most importantly – a plan of action.

Read more tips on getting a pay rise

Love more advice on how to ask for (and get) a pay rise? You’ll find some helpful tips in these articles:

Photo by Christian Fregnan