Salary is a touchy subject. Finding out that someone on your team is paid more can easily lead to disgruntlement, and it’s not like you can march into your boss’s office and start yelling about it. There are much more diplomatic ways to ask for more cash.
It’s fine to approach your manager and say you’d like to have a conversation about salary—so long as you’re not visibly angry as you do so. And whatever you do, don’t make your salary conversation about how much your co-workers are paid. “Discussing salary with coworkers can only open up a can of worms,” said David Patterson, president and senior practice leader for executive recruiter Kineta Group/Sanford Rose Associates. “If management finds out, it could make you look dissatisfied.”
Start the Conversation
It pays to have an honest discussion with your employer, and find out how you can improve your value to the organization. As Patterson points out, ask what you can do in the next three, six, or twelve months to move up in salary. Your boss is likely to appreciate your commitment to the job. “The best bet is to inquire what salary ranges exist within a particular department, instead of asking for specific salaries,” he said.
Do Some Research
Executive recruiters who specialize in the IT industry—or even better, a specific tech job title—are good sources of salary information. “Networking is their stock in trade, and since they spend all day networking with others like you, asking what their salaries are, and negotiating offers from other companies like yours, they know more about market rates than anyone else in the industry,” Patterson said. Online resources can also help, but maintain a healthy skepticism about the numbers—not all Websites are created equal.
Know the Boss
According to Peggy Klaus, executive coach and author of The Hard Truth About Soft Skills: Workplace Lessons Smart People Wish They’d Learned Sooner, it’s important to know the “emotional temperature” of your boss before you start the salary discussion. If they value employees and their input, the conversation could be an easy one. “You can sense it,” said Klaus. “You need to know your company’s practices and principles around money before you can have a conversation about it.” Certain companies are known for being tight-fisted, and some organizations are a bit more generous when it comes to pay.
Get a Grip
Be realistic when it comes to pay. If a co-worker on your project team is making more than you, they just might have more experience, education, or job responsibilities than you. “Salary is so dependent on a variety of factors,” Klaus said. Not only is pay dependent on the job title and what a specific company generally pays, companies also base pay on what they think you are individually worth. It’s not uncommon to find people in the same position who are paid different salaries, and that’s often because of their individual capabilities.