How to Ask for Equal Pay When You (Secretly) Know Your Colleague Earns More

Getty Images

Salaries can be a very private topic of conversation, with many colleagues rarely knowing how much their desk buddy earns. But if in fact, you do find out through conversation that you’re making less than those who you feel are at the same level as you, it can be a hard pill to swallow and ultimately effect your output for the company.

While increased salaries for women is a really important topic of conversation as we fight for equality in all arenas of our lives, it’s important—particularly in scenarios like this—to employ strategy and pragmatism in order to bump up your earnings. So, if you feel like it’s time to have that conversation with your boss, we asked Angela Briggs, CEO at Umenco, for her advice for this (let’s be honest, awkward) predicament. Read on for these important conversation pointers.


Once the initial annoyance at feeling underpaid has subsided, Briggs suggests looking back at all your professional achievements at the company to date to form your initial argument. "Firstly, ask to meet for a confidential conversation with your manager. Try to approach the conversation with positive intent and ensure you are able to confidently articulate your key achievements and value add. Try to be realistic and open to feedback and flexibility whilst maintaining a composed and confident position in the conversation."


While you may know that your colleague earns more, Briggs suggests focusing on your achievements, and not using comparison at all in your salary increase request. "The best way to achieve your salary goal is to be focused on your performance and goals, and I suggest avoiding discussing others' remuneration. Instead, it is important to be accurately informed on industry salary bench-marking for your role, which reputable external HR agencies can provide you with about. The bench-marking will provide information to ensure you scale the conversation correctly and will align your expectations to your years of experience, the industry and role, and the size of business. Sometimes salaries can differ with locations, so please keep this in mind and ensure you approach the conversation with professionalism and discretion."


Before even booking an appointment, Briggs suggests taking some time to assess what your professional core values are. "If salary is a key driver for you, it may be a great time to start looking externally for a new opportunity which aligns more closely to your expectations. Ensure you keep your performance in your current role at a high standard, and do not let the setback adversely effect your enthusiasm or drive for results. It’s important to leave each role with a great track record of success and positive reputation! This will help to ensure you achieve your salary and career goals."

For more career tips, shop The Career Code ($23) by Hillary Kerr and Katherine Power.

Related Stories