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Do you know how much your coworkers earn?

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Money is always a touchy subject, but it’s even touchier when you compare apples to apples–i.e., what your peer coworkers are making–instead of the apples-to-oranges guessing you might do of the doctor/lawyer-income couple down the block.

Last week my husband found out a former (thank god) coworker was making more than twice what he (my husband) was earning in a similar position. Was this a juicy tidbit of insider information? Sure. Does he wish he’d never found out? Absolutely.

If you’re curious about what others in your position are earning, on average, throughout the country, it’s easy enough to find statistics; here’s the Bureau of Labor’s annual report. What’s harder is pinning down specifics that reflect wage differences that take into account the diversity of economic regions, years of industry experience, and individual company budgets. An annual salary of $30K a year will get you more in Duluth, MN, than it will in San Francisco, for instance, and you can’t expect the same pay from a nonprofit mom-and-pop business than from a Fortune 500 company.

A better way to compare might be to search for local job listings on Craigslist or Monster to see what pay ranges are being offered for jobs similar to yours. Or you could just accidentally overhear a coworker talking about her earnings and try not to be too sad (or smug!) about it. Then again, maybe it’s best to just stick your fingers in your ears and sing la la la whenever the subject comes up.

On the one hand, this is the sort of thing that can drive a person crazy if there’s nothing to be done about it. No use hand-wringing over something we can’t control, right? (Not that that’s ever stopped me from doing it at least a little.) On the other hand, if you find out a coworker makes more than you doing a similar job, finding that out might be the perfect impetus to finally get you to ask for that well-deserved raise or promotion.

Do you know how much your coworkers make? Are you glad you know, or would you just as soon forget it?

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One comment so far...

  • There is usually some way to get an idea of whether someone is x degrees above or below you. I don’t tend to be a “materialistic” person, but the unfairness or plain stupidity of some compensation situations is galling.

    For a while, I had access to my boss’s email and saw the back-and-forth as a new employee negotiated his salary. He ended up being hired for about 50% more than I was making, and he ended up being a very poor performer. Nevertheless, they kept him for 5 years before firing him. Meanwhile I probably never made as much as he did. Well, of course not - he was a man with a wife and children. (I might have asked whether I’d get a raise as soon as I became a mom, since the company was so “family friendly.” Ha.)

    Another time I got a promotion and my boss was so proud of the raise he got me. “You’re now making *almost* as much as [the younger, less educated, lower producing *male* down the hall].” He didn’t expect my reaction to be “waddya mean *almost*?”

    As much as I might have been happier not knowing, I think you kinda know these things whether you’re told or not. So then you have to decide how to feel about them and what, if anything, to do about it.

    Anyhoo, now I am a partner in a business and I know what everyone makes, and I really don’t care. We look out for each other and the long term health of the company, so the details don’t matter that much.

    SKL  |  June 12th, 2012 at 1:01 pm