We Do the Same Job; He Gets Paid a LOT More


“Bill” and I spent the last year and a half working alongside each other. We handle the same job duties and were hired at roughly the same time. Three months ago, he decided to start his own business, and his work performance went downhill. Last week, our manager fired him.

That’s when I learned Bill makes eight hundred dollars a month more than I do. I couldn’t believe it. I work as hard as Bill; I have the same education he does; and we have similar experience levels.

So, how come he’s paid more than me? It’s not that I don’t do a good job. My manager regularly praises me, and I’ve taken on increasing levels of responsibility. It feels like my company has taken advantage of me for eighteen months. I don’t want to create an HR or legal fight; I just want fair pay.


Here’s how to get your raise:  

Explore why you’re paid less.

Your email addresses four common reasons employers pay one employee less than another—different job duties, different levels of experience and education, and being hired at different times. Given the labor shortages in recent years, many employers pay recent hires more than continuing employees.

Bill may have negotiated more effectively than you at time of hire, particularly if your company urgently needed a new hire, and Bill wouldn’t join for less than a certain salary. You may have been so excited to be hired, you didn’t realize you could negotiate your starting salary. Additionally, many employees also assume their coworkers do the “same job” they do, only to learn that their coworkers aren’t their coworkers, but instead individuals charged with higher levels of responsibility and expectation. Your employer may have felt Bill would produce work of a higher quality or make better judgment calls than you.

Your employer might have discriminated against you, because Bill was male or younger or had other characteristics your employer preferred to yours, If so, you have a legal basis for claiming discrimination. Bill may have also lied to you, and claimed a higher salary than he makes.

Make a compelling case.

The wage discrepancy you’ve uncovered is the catalyst for your asking for a wage increase but can’t be the crux of the argument you present. You need to make a case for why you deserve greater compensation—based on what employees in similar jobs make and the value you offer your employer.

You can learn what others make by reviewing Salary.com, PayScale, and industry-specific websites, and by reaching out to others in your professional network and that you locate on LinkedIn. Create a spreadsheet that provides evidence you’re underpaid.

Next, outline why your skills, commitment, hard work, work quality and accomplishments merit a salary increase. Praise isn’t the same as bottom-line results. Have you hit all your targets, boosted productivity, saved the company money, or implemented new programs? Paying you more needs to create a win/win in value for your company as well as you.

At the meeting itself.

Set up a meeting with your manager and present your spreadsheet and case. If you’re angry, dump your emotion ahead of the meeting or use the other “cooling” strategies I present in chapter 18 of Navigating Conflict, https://amzn.to/3rCKoWj.Start the meeting by saying, “it has come to my attention that others make much more for doing the same job.”

The best negotiations are conversations and not monologues. Ask your manager questions such as, “Is there a reason I make less than my coworker even though we do the same job?” and listen to the answers. During the meeting, leverage silence. For example, after you ask, “Can you talk with me about how to close the gap between what I believe I’m worth in the marketplace and what I’m making?” stop talking.

Come prepared to work through any objections. For example, if you’re told “there’s no money in the budget for a salary increase,” ask “when will the next budget be prepared?”

Don’t take “no” for a final answer.

If you’re not given an increase, can ask for additional time off in lieu of an increase. You can also look for a different employer, or you can rethink whether you want to make this an HR or legal problem. Your employer may be violating the Equal Pay Act, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/oasam/centers-offices/civil-rights-center/internal/policies/equal-pay-for-equal-work. If you and your coworker handle substantially similar duties (in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility), you may have a case. Good luck.

© 2023, Lynne Curry

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2 thoughts on “We Do the Same Job; He Gets Paid a LOT More

  1. When I read the headline, my thought was, “OK, the one getting higher pay is a guy and the poster is a woman. Case Closed. It is pay discrimination.” When I read your response, I realized it could be quite a bit more complicated. I like the part of your argument where you say something along the lines of, you may think you and the guy are doing the same job, but maybe you’re not, and he has more responsibilities. This makes me think of a certain person I regard highly and am so glad I know who worked for more than 2 decades for an employer, doing the dicey stuff his boss didn’t want to do (and get blamed for), covering up for and picking up for other people’s messes, and doing his own job quite well and quite efficiently. Then he retired. Two years later his boss, who was also quite competent and a protector and supporter of most of her employees, died. Now they have only themselves and a couple of new hires who don’t know and can’t do much more than what those who are left can. Dimly, they realized things are different and not always in a good way. Now, some other long term and largely competent employee has gone. When my person retired, none of the rest of them wanted to apply for his job, even though at other times they claimed (at least to themselves) that they were doing almost the same job as him. (In reality, in most cases, not even close.) There’s a lot of somewhat- competent-but-not-fully out there and a lot of misguidedness and jealousy. This is not the workplace I signed up for, and I’m glad to be retired and not in it. No doubt, the complainer will do all of the job of looking at pay-scale websites and job descriptions at work instead of doing the job. So it goes, to quote Kurt Vonnegut. It also sounds like, in real pay discrimination cases, the burden of proof is on the person bringing the pay complaint, and the person probably should be working at an equal or higher level of achievement and productiveness than the person they’re complaining is earning higher pay then they.

    1. I agree with you. And this month three different people called/wrote with similar stories. The one who most pressed for a blog post, however, was insistent s/he didn’t want an HR/legal response, so I left it to the end. And you’re also correct, sometimes the story is a lot more complicated, and comes down to whoever negotiates their starting salary win. And some managers won’t let some great new hires negotiate–for unfair reasons.

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