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Monday, November 26, 2018

To Check or Not to Check ... that is the Question

One business advice columnist for the New York Times was recently approached on the question of unequal pay. The short version of this story is that the complainant was frustrated that a former supervisor was demoted to her job level, but then paid more money. He’s male. She’s female. She writes to ask whether she should ask for a salary adjustment.

The Times columnist wisely responded by suggesting other factors may be involved. Seniority, experience, and possessing very important skills may be contributing factors. Of course, the company may be trying to offset a significant amount of disappointment and does not want to lose a valuable person who may have advanced to a job over their head. Whatever the reason, it likely would not satisfy the woman who feels shortchanged.

The trouble here is deeper than logic may answer. Employees can easily develop a form of bitterness when they believe that fairness is at stake. Unfortunately, we all have our ideas about what fairness is, and those beliefs are not the same.

This employee's options are limited. Speaking with Human Resources (assuming the company had such a department) could get some understanding. If she still feels wronged, she must learn to accept this or, for the benefit of everyone, seek out another job where she believes she’s treated fairly.

A few years ago, someone submitted a similar complaint to the “Employee X” column in Entrepreneur magazine. This column was for people who needed to “vent” anonymously about a job situation. Pay is pretty personal.

The contributor for this story makes an honest admission in the form of questions. “Why is it that I often find myself obsessing over my salary? Why am I dying to know how much money my co-workers make? I'd like to think it has less to do with my greediness and more to do with my sense of fairness.”

In this case, the writer was working in a great job and environment. All was well until he/she did some research. Observe how quickly job satisfaction changed. The contributor writes, “My excitement quickly began to fade after checking a salary comparison website. I realized that workers in my position and location were making twice as much as I was…Soon, a couple of co-workers left the company and reported back that they were earning tens of thousands of dollars more to do the same work. I knew then that as comfortable as I was at that job, I really was getting played for a fool.”

Needless to say, no one likes to be played for a fool. No one likes to feel used. People want to feel valued and compensation is the main ticket. Note this, however. Our writer has a pattern of discontent over this saying, “At each job I've quit, my salary has left me feeling cheated to some extent.” So add one more frustration: feeling cheated. Ouch!

In my last blog I wrote about how gratitude can change a workplace. Employers can make the world better for everyone with this spirit. But is doesn’t remove perceived unfair business practices.

What to do? On the employer side, be willing to openly discuss questions about pay decisions either directly or through human resources. Transparency can help mitigate the problem without sharing personal information. Discourage sharing of pay and benefit information between employees as most employers do. And the hard-nosed truth, don’t be a weasel.

On the employee side, take step one: be grateful if you have a job that you love and gives you purpose. Be willing to acknowledge there are factors to which you may not be privy about the pay of others. If you still find yourself living with frustration, make the tough decision and go to a place where you feel you’re paid what you’re worth.

One particular proverb is worth the discipline to learn. “It's healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up.” (Proverbs 14:30, CEV)

And you might want to stay away from those salary comparison websites.

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