My Coworker is Earning More Money Than I Am: What Should I Do?

My Coworker is Earning More Money Than I Am: What Should I Do?

Dear Farnoosh,

I found out through the grapevine that a male coworker who has been at the company just as long as I have, with the same title and responsibilities, earns more than I do. I want to scream! How can I bring this up with my boss and earn what’s equal? I’m tempted to storm into my boss’s office and demand more money—but I know that will just backfire. Help!


Philadelphia, PA

Dear Marie,

What you have learned at this point is just a rumor. It doesn’t sound like you’ve actually received proof of your coworker’s compensation. And even if you did have his paystub in hand, it doesn’t really serve as the foundation of a healthy discussion with your boss. While I know you’re infuriated, remember that you never want to base any professional conversation, especially one that concerns upward mobility in a company, on emotions. Take these steps before showing your hand.

Research Your Salary

Are you underpaid in general? Here’s what to do if you feel you’re not getting paid enough: Find out how much the average hourly rate is for someone of your education experience level. At you can compare your salary to others in your area and find out if you’re making less for free. If yours is a part-time or hourly wage gig, job listing sites like and may be able to provide you with an estimate of how much starting salaries are in certain industries. If you find out you’re making around the average or less than average, use that info as a talking point when discussing your pay with your boss.

Review Your Achievements

You should always be keeping track of your progress at work with all your positive reviews from managers and higher-ups. This should be the main focus during a conversation with your manager about your salary. You may not even have to bring up your coworker’s alleged greater compensation. “While there is a benefit to letting it be known that you are aware of the discrepancy, I tend to encourage people to go into the raise conversation from the perspective of: These are my accomplishments, this is what I’ve delivered for the company, and this is how I have earned an increase in salary,” says Nicole Williams, career expert and author of Girl on Top.

Get Your Facts Straight

“If you decide to play the equal pay card, make sure your information is accurate, be prepared to have your performance compared to your male colleague, and recognize the potential for a bad taste in the mouth of your employer,” says Nicole. The tricky part will be actually proving that your coworker earns more than you. It would not be appropriate to start asking around or ask him directly. That’s confidential information. Nicole adds, “That said, after you’ve had the stand-alone ‘here is what I’ve delivered’ chat and there is no room for discussion, show your hand.”

Tell us in the comments: Do you know what your colleagues earn? What's the culture around your office when it comes to salaries?


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