If your coworker is making more than you, here’s how to take action

I once heard a story from a friend about how his wife had gotten a raise at work and was now making more than her co-workers. 

When she was presented with the uptick in salary, her supervisor specifically said, “Don’t let the others in the office know how much you’re making.”

Of course, she didn’t tell anyone; she understood why. If her co-workers found out she got a raise, there could be jealousy, drama, and perhaps even blowback on her. 

But what if you’re on the other side of the coin. You didn’t get a raise, and you find out your coworker is making more than you for the same job; what do you do then?

At first, the feeling might not be so enjoyable, but keep in mind this opportunity. In any case, there is a right way and a wrong way to respond. Today, we will cover how to respond in the event you find out your coworker(s) is making more than you!

How to respond to a coworker who makes more:

1. Don’t act

As hard as it may seem, even as the emotions run through you, don’t do anything if you find out someone makes more than you. 

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you will most likely experience a wide variety of emotions, from anger to sadness, to even frustration and doubt. These are all very normal responses to the news you didn’t get a raise, but your coworker did. However, acting on them is what you need to make sure you don’t do. 

Logical next steps will better your chances of making this a positive situation. On the other hand, if you let your emotions get the best of you and you act out of frustration or anger, there is a much higher chance it won’t help your cause.

Your cause, a raise for you, or at least an understanding on your end on how to get one! 

2. Put it in perspective

After you have reached a point where you’re thinking clearly and given the news sometime, the next logical step has to be putting things in perspective. 

It’s important to analyze the entire situation and consider the following factors: 

  • How much was their raise?
  • Have they been at the job longer?
  • Was it a promotion or a raise?
  • Are you a few days from a raise yourself?
  • Was it favoritism, or did they earn it outright?
  • Are you truly equal contributors?

While some of the aforementioned factors above may or may not apply, the last two are perhaps the most important to keep in mind and the length of time with the company. 

We often talk about merit and responsibility for being compensated appropriately; however, when we find out someone else got a raise, we immediately resort to the, “Well, I have been with the company longer” mindset. 

Length of time is not the only rationale determined when giving employees raises, but instead productivity, results, and value-added (in addition to the length of time in some cases). 

Keeping these factors in mind, it is vital you really assess the situation and make sure you don’t just barge into your supervisor’s office and demand a raise. Be sure to get the full scoop, gather the details, and make sure you have your facts straight. 

For example, when my friend’s wife got her to raise, she was told by her supervising clinician that while she shouldn’t tell the others, her patient reviews, willingness to go above and beyond, taking on additional responsibilities and positive attitude were all determining factors in issuing her a pay increase! 

Never do this: 

Do not use coworker names or throw others under the bus. While there is a chance word may never get back to them, there is a very high chance it will. And even so, professional Karma is real, so don’t others reputations to make yourself look better. 

3. Gather some market data

After weighing all the factors and putting the entire situation into the proper context, you feel like you deserve a raise just like your coworker; demanding one based on how you feel won’t get you very far. 

It would help if you had the facts and market research to help you approach your supervisor about a raise. Be diligent and thorough when you figure out what your wage should be to have a case to stand. 

Once you have done your homework and have all your ducks in a row, set up a meeting to present your findings professionally! 

4. Setup a meeting to ask for a raise

Requesting a time to meet with your supervisor, boss, hiring manager – whatever – may require a little tact on your end. Before asking for a raise, be sure to read up on the proper techniques and ways to ask for a raise

Keeping it brief and not surprising your supervisor is key, so be sure you follow these dos and don’ts:

Dos to asking for a raise:

  • Request a face to face meeting
  • Have your research and data points ready
  • Be appreciative of their time 
  • Plan what you’re going to say
  • Let them know WHY you deserve a raise

Don’ts to asking for a raise: 

  • Do not ever surprise or show up 
  • Do not ask for a raise via email 
  • Do not let your emotions get the best of you (see #1)
  • Do not make threats

5. Don’t take no for an answer; use people skills!

So you have followed all the steps above, and at this point, hopefully, you’re now full of joy because you were told you would get a raise… 

Or perhaps you actually found out that getting raise, even after doing your due diligence, won’t be happening shortly. In that case, you are really left with three options: 

Ask the improvement question.

Fall on the sword if you don’t get a raise. Whether you think you deserve it or not is beside the point now; ask, “How can I improve to increase my chances of a raise?”

This answer will give you logical steps to improve, thus increasing your chances of a raise! 

What you might find out is that it has nothing to do with you, but perhaps a budget, and in that case, here is what you do:

Ask when you can approach the subject again.

Sometimes a company might say that a raise isn’t in the budget. While this can be viewed as legit or just a tactic to avoid the conversation, always be sure to ask when it would be feasible to approach the subject of a raise again. 

Don’t take no as an answer; you need to have a timeline, not a vague response! 

Look for a new job. 

If a raise isn’t in store for you for some time and perhaps the writing is on the wall, your only option is to explore other job opportunities. This doesn’t mean you have to let everyone know you’re out, go about your work responsibilities while looking for a new gig. 

Perhaps the new job is better, or when you submit your resignation, you’re offered a better salary package… even better than your coworkers…!