- If you suspect you’re being paid less than your coworkers, do some research before approaching HR.
- Career experts shared how to gather information on your worth in the market.
- They also shared scripts for conversations with colleagues, your manager, and with HR.
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Sharing your salary isn’t exactly taboo, but in many social circles, including most offices, it’s pretty darn close.
Still, it’s important to know if you’re being fairly compensated for your work. That’s especially true for women and workers of color, who are paid less than their white, male counterparts.
On average, a woman working full time earns 80.7 cents for every dollar a man working full time earns. Women’s median annual earnings are $9,909 less than men’s, according to data from the US Census Bureau. The wage discrepancies among races is even more grim, with Black and Hispanic women earning 67% and 58% of their white male colleagues’ salaries, respectively.
Across industries, employers and employees are paying more attention to — and speaking out about — these pay gaps.
Despite this, women are 19% less likely to ask for more money than men, per new Glassdoor research. The survey of 1,400 professionals found 48% of employed women plan to ask for a raise in the coming months, compared to 59% of employed men.
Alexandra Dickinson, the founder of Ask For It, a negotiation training company, has noticed that people are slightly more comfortable discussing their salary now than they were just a few years ago. The mindset today’s professionals have, she said, is, “Even if I feel a little weird about it, it’s important to do this.”
If you think you may be underpaid — either because of these historical trends, management oversight, or any reason really — here’s what career experts and leaders say you should do.
This is an updated version of an article originally published in February 2020.
If you’re starting to suspect you’re underpaid, do your research.
Doing some digging (on your personal computer, not at work) is your first stop.
Glassdoor.com, Payscale.com, and Salary.com are great resources to start your search, according to Dickinson. But you shouldn’t end your search with those websites, she added, since the data there is self-reported, and not always accurate.
The “gold standard,” Dickinson said, is to ask three women and three men who have similar levels of experience to weigh in on what they think your salary range should be. You’ll get a more complete picture if you aim for diversity of race in your sample as well, according to the career expert.
Sometimes the best way to find out what you’re worth in the market is to interview for another job. “I recommend that everyone proactively interview a couple times a year because I think it’s really healthy,” said Patty McCord, who was Netflix’s original chief talent officer and now runs an HR consultancy. (Netflix still encourages employees to occasionally interview at other companies, and to share with their manager what they learn.)
Respectfully request salary information from people in your industry.
Don’t ask people upfront to share their salary with you. Instead, approach it like you’re gathering information, said Erica Keswin, a workplace strategist and the author of “Bring Your Human to Work.”
Keswin recommended using the following script to broach the topic:
I’m trying to do some research into salaries for different levels of consultants [or whatever your job function is]. Do you have a sense of what the salary range for a consultant with three to six years of experience [or however much experience you have] would be? I would love to get your advice based on your experience, either in your current company or in the company you were at before, for a range. What are you seeing in terms of low, medium, and high salary ranges for the position?
If you don’t have many industry connections, Dickinson suggested cold messaging professionals in similar roles on LinkedIn. Start out by pointing out something you have in common, she said. Maybe you went to the same college or have worked for the same company.
Then make the ask, following Dickinson’s script:
I’m doing some research because I’m preparing to negotiate [my salary]. I think you have some information that could help me. Would you be willing to share your ballpark salary with me?
Dickinson said you’re more likely to hear back if you pique the recipient’s curiosity: I’d be happy to follow up with you on my results.
Ask HR for more information about how salaries are determined.
Even if you’re feeling frustrated, Keswin said, approach your HR manager in a calm, collected manner. Underscore your gratitude for your position and bring up the issue of your salary in an inquisitive manner: Can you help me understand how salary is determined at the company? By whom and when?
If HR isn’t transparent about how salary is calculated, McCord said, it could be a red flag that the company isn’t compensating people fairly.
Consider why you might be making less than a coworker.
It’s possible that there’s a good reason why you’re earning less than your teammate.
“Yes, maybe you’re making less than the three people that sit in your side of the office,” Keswin said. “But maybe one of them has an extra certification you don’t have, or has taken on some extra projects.”
And don’t forget the other factors that make up your compensation package, like benefits and vacation time, said Gabby Lennox, a senior consultant and career coach for Korn Ferry x SoFi. You may have a better deal on those than your coworkers do.
Prepare a compelling case for why you want more money.
Career experts agree that you should ask for a raise only if your performance has been strong. And you should have the evidence to prove it.
Dickinson advises people to ask themselves: What’s your unique contribution to the team or organization overall? Even if you shouldn’t have to make a case for fairer pay, she added, the reality is you may have to.
Quantitative data on how you’ve “moved the needle” is ideal. To use Dickinson’s example, perhaps your work increased newsletter open rates by a certain percentage, or you helped secure a project worth a significant (and specific) amount of money.
Practice making the case to your manager.
Once you’ve done your research and have a good sense of the salary range you should be in, think about what Dickinson calls your “wish, want, and walk” numbers.
Your wish number is your dream outcome. It’s the number you first ask your boss for, like a 10% raise.
Your want number is your target outcome. It’s the more realistic number you’re hoping to meet or exceed. Perhaps that’s an 8% raise.
Your walk number is the lowest number you’d be willing to accept, or the point below which “this deal is no longer good for you,” Dickinson said. That could be a 5% raise.
Dickinson tells every professional to end the pitch to their boss by saying, I would like a raise of X%. Avoid saying, “I want,” “I need,” or “I deserve,” which she thinks can come across as too needy or demanding, and “I was hoping for,” which suggests that you’re under-confident.
It’s critical to practice, Dickinson said. Otherwise you may wind up tongue-tied when it comes time to make the ask. Role play with a friend or trusted colleague until you can deliver your pitch articulately.
Approach your boss at an opportune time.
Don’t wait until the month before bonuses and promotions are being handed out to ask for a raise.
Lennox said you’ll typically want to start discussing professional development with your boss months before you actually ask for a raise. This way your accomplishments have been front-and-center in your boss’ mind for a while, and discussions about compensation are more organic.
After you’ve spoken with your boss, document the conversation.
Getting a raise can take several months, which is why Dickinson said it’s important to document, in writing, that it’s something you’ve been working toward.
Send your boss a follow-up email summarizing the conversation, including the raise you asked for and the number they agreed to. (Make sure your manager responds to the email.)
If you can’t get the salary you want, don’t quit right away.
If you find out you’re underpaid and can’t get more, that doesn’t necessarily mean you quit today, Dickinson said. Instead it means you need to reevaluate your next steps.
Consider what you’d have to do in order to get the raise you want, and ask yourself if it’s worth the wait — and the extra work.
Ultimately, the decision to stay at your current company or look elsewhere for a job is a highly personal one. It depends on factors like your current financial situation, your family circumstances, and whether you have a strong professional network that can help you find a new job quickly.
If you do decide to quit, Dickinson said, “at least you know you weren’t impulsive about it.” And once you start looking for a new job, you won’t need to spend much time figuring out your desired salary. “All the hard work of researching what the range is for your next job is already done,” Dickinson said.