I'm earning less than my colleague. Can I ask for a pay rise?

One of my less-experienced colleagues earns more than me. I'm angry and hurt.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 10 Jun 2014

Q. Our HR director unwittingly left a spreadsheet of salaries on the printer last week and I couldn't resist taking a look. I was mortified to learn that one of my considerably less qualified colleagues earns more than me. What should I do?

Jeremy says: There can't be many salary lists that are totally without apparent anomalies. However hard HR departments may try to maintain absolute equity, circumstances inevitably cause distortions.

When hiring, for example, firms may find it necessary to offer a new recruit more than some incumbents are earning - and it's an unusual company that will automatically bump up all the others to compensate.

And, while qualifications can be measured, assessments of worth are bound to be subjective. You need to entertain the painful possibility that your colleague, despite being 'less qualified', is more highly valued than you are.

So if you were thinking of confronting your HR director with the fact that one of your colleagues is earning more than you are, be prepared to be told precisely why.

It's usually unwise to base salary claims on comparisons. Better simply to remind your boss or HR of the projects you've successfully completed and then, formally, ask for the increase that you believe you've earned.

- Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems on editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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