Updated on 08.04.07

The New Person At Work Is Getting Paid More Than I Am! How Can I Handle It?

Trent Hamm

Bea wrote in with the following story:

I work at a small office and we have lost two employees this year….one left for more salary and benefits and another because they were moving out of state. While I was training one of the new replacements she mentioned her salary, which was $2 an hour more than my own. Now this person’s responsibilities will be equal or less than my own and I have eight years invested in my current position. I decided to discuss this with my boss and this did not go particularly well. I asked for a raise that would at least equal the new employee’s. I was told that I recently had a 50cent/hour raise and that business is slow and that my request could not be granted. When I pointed out the salary discrepancy between my salary and the new employee I was told that it had been difficult to fill the position and my boss had to meet this person’s requirements in order to fill the position. In that case I said I would be giving notice. My boss asked me to reconsider and she would think about raising my salary in 6 months. She asked me to think about it and let her know Monday.

So my question is, how have others in similar circumstances dealt with a situation like this? Any advice for me? Hubby supports my decision to leave if no increase in salary is given, we’ll tighten our budget and deal with it .We currently live on my husband’s salary and use mine for additional savings and the little things that come up.

Let’s isolate the facts here: an employee with eight years’ experience is training a new worker to do a very similar job. This new worker is getting $2 an hour more than the experienced one. When the experienced worker requested a raise, the boss essentially said no and justified the high pay for the new worker by saying the position was hard to fill.

If the boss is telling the full truth about the reason for hiring the new worker, then if the experienced one quits as well, it will cost the company significantly. Not only would they have to hire someone at the higher rate of the new worker, there would also be costs associated with training, plus the loss of productivity associated with moving from an old hand to a new one.

In this case, it pays to play hardball. It makes business sense for that person to pay Bea at least the same as the new worker if she requests it. It also makes business sense for the business owner to not pay Bea the higher rate, but given the alternative of losing an experienced worker, the business owner would decide in favor of the raise.

This, of course, assumes that the business owner is playing fair and also that Bea has a good work record to this point. If either of those assumptions fail, it’s quite possible that Bea could walk out of the job. My feeling is if the situation in the workplace is such that this raise request isn’t met, then it’s probably not a long-term healthy situation. The business owner was able to pay the new worker more – and it would presumably cost that much to fill Bea’s slot – so if Bea is let go, that means the business owner isn’t playing fair (not good) or the business really is in trouble (not good).

Since Bea would be able to quit and survive, my advice to Bea is to keep playing hardball if you believe you are valuable to the business. If you have a good work record and have a plan if you were to lose the job, I would stick to my guns. The other option is to cave, but by doing that, you’re (arguably) making yourself appear like a doormat and likely minimizing potential future pay increases (because the boss will see that you won’t fight for a raise – and thus why should you get any?).

Are there any other suggestions for Bea?

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  1. Jason says:

    Two ways to look at this issue. The first is as you discussed, Trent… play hardball. Bea is likely to get it, as losing an experienced employee would be potentially disastrous to the business. However, if Bea was fine with her salary before learning of the new employee’s, this is just a case of salary/wage envy. In that case, is it really worth engendering hard feelings for a raise Bea didn’t even know was “necessary” a little bit before? I suppose it depends on whether or not you’re in the position for the money, or because you enjoy the position and the work.

  2. Been there says:

    Certainly the boss’s response was a poor one and a slap in the face to Bea, and at present Bea’s circumstances allows her the opportunity to leave his employment as her husband makes a sufficient salary. Question is how much is Bea making now? If her husband becomes unemployed or other circumstances change will she be able to gain employment at her current or better salary. Her present salary did not bother her before she knew what the new employee was making, she did not feel what she was doing merited a raise before the new person started. Bea should try to find employment elsewhere before throwing her present job out the window. Leaving under these terms is like burning her bridges behind her, she will not receive a good reference for all the hard work she has already put into this job (8 years), and other employers may find her reason for leaving to be petty and consider her a troublemaker and believe me they will find out no matter what she puts on her application. Her location, her present salary, her husbands job security, the stability of their relationship and the ability to become gainfully employed somewhere else should be considered before she walks. She is making a point, but is she cutting off her nose despite her face?

  3. Dobie says:

    A person should not stay where they are not appreciated. If it were me, I would start looking for a new job. Actually, I would start looking for a new job whether or not the boss eventually gives in. After all, if you have to threaten to quit in order to get a fair wage – is this someplace you really want to work?

  4. Robert says:

    She has already made her dissatisfaction with the current situation clear, and the company has refused to meet her request for equitable compensation. In this case, especially given the other employee who left and received a pay increase immediately, it would be wise to consider packing her bags, dusting off the resume and seeking greener pastures.

    Also, there is a school of thought (which I also subscribe to), that says that one should never accept an offer (more often counteroffer) if the employer’s hand is forced in giving it: it puts you at odds with the management, and 6 months down the road, if they need to downsize, they will choose you first, as she has played her hand and made clear where her loyalties are.

    Not saying that this is the best answer for Bea; these situations are rarely black-and-white, but unless it is a small family business, doing work that she really enjoys and feels is worthwhile for her, and there are other non-compensatory “satisfaction” benefits, it would behoove her to leave. Many companies exhibit little true employee loyalty, especially for hourly workers, so she should not express undue loyalty back to them.

    However, again, these situations are rarely cut-and-dry; she should examine her satisfaction level, relationship with her boss/company, compensation package, personal marketability, the job market in her area, and her personal goals, commute to other jobs, etc., and weigh the situation accordingly. Doing a periodic job and salary survey never hurt anyone, though :)

  5. Erik Lindquist says:

    If you are not “relying” on the income that this job is giving you, then I would say ditch the job if they will not do the right thing here. The message is pretty clear as far as your perceived value with this company. From the way the story reads, it seems like this is no longer a good fit for either party.

  6. Stephen says:

    It’s obvious that the boss does not like the employee (either based personal preference or work performance) and either way they will be happy to see the employee go.

    If I were the employee, I would be gone as soon as possible because this situation will only deterioriate from that point on

  7. Margaret says:

    I did quite a slow burn reading this! Unless there is a clear and compelling reason why the new person is getting paid more, and it doesn’t sound like there is, that is grossly unfair. It is great to hear that Bea can afford to walk out of this job, and hopefully she would shortly find another position with the higher rate of pay. Not only do I think she should be getting the $2 raise, I think she should be getting the $2 raise and then some due to her greater experience. Waiting 6 months is a joke — after 8 years, they know whether you are doing your job or not. If you are going to leave, leave now while the job market is hot and you can command a higher salary.

  8. Woody says:

    I would honestly consider leaving even if they DO give you the raise, just not right away. Playing hard ball can be worthwhile, but it doesn’t make friends at work, especially if you’re using it against your manager. Make time to look for a new job, even if you get the raise. Obviously someone with your skill set can get at least the +$2 level of pay in your market with less experience.

    If the raise comes through, stick around long enough to search for a new job. If it doesn’t, walk out the door. If you’re felling generous, and know you won’t work for a while, you may want to offer them your services on an “on-call” basis for the next month or so, for double your current salary. (With a minimum of 8 hours per call, so its worth your while to go in that day.)

    It sucks to have to play hard ball, but sometimes it’s something you have to do. I’ve done this in about the same situation and wound up ahead of the game. Just be aware that while the bridge may not be burned, it has been singed a little, so your old boss may not be the best reference for your next job. ;)

  9. Michael Langford says:

    I think you’re all in the wrong here Trent. People don’t get paid on some sort of olde-timey pay grade scale where 3 years means this salary, and 5 years experience means this experience.

    That went out with working at the same company your entire life. It was a visage of the seniority system.

    Now with the current salary realities and opportunities out there, it is a rare bird that gets good income growth when staying at the same location. There is a somewhat derisive term for people captivated by these pay rates: They’re wearing golden handcuffs.

    Companies usually don’t give longtime employees 10-20% pay hikes. This usually only happens when they get a promotion. However it is quite normal to get pay raises like this when switching jobs.

    What this leads to is industry paying what it has to for people who are new, dictated by the labor market of the time they are hired. Everyone doesn’t make the same thing most places. This works to the advantage of both the business owners and the people who are willing to continually learn the ins and outs of new positions.

    My recommendation to Bea is to choose to join one of the two classes I just mentioned. I chose to go for the Business owner class, but you might just choose to up your rate of job changing.

    Take the promise of a raise in 6 months. Withdraw your notice.

    Now…while working here, take your time looking for a new job, one that fits your priorities in life better than this one. If all that requires is higher pay, then just go look for one that has that. I suggest you plan on a 3-10 week job search. Do this *aggressively*. Plan on using sick days and half sick days for interviewing. Make sure and change out of your clothes and makeup to get back to what is normal for your office.

    Now, when you have a new job in hand…go take it. Sure, you have to learn everything anew, but hey, you’re going to be paid 10-20% more, or the new job is better going to meet your priorities in life.

    If you want income growth, I suggest you find a job that has a career path, ie, one you can expect a major promotion every 3-4 years (and therefore get the concomitant raise). Or, ever time that hits that time frame, switch jobs when the labor market gets better.


  10. Gail says:

    I am going through the exact situation. And the person does NOTHING! Just sits in her office behind closed doors and talks on the phone. She knows she makes more money and thus has more privileges.

  11. Agreed with Michael… go for broke, wait it out with this job until you get your new one, and tell them where to stuff it.

    In the meantime, don’t give them a reason to fire you over a bad work record (by not training the new person well for example)….. You don’t want to burn bridges… really.

  12. Mare says:

    My husband was in a similar position a few years back where he was doing work of a senior position but getting paid an associates salary. He went to his boss and said (nicely) that he was doing all this work above his title and would like to be compensated for what he was doing. His boss told him there was nothing he could do at that time but the next review they would make up for it. Fine, we waited it out, when his review came he got a 1% raise now whats the point of that. Anyway he went to his boss again and said I can’t support my family with this and something needs to be done, he got the same story they promise to take of him soon. So he sent his resume out that night and within a few weeks got another position make 25% more.

    I suggest start looking – you’ll get a job sooner then you think. And then see if they can do anything for you. Good Luck

  13. WxC says:

    Wow, I’m kind of amazed at the responses. I think most of you are firing from the gut and not the brain here. Asking for a raise because someone else is making more smacks of unprofessionalism. Don’t get me wrong, the situation is unfair but “tattling” to the superior simply made things worse. Especially since the superior created the situation in the first place!

    Going in with that approach could have only created a confrontational situation and when being “attacked” it is natural for someone to go on the defense immediately regardless of whether or not that person knows they were wrong. There was zero chance of getting the raise that way.

    What’s done is done but, for future reference it’s always better to ask for a raise for merit only. With the knowledge that a new hire is making 2 bucks more (and keeping that to yourself), asking for the raise on merit gives you the info about whether or not this person or organization really values your contributions the way they should and does not create a confrontation that will most likely deteriorate your working relationship over time. If you don’t get the raise then feel free to look for another job without any worries. If you do then you know you’re in a place where you are valued and all you have to do is ask for your proper compensation. Remember that most places are a business and they are in it to make as much money as possible. It’s not right but, sometimes you have to play the game a little until you get to a point where you can start to affect change. But in the meantime, play smartball, not hardball. ;)

  14. KS says:

    I was in a similar situation a little more than year ago. I was promoted to a different department but not a few months later, the company was bought over and with it came the restructuring, redundancy, etc over the course of a few months. Morale was low and people started leaving on their own accord as well.

    I was one of the lucky ones but at the same time, my salary was way below the market rate (but always has been) and I was doing what was previously a two-person job.

    So when we had to sign our new employment contracts, I approached my superior and asked for a raise — pointing out how I am contributing to the team, my increased responsibilites and my achievements.

    He wasn’t in a position to approve of a raise and had to consult the newly appointed managing director. Suprise, surprise … it was declined.

    It forced me to evaluate my career goals and level of job satisfaction. I knew in the end that I had to leave. Even if they’d offered me a higher salary, the working environment had become quite crappy.

    I am now with a smaller company where the I love the people I work with and when we go home we are always farewell-ed with a “Thank you for another great day!”

    The big raise that came with this new job was just an icing on the cake. :)

    Here is a good blog on happiness at work.

  15. Samantha says:

    How do you go about figuring out how much other people doing your job are making at it? For example, i work at a call center. So, if I make $8 an hour, how do I find out that my coworkers earn $10 and the people at the call center down the street make $5 and the call center downtown make $14?

  16. John says:

    I would put it in this perspective for the employer:

    If you don’t raise my pay to at least the equivalent of the new hire, I will quit. When I quit, you will be faced with the same dilemma that you faced with your new hire: it will again be difficult to fill the position and you will again have to offer the new employee the $12/hour salary. You can either pay me the $12/hour and keep my 8 years of experience, or you can pay $12/hour to someone with no experience. It’s your choice.

    I think, given this choice, that the employer will cave. But like others have mentioned, there could be repercussions. I would enjoy the pay increase while searching for a new job.

  17. CHESSNOID says:

    I have to agree with the majority. I think the money isn’t the primary issue, it’s about feeling appreciated. Quit the job, regardless of whether the boss gives in or not. You are not appreciated and will always have doubts about this job being fair to you in the future. If you need the income, start looking now, then quit when you secure a new job.
    I do agree that asking for a raise should usually be for merit, but being paid equally for the same job responsibilities (assuming done satisfactory) with the more job experience merits more pay in itself. In this case, at least equal pay.
    The positive side about this is you found out sooner than later and now you can make changes to make it better for yourself and your family.

  18. fvd72 says:

    I got a supervising position with this company for a better salary than the guy who did the same job for years. the difference was that I was available 24/7 (and my boss took advantage of it big time), and he wasn’t willing to do it. Soon enough he found out (not from me, but my pay check was in my inbox :-) at the office) and had an argument with my boss. He got the same salary as I did, and my boss got angry with me. I did not see any raise in 3 years. And, truly, my boss wasn’t grateful for my services, and when I had a bad time with the employees under my supervision he yelled at me and did not want to admit that it wasn’t my fault. That was enough for me. Soon I found another job (different hours) and I started as part time. When the new company realized that I am an asset for them, made me an offer that I could not refuse, and I gave 2 weeks notice to my former boss. Needles to say he was shocked (did not see it coming). Even now, managers from client-firms keep calling me to tell me that they miss me (the other guy, who took over my accounts, is not even close to how I was)

  19. Art Dinkin says:

    Unfortunately I just do not see a winning situation here for Bea. She has already threatened to leave. Even if she plays hardball and gets the raise, she forced her employers hand and that will hurt her down the road. If she does not get the raise, she has just proved that she can be handled.

    But I would not leave yet, Bea. After all you have been doing the job for 8 years and never had a problem with your pay until someone else was making more. Even though you don’t “need” the income, you may as well get paid while you quietly look for a new job. Without knowing the dynamics of your environment I just do not see an easy recovery from the corner both you and your employer have backed into.

  20. kris says:

    Same thing happend-with the same response from the boss-at a previous company where I worked.
    That lack of disregard for the veterans in the workgroup directly led to the shop getting unionized.

  21. Callum says:

    I think playing hardball should work, it makes business sense, as Trent said. I also think there’s an underlying issue of respect here.

    Facts, Bea, if you hadn’t found out that the new start was earning more, you wouldn’t have asked for a raise or decided to submit your notice. So this is not really about the money. If you didn’t know about it, it wouldn’t be a problem.

    I think the key thing here is respect, value and fairness. I’m guessing you feel like your boss should value you at least equally if not more than your new colleague, and this should be reflected in your salary. I’d suggest this is the fundamental issue here. You feel your boss isn’t showing you the respect you deserve.

    Personally, I think that’s the case. In my view, your boss has not shown you respect. I would discuss that with my boss, and if I wasn’t convinced that they truly did value me as an employee, I would look for another job, with or without the raise.

    Whatever happens, good luck Bea. :)

  22. Dan says:

    This is a tough situation, but all the signs point to an end to this job for Bea. Her boss is using a very common management ploy. When a manager says that they will consider a significant raise in six months to get you to stay, what they are really doing is buying time to be better prepared for when you leave. And now that Bea has put it out there that she’s considering leaving, her boss will never fully trust her again. If Bea can afford to, it’s probably time to leave…

  23. na says:

    I agree with WxC. First of all, salary/wage should never be discussed among employees. Second of all, I also believe merit should be the main factor for a wage increase and the best way to obtain one, imho. If an employee hasn’t done anything that “exceeds expectations”, then he/she really shouldn’t expect one except for the yearly raise (coming from a salaried-position standpoint).

  24. Kortney says:

    If Bea otherwise loves her job and work environment, there is another option besides demanding cash or walking out. She can use the situation to her advantage (Trent’s right: if they really can’t afford to replace her at the higher salary, they should be willing to do whatever it takes to keep her) and negotiate for other non-salary benefits that would be useful to her.

    Maybe Bea would value extra vacation weeks, a flexible schedule, working from home, ditching some of her more annoying job responsibilities, accelerated vesting on her 401-K, or some other perks at least as much as, if not more than, an increase in salary since she and the husband have been doing well on the current amount. These types of concessions may be far easier for her employer to grant if they are truly temporarily cash-strapped (again, Trent’s right: if this is more than a temporary situation, the business is in serious trouble, and Bea’s going to need a new job soon anyway).

    So, if she wants to make it work, she could negotiate this non-salary stuff now, which will go a long way to making her feel valued again and also make her work experience more enjoyable, with a verbal or written agreement to institute a raise or series of raises at the 6 month, 1 year, etc. points until her salary is brought up to market level.

    By working with the company now and showing she’s a team player, she may come out far ahead in a year or two, with a competitive salary plus lots of non-monetary benefits that the new employees would kill for.

  25. Bobby says:

    I don’t know that Bea gave enough info, or if given to Trent, that he included enough. A few points I would like to raise:

    1. In some instances, salary adjustments like Bea is requesting are out of the hands of the immediate manager, especially if you work for a large organization. Annual merit increases of 2-5% may be possible, but anything beyond that is not available. Does Bea work for a large corporation or a mom & pop company?

    2. Bea didn’t give enough info, and she may not even know all the info, about the work history and educational experience of the new employee. Does the new person have other 8 or more years of experience at another company? Does the new employee have a degree or more education than Bea? What is the job market like, jobs aplenty or difficult to find where Bea lives?

    3. Is the new employee more “promotable” than Bea? Maybe this is an opportunity to bring in a new employee who can then take on additional jobs beyond what Bea is currently doing?

    I agree with Michael and WxC that Bea handled this wrong. She should have started this discussion based on her merits for the raise and not out of some misguided belief that just because she has more years of service that she should be paid more.

    Is this an ideal position where someone new is making more money than someone with experience at that company…no. But I don’t think anyone here has enough info to make a blanket statement that Bea should take some action based on less than the whole story.

    What it comes down to is that Bea was happy until she found out about the pay discrepancy. Was she dissatisfied with internal promotional opportunities before? She doesn’t say. But we do know that someone else in the office left for a better paying job within the past 12 months. Maybe Bea will have to do the same.

  26. caryn verell says:

    this happened in 1983 to me except i was the one who was hired at a higher pay. when my boss and i disagreed over something i gave notice. i also had to fill out some paperwork for the personnel office and in that paperwork i made it perfectly clear what my grievances were and mentioned in detail the pay discrepancies my co-worker had to put up with (and she was a long term and more valueable employee. not long after i left this job, i received a call from the other employee and she thanked me for her pay increase.

  27. Coral Jennings says:

    I think Bea needs to look at the situation differently. It isn’t a matter of pay–it is the respect for her contribution to making the company successful for eight years. If she is going to quit over cash–Bea, you are training your replacement right now! Go quickly before they realize you weren’t really weren’t needed!

    However, if it is respect and you like the job, then ask for non-cash benefits to make up the difference. $2 a hour translated to working 4 days a week instead of 5 at the same pay–or an extra week’s vacation or sick-leave every quarter. But, if you fail to obtain some kind of equitable raise–you need to leave with 2 weeks notice–as your boss has already said you are not important enough to retain once the new hire is trained. You are handing the new hire all your talents for less than he/she is being paid–who can then do your job.

  28. John says:

    You are all missing a VERY important point!
    Bea needs to stay while looking for another job and request that the prospective employer not contact her present employer. This is normal.

    If she quits and burns her bridges she may get a bad reference in the future from this employer and find it difficult to get another job.

  29. Been there says:

    I find the responses very interesting, some say ditch the job others say stay until you find something else. I wonder what the ages are of the people with either of these responses. I am 44; I say stay until she can find something else, when I was younger and more of a hot head I would say screw it, leave and be damned the consequences. I think as you get older with more experience you will find cooler heads prevail. The main thing for Bea and everyone to remember is, this isn’t personal it’s business.

  30. Nancy says:

    In February, I left a horrendous job at a law firm that I held for over 5 years because I found out that two people who were recently hired with NO EXPERIENCE were making $5 an hour more than me.

    The office manager (a useless family member of the firm) ignored my request to discuss salary.

    The attorney I worked for then told everyone I was fired for not being reliable.

    My leaving must have made other people think about conditions at the firm, because the other two employees have since quit, as have a few others, and the firm having such a bad reputation has found it impossible to replace us.

    What goes around comes around.

  31. I know exactly what your talking about. says:

    I’m in this exact boat. Its just hard when you are comfortable, and you do enjoy your job… After a measly 3% raise and after confronting the issue, and “I’ll try my best to get you more” after I said thats practically inflation when I get my buddy a job within the company with LESS responsibility, and less accountability but makes significantly more than me, I’m stuck until at least the end of this upcoming semester. Bills have to be paid.

  32. Kim Bentz says:

    Understand that money isn’t just money, in business it is also a measure of respect, and as such, we all know that the person being paid a higher salary is treated with more respect even if that isn’t spoken. When a new person is trained by you to do a lesser or even equivalent job, your experience and years with the company are not valued by this wage disparity. Once that is out on the table, it is not a good situation to stay and take that as you are now allowing yourself to be treated with less respect. Again, it is NOT about the money for money’s sake.

    That being said, there are practical reasons to stay WHILE YOU ARE LOOKING FOR NEW EMPLOYMENT. Personally, I would take less money to start afresh in a new company with the potential for respect. If the company Bea is with is losing people for higher paying positions elsewhere, there is no reason to expect that Bea would necessarily be making less elsewhere.

    That being said, she should maintain good relations with this boss and this company if at all possible, as she walks out the door.

    All of us not in business for ourselves, salaried and hourly employees, rent our time, energies, knowledge, and loyalties. It is we who set the standard for what that rental price should be. And…it is we who must decide what the time and rental conditions should be. Some of us will merely rent to the highest bidder, but it sounds as if Bea has been a loyal team player, and believed that she was appreciated. Appreciation was part of the “rent”. Now, she has found that her loyalty was not appreciated, but in fact, she could have been paid more if her employer had seen her as valuable.

    Staying long-term (or at all) allows her employer to assume they were right in underpaying her and will make them suspicious that they were right.

    Look at it this way. If I am renting out my house, I don’t want my rent to be lower than every other rental house on the block. I want the renters to believe that my house is more valuable to them than the others. It increases their pride in where they live and makes it more likely they will take proper care of my house, thus preserving my investment. Given this, should rental rates go up in the area, the rent on my property would be adjusted accordingly, unless there are significant reasons not to do so. Exceptionally good tenants would be one of those things.

    Is Bea’s employer and exceptionally good renter? Only she knows the answer to that, but her question doesn’t indicate that. I would think that ordinarily if this were a wonderful employer, she would have made a point of that.

  33. Jessica says:

    I think the damage has already been done here. Bea should start looking for a new job ASAP.

    In the future if you were to find out a coworker’s pay, I wouldn’t march into a supervisor’s office and demand the “give me a raise or I’ll leave.” Asking for a raise based on skills and time spent is the way to go.

    Bea’s coworker in the future should make a point of not mentioning her pay rate. I learned this rule in my very first job at 16. What you make is no one’s business but your own.

    The way she handled this situation isn’t terribly professional and also puts her new coworker in a bad light as well. Instead she should have kept this info under her hat and used it to negotiate at a new job. Probably her next one.

    And while it seems “unfair” what her employer is doing, and although the senior employee may in theory be worth more, the market dictates the price.

  34. Been there says:

    I have to disagree with Kim, if you are looking for respect at work you are looking in the wrong place. Very few people are afforded that in this country, in my particular profession, computers, it is about money, the jobs are being out sourced to other countries because of money, and contractors are being brought in because of money. Industrial jobs are being out sourced because of money and more lax environmental standards. I’ve worked for a bank and you get neither respect nor much money, it’s the same with retail sales. A job is not your life and it should not define your life, it only supports your life. Bea was never treated badly, she just wasn’t given the raise she felt she deserved, I think people are confusing respect with job environment. In most places as long as you aren’t being treated badly, harassed, overworked that’s all the respect you are going to get from management. Work is not your home, in most cases these are not your friends they are your co-workers or managers. Your best bet is to always keep business and pleasure separate, I’m not saying don’t be friendly, don’t go out to lunch, don’t “get together”, but it’s a dog eat dog world out there and if the down sizing starts or fingers start to point you can’t take it personally. From experience I can tell you people will always watch for their own interests first, personal friendly information can be ammunition against you. Bea’s co-worker was wrong to give out her personal information and is a classic example of why you should keep private things private. I hope Bea didn’t make the same mistake and tell other co-workers her plight and her response to her boss.

  35. Dan says:

    “Bea’s co-worker was wrong to give out her personal information”

    That depends on your viewpoint…

    We are all “free agents” now and need to be aware that regardless of your personal feelings and friendships it really is workers vs management. After all, you exchange your work for their money.

    If they are paying you less then the position is worth then they are cheating you. it’s that simple.

    Bea’s co-worker did her a favor and revealed what the position is worth in the current market. The healthiest work places are those that are open about what each position pays and then pays accordingly. Any other policy leads to this sort of management created crisis. Being secretive about your pay just helps management cheat the other workers.

  36. r says:

    I second Kortney’s comments: particularly given that the salary apparently didn’t seem too low before the additional information, this is the perfect time to ask for any other perks that Bea would like (and perks can have big financial and lifestyle consequences – they’re not necessarily small change!). This can also help both people involved save face, which is likely the only option for a positive work experience from this point forward. Then, Bea can consider looking for a new job as she pleases – with security in the meantime and a reasonable expectation of a good reference if it comes to that.

  37. devil says:

    Since Bea doesn’t need the job, and she’s already tipped her hand, she should give two-week’s notice and leave now.

    Looking for a job is a f/t job. With her experience and skills, Bea should have no problem finding a suitable position.

    Best to get out of a toxic office environment sooner rather than later.

    Great comments everyone!

  38. guinness416 says:

    *I think you’re all in the wrong here Trent. People don’t get paid on some sort of olde-timey pay grade scale where 3 years means this salary, and 5 years experience means this experience. That went out with working at the same company your entire life.*

    This comment by Michael above is exactly what I was thinking (only stated more eloquently no doubt!). While I feel bad for Bea, those who stated she should have come at it from her value and not “fair play” are correct. Those who negotiate well are rewarded in the job search process, as it should be.

  39. Kim Bentz says:

    Been there. I respect your opinion, but the moment this information was in her possession, the job was poisoned. Her relationship with her boss was already damaged.

    I’m no rabid feminist, but I have to wonder if our responses–our gut reaction–would have been different if the source was listed as “Ben”. I may be crucified for saying this, but there tend to be very different expectations for women in the workplace. A man might be praised for taking care of business, and a man might even be respected by his boss for coming to him.

    A friend of mine, C, has been hurt by the recent real estate crisis, and after 20 years has had to lay off his crews and the company that hired on much of his crew asked him to come on as their superintendent due to the quality of men and their high praise of C. The owner of this company asked C how much he wanted for salary. He said, “More than they [the crew] are making.” The two men agreed it was about respect, and that the men would never respect him as a superintendent if they made more than he did.

    Women, on the other hand, are often criticized for their own part in the wage gap because men ask for more and women simply accept what is offered. I have read articles that describe the wage difference that starts at approximately 4% following college, and the disparity merely grows from there. One article I read tried to adjust for maternity leave, and the results remained the same. Women/people who don’t ask for more (assuming they then make themselves valuable) fall further and further behind in wages. So if we look at this as a return on an investment (our time and the expense of education) why shouldn’t we be looking for the best return on our investment, all things being equal?

    It’s a nice idea to have a completely unemotional work environment, and in some jobs and with some skill sets it is nearly impossible to trade in the currency of respect. I am not suggesting that Bea be a sloppy, poorly performing employee and ask for more simply because she has stayed around. But I am suggesting that with many employers the workplace will become untenable and a career path seriously derailed if you accept this kind of disparity.

    If one accepts the notion that pay raises are set, and are not based on things such as market forces, skill, longevity, and performance, then the person that starts with a company during a slump in the economy will NEVER be on an equal footing with a later hire. In such a scenario, the advantage is always with the new hire, and then it makes sense to make yourself the new hire someplace else.

    Scenarios such as this one are the reason many of us are taking ourselves out of the market and are working for ourselves, doing our best to have the person in charge of our economic future (as much as possible) be US.

    Been there says “people will always watch for their own interests first”, but it seems that Bea is supposed to watch out for the companies interests in opposition to her own. A truly great company will have a “win-win” scenario. Yes most of us have to work in less than ideal environments and will have jobs that quietly kill our idealism and our spirit, but it does not have to be this way. That is a choice we all make for ourselves.

    If Bea accepts this situation as is, she must then take responsibility for her decision and not gripe. It is her choice. I stayed in a job that was fairly toxic for me, but it was for a purpose. I needed to make a certain amount of money while the kids were still at home. My choice.

    I have for years read with interest about these people who completely separate their work life from the rest of their lives. Interesting concept, but it has only worked for me in jobs where heart, energy and enthusiasm were not required. Those early jobs where I was simply a pair of hands performing menial labor. Those were jobs where the mind could go someplace else.

    In jobs where my mind must be engaged, the emotional side is also engaged. Many men pretend differently, but I have seen those angry board meetings, the guys with their drawers full of ulcer medication, the cabinets with mega-size bottles of headache medication, the stash of Scotch, etc. I cannot be around people all day without caring about them. It’s a nice idea, though. I think perhaps these men suffer because they have made the compromise of a job which doesn’t feed the soul to provide for families things that don’t feed the soul either.

    If, and this is just a guess, Bea was content with her income because she felt her sacrifice for the company in a difficult time was appreciated, imaging the slap in the face it would be to find her new co-worker getting the very thing she had sacrificed for.

    I worked for a company where raises were set in stone. No matter what a great job you did, it was impossible to receive a merit raise. Sacrifice for the sake of the company in the lean years was a given. I poured myself into the job, learning new things, getting more education, constantly seeking out new ways to seek out new business and to lower our expenses. This dedication was repaid with the loss of a contractually guaranteed vacation day taken away “for the good of the firm”. As I told the owner of the company, it wasn’t the day as much as what taking that day said to me. Taking that contractually guaranteed day said that my service was not valued. It wasn’t that there was a big deadline, a huge job that needed to be completed, a sale that must be made then. Extra time for those kind of things was given without hesitation. I did not give an ultimatum, I knew my boss was not the kind of man to be backed into a corner. Also, he was a man I respected and assumed that he was simply short-sighted in this area. I simply told him what it said to me, while acknowledging the difficulty the business was in. I did not ask for a response, but after some time, that vacation day was restored.

    I knew that I was willing to continue the job without the vacation day, what I was unwilling to do was simply stew about it.

    I hope whatever Bea’s decision, that she can live with the aftermath. After all, our talk is mere speculation without all the details and without any stake in the outcome.

    Bea, you need to decide what is important to you. Bless you!

  40. As Bobby pointed out earlier in comments we don’t know the co-workers background there could be quite a few reasons as to why the new hire could be earning $2 more an hour. Bea should have never immediately confronted her supervisor as to the difference in pay, if anything that probably just aggravated her boss. On the same note the new hire should have never released her wage, Bea unfortunately at this point you have no choice but to look for another job regardless if you receive the increase or not. I wouldn’t out right quit the job as other’s stated earlier you run the risk of throwing 8 years out the window, but I would start the job hunt. I wish you the best of luck with this situation.

  41. Marky says:

    So sorry about Bea’s plight.

    1. Never ask for a raise when angry nor use the reason that so and so makes more than you.

    2. Studies show that women asking for raises are more likely to be penalized for doing so.

    3. The person hired in this scenario may have more education or has been hired in under a title that has a higher pay attached to it.

    4. The damage has been done. Bea will be resentful and find it difficult to focus on her work. The employer knows this and may find it more cost effective to actually “let Bea go”.

    5. Keep smiling and do your work while looking for another job.

    Life throws out hard lessons.

  42. Bobby says:

    Some more interesting posts. I can speak from my own experience which is working in environments where pay is confidential (never worked for any company where compensation was open for all to see.) I also frequently deal with compensation issues.

    Any time you discuss pay, at least in a confidential pay environment, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. You may be the one getting $2 an hour more right now, but sooner or later you will be in Bea’s position. Save yourself the heartache and don’t go there.

    To state when any company pays you less than the position is worth they are “cheating you” is not realistic. Bea, and every other worker, determines their worth when they get hired or through compensation discussions with management. If you want more money, be prepared to speak logically and factually as to why you deserve a certain payrate. If you can’t or won’t, you certainly won’t get what you feel you are worth. Even if you can, you may not get it as it may not be possible.

    In today’s society, very few people stay with one company for their entire career. As a result, compensation is changed dramatically when you change companies, normally not within the same company. Also, not all companies will be able to pay top dollar for employees and some companies make it a point not too. I feel you get what you pay for, and if you pay mediocre wages, you get mediocrity. But I don’t set company policy so I have to work within the bounds set by the organization I work for.

    Ultimately, you decide what you are worth. If a company will pay that, good for you. If they won’t, the problem isn’t with the company, quit dreaming and wake up!

  43. Peas says:

    Bea, hard to be in this situation on so many levels, but it comes down to one choice:

    Do you wish to stay here or look for another job?

    If you wish to stay, rebuild. Mend your relationship with your manager. Apologize for comparing wages. But then make an agreement for future salary adjustments based on specific and measurable goals. Get the agreement in writing.

    If you wish to look for a new job, do not mention this situation to prospective employers. In fact, only say good things about your current job. Focus on why you want to work for that company. Stay positive. Expect the search to take 6 months.

    No matter what you choose, listen to what is going around at your current job but don’t say anything. When you need an outlet, use friends and family outside of work.

  44. lorax says:

    Google “salary compression” – It is very typical in a tight labor market for the company to favorably pay new workers. There’s little incentive to increase current employees pay unless there is a chance they will leave, and they are expensive to replace. It’s just economics.

    As an aside, I think every employee’s salary should be freely available for publicly traded companies. This would not only keep the accountants honest with the boss’ true compensation, but also help the Bea know her true worth.

    Salaries – the last taboo.

  45. TheBadGuy says:

    I’ll be the bad guy and empathize with the boss.

    I recently replaced an employee who was making 48K/year. I thought that her wage was fair, but I couldn’t find anyone qualified to work for 40-48K.

    In order to find a competent replacement, I had to pay 60K/year. ($6/hour more!) The new person is doing less and has less experience than the previous worker. However, she was the only minimally qualified replacement available on short notice – and she had to relocate 450 miles.

    We all think that our salaries are a measure of our self worth. So we assume that our salaries should be 100% dictated by our own skills, knowledge, experience, education, and responsibilities.

    However, our salaries are also determined by market conditions at the time we were hired.

  46. brent says:

    “fair” has got nothing to do with it. You don’t pay people a certain wage because it’s Fair, you do it because you think that’s the minimum amount you can pay them to motivate them to show up and do the job.

    That’s the employer’s side.

    The employee’s side is that, again, “fair” has got nothing to do with it. Every morning a person should think before they get up “Am I getting the rewards I want for the efforts I’m producing?” If the answer is yes, then go to work and have a great day. If the answer is no, then do something about it.

    Don’t ask for a raise just because it might be Fair. Ask for the raise because you’ve suddenly realised how much you’re worth – because you’ve been doing all this work – because you can demonstrate that you deliver much better results than you used to.

    It’s not hardball.

    It’s called self-esteem. It’s being assertive. It’s realising that the MOST important relationship in the boss-peon-family love-triangle is the peon-family… if your boss isn’t giving you what you deserve then get a new boss.

  47. annie-m says:

    This point was made in the comments above, but I wanted to make it again. In most companies, staying in the same position will get you a 1% – 5% increase year after year (even 0% in hard times). If you want stability, then that should be your expectation. Starting salaries may move quite differently. If you want faster money, you need to change jobs, within your company or without.

    Arguing for a large increase for the same work you have been doing will never work. Tell the boss you are looking for the opportunity to earn more, ask for a promotion, ask for more responsibility, ask for a special project, ask about education, and ask for the money that goes with it.

    The boss may not have much say over how the increases are given and will need to go to his bosses for a large amount. Think in terms of what he can use to get this for you. Do you want him to go to bat for you armed with “She’s a capable worker threatening to leave,” or “She’s gotten a certification; she completed an assignment that was above her previous duties; she takes on additional responsibilities; she shows commitment to her career path here; she covers for her supervisor in his absense…”?

    He wants to wait six months and look at this increase again. Ask him what you can do in those six months to help him get it for you.

  48. Duane says:

    Bea has no choice but look elsewhere now, but the situation could have been handled much better. The transcript of the discussion is laden with emotion and a sense of entitlement, neither of which are negotiating tactics.

    She should have sought the raise on merit and kept her cards to her chest. If they wouldn’t make her a fair offer it is time to look elsewhere. With that course she could have left on good terms, but now she will be perceived as someone who discussed salary with co-workers.

    The bottom line is that value for services is subjective. If the only case you have for earning more is by asking what the guy in the next cube earns you will never earn better than average. Instead a person should strive to make a measurable difference and work with people who pay for that maturity.

  49. Ted Valentine says:

    My first question would be 1) Do you like the job and what you do?

    If yes, she should consider staying. Work isn’t all about the money.

    2) Do you have something else lined up to pay her more?

    If yes, then she should move on.

    Additionally we don’t have all the information about both employees. The new one may have more education or training. The old one may be a trouble maker or bad worker. We just don’t know all the facts, Trent’s assertions aside. I’m not going to judge the employer.

  50. Ted Valentine says:

    I really like Michael Langford’s advice.

    Second, I wish that salary wasn’t a taboo. I think, in the long run, life would be so much smoother if compensation of everything was out in the open. I think a lot of backstabbing and scheming results from salaries being hidden.

  51. MFK says:

    If it’s a bigger company, I can see this taking a while to play out. I worked for a large company and ran into a similar situation (I was team leader and the new hires coming in to join my team were making more than I). When I talked to the manager about it, he was nice about it but said that I’d have to wait because budgets for current salary are set and can only be reviewed at particular points in the year. I didn’t like the answer (and I did end up leaving, but for job advancement purposes) but it made sense. And, later, when I journeyed into management, I saw the flip side and how salary increases usually come out of one pool of money that have to be distributed amongst everybody, and it’s a separate pool than money for new hires. Just a budget fact that’s true at most companies. And, to get an exception usually requires approval by someone many levels (director or VP) and they usually are focused on things on things to do with the entire organization, so this might not even catch their radar.

    Does this suck? Absolutely. I’m not defending it. I’m just stating how it is. But before you say “That’s a bad culture, leave” just know that it’s pretty much like that in most companies, big or small. I’ve worked companies in size of 10 – 100,000 employees, and it’s generally the same story when it comes to stuff like this. So, don’t be so quick to tell her to quit, because it’s not a guarantee she’ll find something with a better situation.

  52. Jim says:

    I know this doesn’t fit the situation exactly, but I couldn’t help remembering the parable of the laborers in the vinyard. Take from it what you will.

    CHAPTER 20

    1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
    2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
    3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
    4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
    5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
    6 And about the aeleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
    7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
    8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
    9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
    10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
    11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,
    12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
    13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
    14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
    15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
    16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

  53. kitty says:

    Another perspective here from someone who’s been working for a large company for a very long time and has encountered this situation.

    What is happening is relatively common in many companies, especially large ones. When I started working it was called “salary compression”. Basically what is happening is that the starting salaries go up faster than salaries for existing employees. The raises for existing employees come from a pool of money specifically allocated for raises. The size of this pool usually depends on how well the company is doing as well as internal policies, inflation (some have inflation adjustments, some don’t), how much other companies are paying for the same job, etc. Too many years in the same position or some years with small or no raises tend to depress one’s salary. Big companies rarely give big raises – a 7% raise is pretty good, over 10% is usually reserved for promotions, 3-4% is OK. In my company 0% is pretty common as well if you get a salary which is already above market average for your skills and average evaluation or if the business is not doing well.

    When a company wants to hire someone – be it a person off the street or a recent graduate from a good university it has to offer enough money to attract good people. A good qualified candidate has a lot of bargaining power, much more so than the existing employee, unless the existing employee is prepared to leave. One can threaten to leave, but if one does it, one needs to be prepared for the manager to call her bluff.

    So, if she really wants for her salary to always keep up with new hires she can change jobs in order to constantly take advantage of larger starting salaries. But if she chooses to work for the same company for many years (as I do) then she should forget what new people are getting and think about how she increase her salary: ask the manager about what is needed to get the next promotion: maybe her teaching the new hire can be qualified as “leading the project” and maybe displaying leadership qualities can get her the next promotion, or maybe take some classes to learn new skills.

    Another thing to consider is that while the new person may not know the specifics of this particular job, she may have other qualities which would enable her to get on board fairly quickly and contribute more than an experienced person. For example, in my field (CS – software engineering), while new graduates may not know details of the specific project they have more up-to-date knowledge and fresh ideas whereas experienced people may know everything about the project they are working on but haven’t had time to follow advances in technology. I have 20 years of software R&D experience now, but while I’ve tried to keep my skills up-to-date, I’ve also seen young people come in and come up with great original ideas while still learning specifics of the project and the more experienced employees who had outdated skills.

  54. disavow says:

    Best thing to do is to get a job offer somewhere else, then show the offer letter to the current employer. If they value you, they’ll pony up ASAP. If not, then just accept the offer.

  55. Sally says:

    I agree with Jim, regarding the parable of the vineyard workers. I was in the same situation. I started job hunting, not because I found out an inexperienced fresh college graduate was hired at $1500 more than what I was making, but because I started feeling unhappy with my job. Even this new hire advised me to start looking, and he said that with my experience and college degree, I should be making at least 25% over my then-salary. He got paid what he asked to get paid, and that’s his business. I should’ve asked for an actual amount when I asked for a raise. I didn’t, so they gave me a small raise. There are a lot of factors to consider, not just salary, when contemplating about leaving a job. I made a weighted pros and cons list that led me to my decision to leave my job. Fortunately, the money is better.

  56. Lorraine says:

    Ok, first of all, she’s SO lucky that she has a good second income and doesn’t “have to work.” Must be nice! Quit whining and thank God you have job to go to everyday! Granted it’s an employer’s market and is going to be for a long time. If the situation is unbearable, which it sometimes can be, then find something else and then leave – properly, of course. I know it’s not easy being loyal and then getting kicked in the behind. Been there!

  57. Lisa says:

    In disclosure of salary to co-workers is taken very seriously, to the point of dismissal if necessary. For all you know, there are conditions to the salary, or other benefits that you receive that this person may not be getting, or special circumstances or agreements under which the greater pay is granted – or the person has special skills, training or education that you don’t know about. An arrangement like that would be something kept strictly between the hiring manager and the employee (and really, so should the pay rate) – unless the employee has a really big mouth or the hiring manager is very unprofessional.

    I can understand being upset, as I have gone through the situation myself – it sucks to know that someone with the same or fewer responsibilities than you is getting $2 more! (Of course, in my situation it was because she was bilingual and I was not, which is only fair.) But I would say that as long as you can continue where you are and cope with the fact that someone is paid more than you – and as long as what you’re paid is a reasonable amount for someone in your field and position – stay! Unless knowing the simple fact that someone gets more money than you for the “same job” makes you so miserable that you can’t possibly continue, or you’re already so unhappy you’d rather leave, just stay where you are.

    And, as my mother always told me… never, ever leave a job willingly unless you’ve already got another lined up!

  58. Allen says:


    Sometime ago, I was in a job position (same company I’m at now) where the payscales were drastically downgraded ($4 – $5 hour). Nobodies pay was reduced, but all future promotions were to the new scale.

    I was offered a promotion to the new scale, and I accepted it, even though I was making substantially less then the person at the next desk.

    To make a long story short, 10yrs later, my salary has almost tripled from those days, and I am highly respected in my job!!!

  59. Raymond says:

    I think wages should depend on competence and not seniority. A low performer who stayed with the company for 20 years is no more usefull than the peak performer who’s been there for two years UNLESS the senior employee knows lots of things that can’t be passed on to youngers workers.

    that said, i think that the salary of any new worker should be set lower than everyone else doing the same thing until he proves what he’s worth. So maybe the person in training should earn like 3$ an hour less since he’s not as efficient BUT that amount should be put into his trainning. the new worker should be the one who gets a promise of a raise in a few months if he’s good enough.

    on the other end, if a new employee is highly skilled and motivated, there’s no reason to keep him at the bottom of the salary ladder once he has proved it. in some businesses, the seniority takes a greater place than the ability to do the work correctly when deciding who gets promoted. it might be a problem associated with unions in some large industries where older workers keep the most wanted positions while the youngers ones work harder for no job security at all because permanent positions get gradually replaced by temporary ones. some of these temp jobs may pay better, but with no health plan, no pension fund, lousy vacation periods…

    Since wages don’t seem to be negotiated by a union where Bea works, some unfair practices may go unpunished. During good economic times, new workers may earn too much to do too little, but they’ll be out of the door in no time when business gets harder.

    Now the advice part! i think Bea should appologise for asking for a raise that way. it’s frustrating to bite the bullet when we know we’re right, but that’s often where the greater gains are. Bea could just say that even if the current salary was fine, the greedyness kicked in when learning the salary of the other person. since more income would be appreciated, offer to follow some trainning (as long as you really want to learn more, but if you don’t want maybe the job’s not that interesting) pertinent to the job to sharpen the skills most usefull for the next performance evaluation. Maybe you get that raise later, maybe not, you might at least follow a few college classes at the employer’s expense. you can then claim you’re overqualified for the job to justify searching for another one if you still want to. you can’t decide how much you earn, but you have perfect control over the pride and joy you feel for doing your work right. imho, if no money is needed, only the pride and joy matters.

  60. English Major says:

    Haha, sorry. I just have to… (argh)
    The phrase is: “Cut off your nose to spite your face.” Otherwise, it is nonsensical. Although it wouldn’t be the first common phrase to not make sense… “Same difference” comes to mind :)

  61. Legal Receptionist says:

    I’m coming up on 2 years with no increase which means I am now earning less than when I was hired to just answer the phones. Not only did I take on duties from the legal secretary, I also: re-organized the file room; streamlined the paper process saving time and supplies; referred three clients from whom the firm made big bucks; am in charge of all marketing/supply replenishment/ ordering medical/police records; make copies of records, discs, photos; changed the culture from one of sniping to one where people are nice to one another; and never say “no” to request for me to do extra work.

    When I asked for a raise last summer, they said they didn’t have the funds.

    Then I found out I’m the only one NOT getting paid holidays or vacation, AND that a part-time employee (4 days/month) actually got a Xmas bonus, I finally decided to go looking for another job.

    Once I decided to go where all my hard work will be appreciated instead of being stepped on here, I disconnected. That means they could double my pay and I would tell them too late. (And that is never going to happen.)

    I’m leaving the law firm because they wanted to save 6.00/day. In the meantime, the part-time job I took to make ends meet has resulted in praise, two increases, many thank-yous, and a lot more fun. When it turns into full time this summer, I will walk away from the law firm, thank them for the “job security,” and walk away knowing I was the best hire they’d ever had for that job.

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