Salary discrimination. Looking for advice to help a coworker negotiate.
August 3, 2013 12:19 PM   Subscribe

The new hire is making more than someone who has been there for years and is still doing most of the work. What should I tell my coworker so that she can negotiate a fair salary?

I work at a company that has a cubicle type setup with different departments sharing the same space. Since I exchange documents with other divisions it's easy to get up and walk over to the person's desk. Because of this I work with a few people outside of my immediate group on a daily basis. We all get along and have each other's back but office politics always interfere.

One of my coworkers has been there before I was hired. She survived rounds of company layoffs by working up the ladder and there was a time where she was the only person left in the department. Somehow she managed to pull off the workload of 5-10 people. When the economic situation improved they hired another person but as a manager. It didn't make any sense. What they needed was someone to share the workload coming in.

She pretty much knows that he's making more but she's still carrying the department's weight. Because of his title he thinks it's his job to delegate. She's resigned to the fact that the company is messed up and that's the way it is. I'm pissed (along with fellow coworkers) on her behalf. We call her super mom because she does everything without complaining and want to help her out.

Is there a way to find out what this guy's salary is casually in conversation? From what she knows so far it could be up to twice as much. It might give her some leverage for negotiating or a figure to aim for. If she finds out a number or a range how can she use this to ask for a better salary? The last time she asked for an increase she got the we can't afford it excuse. I don't think the higher ups even know how much work she's doing. Any advice for to help her get the salary she deserves?
posted by adapt to Work & Money (26 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stay out of it.

This is her battle and you can't fight it for her. She's been due a raise for forever and she's not claimed it. She hasn't left and she's not going to stand up and fight. Accept it.

Now you can encourage her to knock it off. No overtime, no working through lunches, Stop at five, pick it up again at 8:30 the next day.

But there are people out there who LOVE to feel that they are the essential cog in an organization, they love to feel put upon and to play the victim. They'll martyr themselves to the cause and they'll be thrilled that others are angry on their behalf.

Make a note of this. Why would YOU work at a place where this shit goes on?

But I reiterate. Stay OUT of it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:29 PM on August 3, 2013 [23 favorites]


She doesn't deserve a raise because someone else makes more. That's a childish argument. If she thinks she deserves a raise based on what she does for the company, then she needs to build an argument based on that fact. Leave someone else, and their salary, out of this.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:29 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, this is not, in any way, shape, or form, "salary discrimination."
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:30 PM on August 3, 2013 [6 favorites]


Nthing that this is none of your business. Also, the other guy is a manager. It is his job to delegate (and is probably why he's making a lot more than her).
posted by jabes at 12:31 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


Any advice for to help her get the salary she deserves?

Yes. Mind your own business.

HR pay scales are arbitrary. Bullshit even. Her leverage here is to threaten to quit. As that isn't likely to be a credible threat in today's economic environment, there's not a heck of a lot she can do. Dysfunctional workplace is dysfunctional.
posted by valkyryn at 12:32 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, I sympathise with her and the situation. It's crappy. I know very well the pay-scale issue.

She pretty much knows that he's making more but she's still carrying the department's weight. Because of his title he thinks it's his job to delegate.

(On the same page with jabes here). From what you wrote, his title means he is her manager and it IS his job to delegate. That's what managers are hired to do. Was it a poor choice of the company to hire a manager instead of a coworker? Probably. Does it mean that he shouldn't do what his title says he should do? No.

Generally managers make more than others. When I first started reading the question, I thought there was going to be a "new hire" that had way less experience who was doing her same job and getting paid more. This is not the case. He is a different title and at a different work level in the hierarchy than her.

So, what can you do? Not much.

All you can do is encourage her to ask for a raise. Her raise though will be based on her work and value to the company, not what her manager makes. If she has value, she can ask for a raise based on her work. She may need to be prepared to leave though as a bargaining chip, and definitely will need to document her workload and history compared to similar positions in the company or job field.

Is there a way to find out what this guy's salary is casually in conversation?

HELL NO! Don't do this. Could she bring it up casually with a co-worker on her same level? Possibly. Can you ask what your manager makes? No way. There is no way to "casually bring up" a salary level. You can't slyly ask what someone makes.

All you can do is support her emotionally and as a coworker/friend. Other than that - stay out of it. It's not your business to interfere. Can you talk about it with her and help her come up with a gameplan outside of work? Sure. That's fine. But don't start plotting and planning and getting into it within your job.
posted by Crystalinne at 12:46 PM on August 3, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is not "salary discrimination". Please stay out of it. That means not agitating about any of your coworkers' salary in any way.

While I am sure "super mom" is a lovely person and good worker, there really isn't such a thing as an indispensable employee. Apple did not crash when Steve Jobs died. The claim that she is doing the work of 5-10 employees is only believable of those were very idle employees.

Because of his title he thinks it's his job to delegate.

He's right. That's what managers do.

If you and the other coworkers really want to see her get a raise, maybe you could all agree to a pay cut and the difference paid to "super mom". See if HR is receptive to that idea.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:50 PM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


One way you CAN help her is by stopping calling her "super mom" and getting other people to stop it too. Moms do all the work around the place because they are supposed to be caring, nurturing martyrs who are not looking for a financial reward. Women often get walked all over in the workplace if they get mentally slotted into the "mom" role by their (usually male) coworkers. Moms are invisible workers. Your coworker needs to become uninvisible and the higher ups need to start seeing her as a senior professional who deserves a higher salary because she is a senior professional.
posted by lollusc at 1:06 PM on August 3, 2013 [40 favorites]


I agree with the other responders that this is mot an issue for you to pursue.
posted by dfriedman at 1:15 PM on August 3, 2013


N-thing that this is not "discrimination" and that it's none of your business.
posted by ewiar at 1:21 PM on August 3, 2013


The last time she asked for an increase she got the we can't afford it excuse. I don't think the higher ups even know how much work she's doing. Any advice for to help her get the salary she deserves?

See that bolded sentence? That's the part she should be working on. It doesn't seem she's made a strong case for being better compensated. A good friend could help her figure out how to do that.
posted by sm1tten at 1:32 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


I understand about minding my own business. This is not our fight. We wanted to give support in negotiating since she got the runaround last time. There wasn't any money in the budget but they could afford to hire a manager for a single person. There's more to the situation but I didn't want to be specific with details. I planned on passing the link to her so she could have advice to plan her next move. Maybe it would have been better if she asked directly through my account. Crystalinne's answer addresses what I'm trying to explain. I just wanted advice for her.
posted by adapt at 1:33 PM on August 3, 2013


If he is her manager then it would behoove her to develop a good working relationship with him, as presumably he's now the person she will talk with about her duties and compensation, and he's now the one who would lobby HR on her behalf for raises and departmental support.
posted by headnsouth at 1:44 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I were her, I'd schedule a meeting to go over her duties. She should write out everything that she's responsible for, also if there are reports, she needs to calendar them so her manager knows what's on her plate and when she's on deadline.

If there are tasks she took on over and above her job description temporarily, she should identify them and say. "Now that we've expanded our resources, perhaps we should reallocate these tasks.

Another thing is to identify who covers her on what tasks. There should be NOTHING that only she knows how to do. If she gets hit by a bus, who can do her job while she heals up?

Once it's all listed out, someone should blush at how much she's doing. If that doesn't happen, she needs to look for a new job.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:45 PM on August 3, 2013 [2 favorites]


One way you CAN help her is by stopping calling her "super mom" and getting other people to stop it too. Moms do all the work around the place because they are supposed to be caring, nurturing martyrs who are not looking for a financial reward. Women often get walked all over in the workplace if they get mentally slotted into the "mom" role by their (usually male) coworkers. Moms are invisible workers. Your coworker needs to become uninvisible and the higher ups need to start seeing her as a senior professional who deserves a higher salary because she is a senior professional.

Repeating for truth. I know you and your co-workers mean it in a flattering way, but nicknames like that undermine her professional reputation. Your mom never asks you for cold hard cash, right?

Causing salary drama is unprofessional behavior, so don't go digging for details about other people's compensation. If your co-worker wants help, show her how to make a case for a salary increase. Basically - she needs to quantify her performance for managers. Did she increase widget production by 15% while handling a 50% reduction in worker hours? Stuff like that - numbers, numbers, numbers. Part of the quantification is to signal to her bosses that she means business, that she is business, and she is valuable. I think managers are less likely to blow off the raise request when it is presented like that. The other part is what do other people in her role at similar firms make? Maybe she simply needs to shop around for another job.
posted by stowaway at 2:55 PM on August 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just left an office where something similar to this was happening. There were claims of a budget cuts, but someone new came into management who did very little of the collective work. Almost everyone found this was unfair. Ultimately from the eyes of the decision makers - and I know this is tough to hear - this has nothing to do with the manager or what the manager makes.

What I learned about this is that HR views "work" very differently than the workers themselves. The key lies in not only her job title but also in her day-to-day work. If she is looking to get paid more, she needs to document everything she does. She can then find positions with "like" levels of responsibility in your geographic area to ask for more money. This can be a long and tedious process. Her direct supervisor will first need to advocate for a likely position title change and then a salary increase.

The best time of year to do this is during the typical staff evaluation. That is a good time to bring the printed job description and the documented actual work load. That is a natural time to point out the discrepancies and advocate.
posted by frizz at 2:56 PM on August 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


She pretty much knows that he's making more but she's still carrying the department's weight. Because of his title he thinks it's his job to delegate. She's resigned to the fact that the company is messed up and that's the way it is. I'm pissed (along with fellow coworkers) on her behalf. We call her super mom because she does everything without complaining and want to help her out.

Hi. Former labor organizer here. I hate it when there is unfairness at work. To top it off, there may be a bit of *some* discrimination going on. It wouldn't be he first time...but it's still maybe as you've put a lot of text here, and nothing really reeks of any kind of discrimination (for protected classes).

You gotta let this go. Seriously. The number of times people like this have told me "I don't want to make waves" or "I don't want to cause problems" is staggering. It's sad. It's like they are fine with being persecuted.

Some people are ok like this. I have no idea why. I really don't. Just leave the situation like when you just *can't* get through.

It really hurts my heart to say 'just stay out of it'.

I'm sorry.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:09 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


adapt: "There wasn't any money in the budget but they could afford to hire a manager for a single person."

I suggest you reframe how you conceive of what "a manager" is/does. At my place of work, for example, the manager in charge of the Whatever program is the manager in charge of the program, regardless of whether the budget has room for them to have a subordinate or not.

If you think of "manager" as meaning "person responsible for supervising multiple other employees", the current setup might well look unreasonable. If you think of "manager" as meaning "person with responsibility for area [X] who may or may not have support staff they supervise", the current setup may make perfect sense.
posted by Lexica at 3:13 PM on August 3, 2013


Keep in mind that the likely reason she survived all those rounds of layoffs was because she was relatively low paid. All the other people who were more aggressive about negotiating a higher salary might have gotten axed when the company had to tighten its belt, leaving her as the last (and least expensive) woman standing. Being the one who's consistently overworked-and-underpaid might be serving as an unconscious survival strategy on her part.
posted by deanc at 3:41 PM on August 3, 2013 [3 favorites]


A good source for her to look at as far as determining her own market value is the Bureau of Labor Statistics occupational profiles. What she actually does is probably going to be in the Office and Administrative Support Positions group. Be sure to look at the details for each job category, by the way - secretaries make an average of $22.71 in DC, but $12.34 in Kansas.
posted by SMPA at 6:03 PM on August 3, 2013


I worked at one insurance company where salary discussion was considered a firing offense. (Don't know if that is legal these days, or was then.) The reason: "When two employees discuss salaries, one walks away unhappy."
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 8:06 PM on August 3, 2013


You can help her by being vocally appreciative of the quantity and quality of work she accomplishes. You can encourage her to get certifications or training that can help document her value. Tell her in no uncertain terms that she is really capable, helping her to understand her worth to the company. Does the company have any process for acknowledging staff - nominate her for an award. Help her by describing her work in HR terms. Instead of calling her SuperMom, how about SuperOrganizer, SuperWoman, the Amazing Jane. Use terms to describe her that are more powerful and professional.

I worked with a very talented and hard-working, and female and not assertive, person. From time to time, especially when we were both in the office in the evening, I told her what great work she did, and said she probably wasn't paid nearly enough. Her dept. is mostly male, and she got little credit. She did ask for a salary review, got a nice raise, and also got the opportunity to work from home a couple days a week. I'll bet she's still not paid as fairly as she should be, but she's happy. I'm not taking credit, she got the raise on her own, I just gave her support Your company probably has a salary review process, and your co-worker can probably earn a salary boost.

Thank you for caring about fairness and probably gender and age equity as well.

posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on August 4, 2013


Hello. This was me. I was at a job (actually, I'm still there and haven't yet resigned) where I hadn't been given a raise, ever, beyond a token few hundred dollars per year. I wasn't being tapped as a "lead" on projects, even though I was becoming one of the experts on a certain technology. I was also brimming with ideas about what I wanted to do but kept getting told, "maybe over the long term when a budget appears. Meanwhile, keep making incremental progress on this other project and maybe put a couple powerpoint slides together about your idea [that other people would use at conferences]" or getting assigned to projects where I was assigned to do rather basic-level work. Meanwhile, months and years were going by. I was listening to the "lead" on my project give a presentation to clients and important executives and thinking, "I have given presentations at international conferences! Why am I the one who has to sit here like a shmoe while this other guy gets to be the 'important' one?"

The reason this happens is that people in a company shunt you into a mental "slot", and you stay there. This coworker of your is in the mental category of "supermom administrative-handler" who "does everything". There is also the matter of career path: certain people get hired for jobs which have an upward moving career path, and those people join the company with a structure that will train and nurture them upwards. Other people get jobs where the company is almost all-too-thrilled to never have to train, promote, or in anyway think about them as anything more than a machine to which paperwork goes in and results come out. The company is thinking, "we have this smoothly operating machine that doesn't even cost that much! What a great deal!" The manager they've just brought in occupies a completely and totally different mental and budgetary "space" for the company.

It is possible your colleague could get a salary review and possibly a change in title. It is more likely that they will just give her a new title and try to use that as an excuse not to give her a raise. But things will likely not change until she markets herself to some people who don't actually know her all that well such that she can make an impression on them as "the person who gets stuff done," and she will be treated and paid like she is that kind of person. That's actually the advantage that a title change gives you-- when she speaks to someone in another department or another company, she will only be known as the person with the nice title at her current job, not someone who everyone always remembered as the "assistant" or the "supermom."

I ending up speaking to a recruiter who put me in touch with another company where I became known to the interviewers as "experienced expert in the field," so when they offered me a job, it came with a lot more money and an executive title. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a difference it made dealing with people in a totally new context vs. the people who've been supervising you for years. It's much like high school--- everyone associates you with whatever you were like in your freshman year. You can change yourself all you want, but you'll likely never break out of the role you were shunted in until you leave for college.

She needs to transfer to a different department with a more senior-level role or look for a new job at another company if she really wants to change the position she's in. A long time ago, the deal was "if you work really hard and do good work, you will get rewarded." A little while back, management realized that people would be willing to work just as hard, if not harder if the incentive was that you would be less likely to be laid off. So I wouldn't rely on the prospect of your coworker being "rewarded" outside of what she herself can negotiate with someone who needs something.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 2:58 PM on August 4, 2013 [8 favorites]


Bright colored sock puppet, you have brilliantly summarized what the problem is. I feel like I want to print that out and put it in my wallet. Some places you just have to move out to move up. If they've never visualized her as a superstar but instead an old, reliable horse -- or worse, someone with talent whose ideas can be used but who won't rock the boat and ask to move up (i.e. you) -- it's time to go.

More than once, I've seen a "manager" hired to manage one person in a department, even though this manager was out of their depth and incompetent. The "worker bee" was not only doing all the work but explaining to the manager how the work needed to be done, while the manager reaped the benefits of being perceived as a leader and "go-to". Of course it's a manager's job to delegate, but the way I read your comment, it sounds like you view this person the same way. Your friend has been holding down the fort forever. Now someone's come in from the outside who has no idea how hard she's worked and is telling her what to do with no regard for what she's done to keep things afloat. But ultimately, she's responsible for letting things go on like this.
posted by mitschlag at 8:17 AM on August 6, 2013


More evidence: just as I am quietly making arrangements to resign, today I also just got offered a supervisory role in another group within my current company. Why? Because the group head I have pitched my ideas to has always viewed me as the "innovative professional trying to advance the field" rather than "task monkey." Also, his group is a better fit for the work I am trying to do, which means I fulfill a core need of his group's mission, while my skillset and professional interests are considered more along the lines of a secondary need within my own group.

Your coworker is getting screwed, and it is not her fault, but the situation will not be resolved by begging her supervisors to be gracious enough to reward her.

I hate to be cynical here, but when you are considered a "human resource", management thinks of you as a cost that provides a service. Management doesn't like the idea of having to pay more to lease their office space and wouldn't like the idea of the car they are leasing suddenly charging more in lease payments. The best you can hope for is if she makes the case that she is doing a new and different job, now, and that her pay should be commensurate with that position, much like if the cable company sent you a letter that you have actually been getting premium channels for free all this time while only being billed for basic cable, so that from now on, rates are going to change.

Though you know what else I've seen in this situation? Management says they can't afford to pay more money, and so the employee leaves for a higher paying job. Then management needs to fill the empty position and hires someone at a higher salary than the previous employee had, a salary which would have been more than sufficient to retain the original employee in the first place.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 9:17 AM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


... and the higher ups need to start seeing her as a senior professional who deserves a higher salary because she is a senior professional.

Her approach to her job is the very thing that disqualifies her from a senior professional designation.

Senior professionals who are respected make their way to the top - they are not catapulted by concerned Co-workers. Super mom is in the position she's in because someone in senior management has noticed this weakness in her work approach, and likely why she's never been promoted. Her "all work and no complaining" mindset is a knock against her, not a reason to promote her.

Leave plans of salary spying out of this - if you really want to help her, point to leadership training options and let her make her own decisions.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:05 PM on August 6, 2013


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