If I asked the question: “Would you like to make more money?” What would you say? I’m about 99% sure you’d say, “Of course! Show me the money!” But what if I ask if you were being underpaid at work?
It may sound like the same question on the surface, but I’m really getting at two entirely different things here. The first question has more to do with the fact that it’s human nature to never really be satisfied with the amount of money we’re bringing home. Let’s face it; even millionaires aspire to become billionaires.
But the second question is getting at something deeper: Do you feel the dollar amount assigned to represent your value at work – a.k.a. your salary – is fair?
Are you underpaid?
According to a survey by Robert Half, 46% of employees feel they’re underpaid at work. That means almost half of all employees aren’t happy with their paychecks and feel overworked and underpaid.
But there’s a difference between generally feeling like based on what you contribute professionally, you’re not making enough to save, invest, or travel as much as you’d like and actually having the intel to back up these feelings.
For example, imagine for a moment you’re the manager of a large department. One of your employees walks into your office and tells you she feels she isn’t being paid fairly. You try to figure out why she feels this way, but the only thing she keeps telling you is: “I just feel like I should be making more money.”
The employee in this scenario is really doing herself a disservice. How can you expect to see a positive outcome – especially when it comes to something as tricky as asking for a raise – if you don’t have any facts to back up your request?
Sadly, your boss isn’t sitting around waiting to hand you an extra wad of cash just ‘cause. Be clear on what you're asking before you walk into his office demanding to be paid more.
Here are 5 ways to tell if you’re truly being underpaid
Let's get into some of the top ways to tell if you are being underpaid:
1. Your level of responsibility has increased, but your salary hasn’t followed suit
Nine times out of 10, if your responsibilities have increased, your salary should too. Think about it; your previous pay corresponded with your previous work. So, if there’s been a significant change in what’s expected of you, shouldn’t there at least be a conversation on how the change affects your compensation?
Reviewing your current salary before taking on new responsibilities is a crucial step to ensure your salary remains competitive. Negotiate a raise when asked to take on more work. This will prevent you from being overworked and underpaid.
2. You haven’t received a raise in a long time
In an ideal world, you should expect to receive a raise every year. Not only should your new salary keep up with the rate of inflation, but it should also represent the value you’ve contributed to your team over the past 12 months.
Basically, it should be your company’s way of saying: “Hey, girl. We value you. We appreciate you. Keep doing what you’re doing.” However, in the real world, we know things don’t always work out this way.
If you haven’t seen your salary move in a positive direction in two years or more, you’re most likely being underpaid at work.
3. You know [for a fact] people in similar roles get paid more than you do
It’s generally frowned upon for employees to discuss their compensation with their coworkers (though not illegal in most cases). However, there are other ways to get to the bottom of where your salary falls in comparison to people in the same role as you.
Sites like Glassdoor and Payscale have completely changed the game on accessing insider salary information. With a few simple clicks, it’s possible to find the average pay for virtually any role at any company.
If you’ve researched three to five salaries and they are way off the mark when you compare it to your own, this is a huge red flag. This can be a sign you’re overworked and underpaid.
4. Your colleagues are quitting left and right
While people quit a job to escape a bad boss, one of the other top reasons is to escape bad pay. If all of a sudden your work besties are running for the hills, pull one of them to the side and ask why.
The fact that your coworkers are calling it quits could mean they are finding better money opportunities at other places. Take a look at your own numbers, and be sure you aren't being underpaid at work too.
5. You didn't negotiate your starting salary
Chances are, like most people, you didn't negotiate your starting salary when you took your job. That means there's a good chance you deserve an increase in pay because you never asked for a top salary in the first place.
Plus, you now have more experience and time invested, which improves your chance of a salary increase because you are an asset to the company. Prepare your case in writing before demanding more money. This will ensure you properly explain why you deserve a better salary.
Stop being overworked and underpaid
Review your salary often to make sure it stays in line with your responsibilities and the industry standard. If you can relate to any of the scenarios I’ve described, it’s time to take a long, hard look at your salary so you can be sure you’re being paid what you’re worth.
If your employer refuses to increase your pay once you make your case that you are underpaid, then it's time to find a higher-paying job and get paid what you deserve!