The Psychology of Salaries: Do You Want to Know How Much Your Coworkers Make?
Let's face it: our salaries are very important. They define how much our employer thinks we are worth, what we can afford to do in our lives, and even our self worth. I've said it before and I'll say it again: we are what you make.
Our salaries are also a way to measure how our career is going (is it steadily climbing or has it stagnated?) and what kind of future we may or may not have at our jobs.
At my old job, for example, getting a raise was like pulling teeth. Even if you went above and beyond your duties to help the company, it didn't matter a whole lot. Salaries were kept low because that was just the way business was done. To most people there, being underpaid was simply a fact of life. It's one of the reasons I left and the main reason turnover was so high.
So I'm definitely one of those people that thinks you should pay attention to your salary and make sure it reflects how hard (hopefully you're all working hard out there) you're working.
But there's a limit: it's worth it to compare yourself to the people around you.
I Can't Believe He's Making More Than Me!
This is the kind of thing that will drive you insane. Let's say that someone you work with who is at the same level you are drives you nuts. For whatever reason, you see yourself as being WAY smarter, WAY more efficient, and WAY more hardworking than that person.
And then let's say you find out they make just as much as you do. Or—gulp—more than you. It'll drive you crazy if you let it get to you. Here's where you can refer to an old maxim that will help you through a lot of issues in your life (not just at work): Life isn't fair.
Get used to it. The only thing comparing salaries will get you is some tense moments in the office. Maybe you'll feel unconsciously hostile towards some people if you disagree with what they're making. Maybe it'll just wear you down after a tough day at work. Maybe it'll make you bitter. Either way, it won't help you in any way. All it will do is hurt.
After all, there's a reason most employers discourage (or straight up forbid) the discussion of salaries among employees. It's just not healthy.
Worry About What You Can Control
Can you control what your coworkers make? Nope.
Can you walk into your boss's office and say, "I want a raise because X is making this much and I am 15% better than her"? Nope.
Here's what you can control: your own salary. Nothing else.
How? Well, there are lots of ways. But in my mind, the best thing you can do is focus on becoming a better employee. That means doing things like showing up early, helping your boss out, and going beyond the scope of your job.
If you feel you deserve more money, make a rational case for it. Check out Salary.com or Payscale.com to see how you compare to other people doing your job (comparing your salary to averages or to people outside your company is fair game). If you are below the averages, then you may have a case. And if you aren't but still want a raise, force one by showing your boss the great work you're doing.
I don't mean sending emails from home at 10:59pm just to show you're "working," but real, quantifiable work that no one can argue with.
Make it easy for y our boss and for everyone to see that you deserve a raise.
Just stay away from the comparison game. All it will do is frustrate you and make your time at work that much more unpleasant.
This post was included in the Carnival of Pecuniary Delights