Nov. 18, 2020

What To Do When New Employees Get Paid More Than You Do

What To Do When New Employees Get Paid More Than You Do

Have you ever had a nagging feeling that someone who was recently hired at the company you work for is being paid more than you?  You could ask, but it takes time to get to know them well enough that they will share it without hesitation.  What should you do? 

The honest answer is, you can’t control what someone else is earning, so don’t ask.  Focus your time and energy on what you can control.  You can control the amount and quality of the work you deliver. You can control the way you communicate your value to your manager and others. And you control how you develop and manage your reputation at work.  Stop thinking about the new person and what they are earning; instead, focus on managing how your boss views you and your contributions each day. 

3 Ways to Be a Key Contributor

First, focus on delivering the results your manager needs from you.  When you meet with your manager to review your progress each week, ask if you are prioritizing your work the right way. Then listen to their feedback and make the right adjustments.  Your boss has information you don’t have.   Be sure to ask your manager this question.  “I want to be sure the quality of my work is meeting your needs.  Can we talk about that today? I don’t want to wait until my next performance review to talk about this.”  Consistent feedback throughout the year helps you ensure that you are adjusting your approach frequently instead of just the one or two times a year when your manager gives you formal feedback.

Next, pay attention to how your manager is working with their boss. Ask your manager how success is being measured for the department you are in.  It sounds like this.  “Mark, can you tell me about how your boss, Sarah, is assessing our department’s contributions?  What does she want the team to deliver to ensure that the company is successful?”  You want to make sure your manager is successful with their boss.  You can even take it a step further. You can listen for ways to help your co-workers deliver the right results. Maybe you know a system better than anyone else in the group. You could offer to do training to improve everyone’s skills in that system.  Then your co-workers are producing better results, and you are helping to ensure that your reputation is positive.

Finally, when the CEO or other C-suite leaders are talking about the business listen carefully to what they share.  Are revenues increasing as expected?  Did they say that expenses need to be cut before the end of the third quarter?  Did you hear that a major client didn’t renew for the next year because customer service wasn’t meeting their expectations?  Think about the business as if you were the business owner. Then develop a list of ways you can make an impact on the performance metrics that the CEO cares about.  This makes you a more valuable employee because you are thinking about how you can contribute beyond just your department and role. 

When to ask for more money?

After you have made sure that your performance is not just meeting your manager’s expectations but exceeding them, it is time to do the research to find out how much you should be earning.  You can find free pay data on websites like LinkedIn, Glassdoor, PayScale, and  Once you know what your job is worth, then you can plan your discussion about your pay and performance.

First, develop your business case. Write the job responsibilities you had when you were first hired. Then create a second list that shows what you are doing now.  Be sure to include what you are proud of achieving and tie those accomplishments to the success metrics your C-suite leaders talk about. 

Next, schedule the meeting with your manager. Let them know ahead of time you want to visit about your performance and pay so they can prepare. And bring the summary of the pay research you did as well as the business case you developed.  Be sure to start the conversation by saying how grateful you are for the opportunity to work there and that you enjoy your role and ability to contribute to the company’s success.  Talk about your job responsibility changes and accomplishments first.  Be sure to tie those back to how they help the company overall. Then, bring up how your pay compares to the research you did.  And, wait for feedback.  Take notes and calmly listen.

You can easily get nervous and talk too much.  Or you can say the wrong thing if you didn’t prepare the right way.  Or you can come across as entitled or greedy if you don’t talk about your impact on the company along with your accomplishments.  There are so many ways this conversation can go wrong. But with planning, practice, and patience you can have a great first conversation.

Yes, that’s right.  This is just the first conversation in the many it will take to get the pay increase you deserve.  It may feel unfair and like it is taking too much effort to get paid what you are worth.  Too often your great work will become expected and the norm instead of being recognized as the significant contribution it is.  You must advocate for yourself in the right way. Pay and performance discussions that lead to a pay increase don’t happen in just one conversation. It often takes multiple conversations over many months to get the approvals and everyone involved to agree.  And the larger the company the longer it will take.

Always ask at the end of the conversation with your manager, “What are the next steps and what more do you need from me?”  Take notes and deliver what is requested. Then ask, “When should I follow up with you to get an update?” 

When you do receive the pay increase, say thank you.  Be gracious and professional and be sure to continue to keep track of your results so you can have more conversations like this when the time is right. 

And what about that new employee that could be making more than you? It doesn’t matter. Focus on what you can control and be the role model in your department.  That way the new employee will look at you as an example. 

by Denise Liebetrau, guest contributor
Denise is the CEO of Prosper Consulting, a firm providing HR & Compensation Consulting, as well as Career and Salary Negotiation Coaching.