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?