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How to respond if a co-worker makes ‘way more money’

Dear J.T. & Dale: I just found out that my co-worker who started the same week as I did is making way more money than me. We do the exact same job. I’m so furious that I want to just walk in and quit, but I need this job. How can I confront my boss and demand more money? – Kayla

J.T.: This is tricky. You negotiated your salary when you got hired. The assumption at that time was that you knew what you were worth. By agreeing to the salary, you agreed it was fair.

DALE: Well, she agreed that she really needed the job and accepted the offer, but it isn’t a fair negotiation when one party has far more information, like knowing what salary the job could command. Looking back, Kayla, you could have done some research as to what the job paid so that you could be a better negotiator. And it’s not too late to do that research.

J.T.: All true, but companies are not required to pay everyone the same. It’s likely that your co-worker had more experience or more skills that made her worth more to them. The real question is, what does she have that you don’t? I would try to get a sense of the added value you feel you bring to the role. Are you confident that you are in fact worth more than you’re making? If so, you should be able to list out why. Then, and only then, can you go to your boss and set a meeting and say: “I would like to do some career planning with you. I love working here, but I also am focused on earning more money. I’d like to find a way to get my salary to ___ by the end of the year. Can you walk me through what you’d need to see from me so I could earn that?” By presenting it this way, you can find out what’s missing from your current work style and then deliver on it to get the salary increase. Now, if the manager says there is nothing you can do, then you’ll have to accept the situation and decide whether you are OK with staying. If you can’t, then it’s time to look for a new job and this time around negotiate harder for the salary you want. All that said, be careful. A market correction is on the horizon and when it hits, lots of companies will cut staff. The people who go are the ones getting paid more for doing the same job as others who are paid less. Which means, your co-worker could be the one out the door due to the high salary.

Dear J.T. & Dale: My boss just got a new dog. It’s all she talks about. I mean we literally have to hear about it all day. It’s getting really annoying. Can I pull her aside and say something? – Zane

DALE: Sorry, Zane, you’re not going to get much sympathy from me. In fact, I wish you’d ask your boss to send us some photos of the pooch. So, yes, you’re asking a dog lover; moreover, I am a lover of enthusiasms. As Thornton Wilder wrote, “Count that month lost in which you have not been swept up in an enthusiasm.” That’s the kind of boss you want, one who’s ready to embrace something new. Your challenge is to find some workplace idea that will take her mind off the dog.

J.T.: I almost agree. There’s one exception: if the boss’s constant discussion around her dog is somehow hurting productivity and the success of the business, then you could take a stand. If not, then all you do is embarrass her and create a wedge between the two of you. It’s likely her dog chatter will die down as the newness wears off. Give it time. In the meantime, be grateful your boss has the new puppy because it will make her happy, and that’s the best kind of boss to have!

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab and author of a novel about H.R., “The Weary Optimist.” Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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