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Compensation comparisons

Q: I recently discovered that there are a few engineering co-workers who are making more than I am. We had a send-off party for a colleague and he shared that he left for a 25% increase. Then others shared what they are making. I am at the bottom of the pile! We are all around 30 years old with advanced degrees. How do I make sure that I am being fairly compensated?

A: Compensation is an emotional issue. We all think we should be paid more for what we do. However, compensation can be determined by many factors including experience, skill, education, demand and an employer’s strategy on how they wish to compensate employees. There are often legitimate variations of pay within companies. If a skill is hard to find in the marketplace, then a company may pay more. If a role requires an advanced degree, the employer may pay more. In some companies, they will even pay a premium called a shift differential for those who are willing to work a second or third shift. There are also some legal requirements regarding compensation, minimum wage for example.

You have to be careful where you get your information. Self-reported compensation data is sometimes unreliable or often “rounded up” by the employee providing their data. So instead of $33K, a salary becomes $35K. Instead of $78K, a salary is suddenly $80K. After a going-away party, your colleague’s new base salary may truthfully be $85K but, after a few beers, it was then reported as $100K.


There are a few ways to research compensation. You can check job postings in your industry. You can go online to see if companies might share ranges for specific jobs. You can also ask your manager if there is a range within your company and where you fall in the range. Some websites seem to have reliable data for some roles, while others don’t. There are compensation surveys available, but i have never heard of an employee purchasing one since they are pricey.
Finally, don’t rely solely on your co-workers reports. It may be that you were the only one that was honest.
by Pattie Hunt Sinacole

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