Discovering that your co-worker is paid more than you can feel like a slap in the face, even if you were previously happy with your salary. Finding out about a pay disparity can feel profoundly unfair and can make you wonder if your employer doesn’t value you as much as you thought they did.
But before you get angry, take a look at these five legitimate reasons your co-worker might be getting paid more than you:
1. The job market might have been different when your co-worker was hired. The market worth of most jobs fluctuates. In tough job markets, it’s much easier for employers to find good people willing to work for lower salaries. If if your co-worker was hired when there were more job openings and few candidates, and you were hired during a market that had slimmer pickings for job seekers, that could explain why you were brought on at different salary levels.
2. Your co-worker might have negotiated better than you did when she was hired.Some people negotiate job offers far more aggressively than others – and some don’t negotiate at all. Your co-worker’s salary could be higher than yours simply because she asked for more at the time of hiring or made a more compelling case for why she deserved it.
3. Your co-worker might have asked for a raise when you didn’t. At many companies, you need to ask for a raise in order to get one. If your co-worker asks and you don’t, that could explain your different salaries.
4. Your co-worker’s performance might be better than yours. Ultimately, compensation is supposed to reflect value, and it’s possible that your co-worker is contributing at a higher level than you are. It can sting to hear that, but people are notoriously bad judges of their own performance relative to other people’s. It could also be the case that you’re excellent at what you do, but your co-worker is earning more because she’s great at bringing in new business or pinch-hitting when your manager is away, or some piece of her work that you don’t even see.