- Joshua Rothhaas/flickr
If you suspect you’re paid less than you should be, and the signs are all there, don’t sit back and let it happen. Take action … immediately.
“Assuming you’re feeling dissatisfied in your job due to the sense you’re being underpaid, inaction can make things worse,” says Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.” “The best thing you can do is become proactive and feel that you’re not trapped – which you must remember, you never are.”
Conduct your due diligence, she suggests. “If you find your concerns are unfounded, you’ll be relieved. If your concerns are indeed validated, you can weigh your options, such as preparing your case for a raise, conducting a job search, or both.
Of course, not everyone measures their happiness or success by their income. Some people are willing to tolerate being underpaid because of other job virtues, such as the type of work they do, a boss who is an inspiring mentor, great coworkers, fantastic perks, or potential growth opportunity.
But, in most cases, being underpaid will lead to you feeling undervalued – which can have a negative impact on your productivity and your attitude.
Here’s what to do when you think you’re paid less than you’re worth:
- Flickr / krispdk
Look at your entire compensation package.
Before you do anything, Taylor suggests you consider all the benefits included in your compensation package, such as health insurance, 401(k)s, paid vacation time, free gym membership or cell phone, or child care.
Surf salary sites for facts.
If you’re pretty sure you’re underpaid, you’ll want to start preparing your case for a raise. To do this, you’ll need to conduct research. “You have plenty of online resources to back you up should you want to propose a raise, such as PayScale.com, Glassdoor.com, Indeed.com, and Salary.com,” Taylor says. “You can also discuss industry compensation with your contacts via LinkedIn and other social and industry networks.”
Check job boards.
One of the fastest ways to conduct your salary due diligence is to visit a handful of job boards, including those that specialize in your field, says Taylor.
Think about whether you’d be willing to accept something other than more money.
If there is nothing the company can do in terms of your pay, consider other options that might help you feel more satisfied and fairly treated in your position and that will keep you working for the company, says Michael Kerr, an international business speaker and author of “The Humor Advantage.” “Perhaps it’s more flexibility in your scheduling or what duties you take on, being able to work from home two days a week, additional training, or some other perk that compensates for the lower wage.”
- Flickr/Giuseppe Milo
Weigh the inherent value of the job versus leaving.
“There may be other factors that bode well for your future salary. Maybe there’s an impending favorable change in management, a departure of a colleague whose responsibilities you could assume, or another event,” says Taylor. “Perhaps you love your job, have an amazing boss or coworkers and are willing to overlook salary concerns until you gain more experience.
“Conversely, you may have a tyrant of a boss and have just found your dream job online, at a 25% higher pay. This might be the time to make the big move. If you decide to walk, do so while you’re employed, of course. Consider preparing a ‘pros and cons’ document if you’re having trouble deciding your next move.”
Think long and hard about what you really want, and what you value most, then decide how to proceed.
Make sure it’s not something else.
A feeling of being unappreciated or having overall dissatisfaction with your job can sometimes lead to feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or underpaid. “That’s one of the reasons it’s so helpful and liberating to go on a fact-finding mission,” says Taylor.
“You may find, in the final analysis, that there are other more important factors to address. You may feel undervalued because your true passions can’t be tapped in the position. It could be a catalyst for something much greater.”
Know your strengths.
Before you decide to ask for a possible raise, take an inventory of your unique selling proposition. “Know how you measure up in the industry, department, and company,” says Taylor. “What unique skills and achievements do you bring to the table? Are there intangible people skills you possess that are hard to quantify or duplicate easily, e.g., you’re a great motivator and turnover has been negligible for 10 years?
Present your case and ask for a raise.
“Schedule a convenient, relaxed time for your manager and you to sit down, uninterrupted,” Taylor suggests. “Approach the subject diplomatically, with an upbeat, positive demeanor.”
Have all your facts together about your market value based on solid industry research – and don’t use hearsay about what others are earning. “At the end, show appreciation for your boss’s time, regardless of the outcome. Keep in mind that your boss may not be aware that you’re being paid below market value. In most cases, if you’re a valued employee, it’s less expensive to give you a raise than to replace you.”
Kerr agrees. He recommends expressing your concerns in a constructive way, focusing on the value you bring to the company, and coming armed with data bolstering your case. “Don’t compare yourself to other colleagues, focus on your own career path and goals. And since many companies have a policy that prohibits employees from discussing their salaries, don’t bring up other salaries, unless you speak in generalities.”
- University of Exeter/Flickr
Talk to your HR manager.
You don’t want your boss to feel like you’re going behind their back – but sometimes the pay issue is out of their hands and the only people who do have insights are HR personnel.
“They may be able to tell you what your options are, what the bigger picture looks like in terms of salaries across your company, and they may guide you in mapping out a potential career path that will help you move into a higher paid position, Kerr says.
Know your bottom line.
If you do approach your boss for a raise, know the minimum you’ll accept – and stick to it.
Once you enter a salary negotiation, you shouldn’t “cry wolf” and back down or you’ll risk your credibility, Taylor explains. “It will be difficult to regain it.”
Never offer an ultimatum in the process. “You can always conduct a job search if your manager won’t accept your terms; you don’t want to irritate your boss and jeopardize your job,” Taylor says.
Start a new job search.
If your company isn’t willing to up your pay or your perks, it might be time to move on.
The good news is, you’ve already done your salary research so you’ll be prepared to negotiate when you land your next gig.