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  • How do I convince my employer that I'm underpaid?

Jan 2007

Q. I used your Salary Wizard and other sites to come up with a market value for myself. I found that I'm worth between $42,000 and $45,000 (I'm making $35,000 in base salary). When I approached my employer for a raise, he seemed extremely surprised and thought my numbers were too aggressive, and that my current salary is about right. He is going to do some research of his own and talk to me in a few days. How do I nicely get the point across that they're paying me too little? Am I wrong in my findings? What am I missing here? I'm very confused.

Also, considering this, when my boss offers me a lower number, how should I respond? What is a reasonable number to accept?

A. There are a number of things you can do to ease the conversation about salary with your manager. First, make sure you have matched your job against the appropriate job in the Salary Wizard. This way the manager can see what skill sets and experiences you are comparing yourself against.

In addition to determining the appropriate job match, ask your manager what process the company uses when evaluating jobs and determining market values. For instance, some companies position their salaries at certain competitive rates based on median salaries in a particular industry and/or location. They may also have a philosophy of offering other employee benefits, such as year-end bonuses, 401(k) matches, 100 percent tuition reimbursement, etc. These other forms of compensation may influence where the company targets its base pay in relation to the market.

When you meet with your manager, it is important to understand the rationale behind the way a company determines pay levels for its employees. This way you can draw reasonable inferences about why you might be paid below market. You can also approach the conversation from a solid, rational position.

- Erisa Ojimba, Certified Compensation Consultant

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