What's Your Problem?

Before he left, my old boss told me there were significant pay differences in my team and that I was paid 20%-30% less than my colleagues, including one junior to me.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

My appraisals have been positive and I have recently received praise, including an award for excellence. However, my new boss has now emphasised how 'well paid' I am and says he wishes to promote me more for recognition than pay. I have never requested a pay rise, believing the company was paying me an equitable rate. I'm now boiling mad and want to raise the matter with my new boss. How should I approach this without damaging my relationship with him, and can I expect them to increase my salary by up to 30%?

A: Don't let yourself boil over. There are mysteries here that seem to need a bit of low- temperature unravelling.

Your old boss and your new boss have told you contradictory things: your old boss that you're poorly paid; your new boss that you're well paid. Why have you chosen to believe your old boss? And if those inequalities did indeed exist, why, as your old boss, did he let them go uncorrected?

I ask you to give these questions sober thought because it's possible, innocently or otherwise, that your old boss misled you. If that should be the case, you would deeply regret storming in to see your new boss demanding a 30% salary increase on the basis of inaccurate information.

You've clearly never felt yourself to be underpaid; it's only those departing remarks that have unsettled you.

If you have a Human Resources manager, you should share your confusion with him or her. But don't give the impression that you're nosing around after other people's salaries. All you need to know is: which of those two contradictory tip-offs is closer to the truth?

If no HR facility exists, you must share your confusion with your new boss. Keep the heat level down; don't for a second imply (as you have in your question to me) that you mistrust him. From the manner of his response, and above all his body language, I bet you'll know with a fair old certainty whether he's been playing games or not.

I don't know how I can advise you further; everything depends on how you feel after that meeting. Perhaps you should write to me again.

- Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group; he is a non-executive director of WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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