askST Jobs: What to do when colleagues in same job are paid more

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askST Jobs: What to do when colleagues in same job are paid more

Tay Hong Yi
APR 24, 2023

SINGAPORE – In this series, manpower reporter Tay Hong Yi offers practical answers to candid questions on navigating workplace challenges and getting ahead in your career.

Q: I found out my teammates are paid higher than me for doing the same job. What should I do?

A: Most organisations try to base compensation decisions on sound, defensible principles such as an employee’s track record or skill sets.

Doing otherwise affects staff morale, said Mr Lionel Low, senior client solutions principal for Asean at Mercer.

But someone with greater skills and a more illustrious track record may still be paid more than another person at the same job level with a similar work scope, he added.

“This is heavily practised in professions like app development where different individuals doing the same job can come up with drastically different output due to differences in skills, and less emphasised in professions where work is highly structured and output does not differ a lot despite differences in skills.”

However, the tight labour market in Asia could lead to employers bidding up wages to attract fresh talent, even if it means paying more than what existing employees with comparable track records and skills get.

“Organisations are constantly trying to outpay each other to attract talent and, therefore, employees who switch organisations more often have put themselves in a situation where their pay gets adjusted upwards more often,” noted Mr Low.

“Ironically, ‘loyal’ employees who stay longer in an organisation tend to find their pay lagging behind that of these peers,” he added.

Employees who wish to have a conversation about wage differences should engage their immediate supervisor professionally, with relevant facts that justify a review of their pay, said Mr Paul Heng, managing director of NeXT Career Consulting Group.

“Never threaten the company – such as by saying, ‘I will resign if this issue is not addressed reasonably’,” he added.

He noted that employers may be unable to immediately offer a salary revision for reasons including their business performance.

Employees should then ask when the issue can be addressed again, and decide whether they can hold out till then.

Mr Heng cautions that employees need to be mindful about potential questions on how they found out about the pay differences, as salaries are supposed to be confidential matters.

Market salary surveys may provide a useful indication for entering salary negotiations, he said.

Mr Low said: “While it is understandably upsetting to be paid lower than a peer who is doing the same job, employees should try to see the opportunity in the situation.

“The fact that a peer who may be similarly skilled is paid higher provides a factual justification (where none had existed before) for employees to approach their managers for a review of their own pay.”

But he added: “One thing is for sure. If one is unable to put aside the grief that comes with pay inequity, it is better to seek employment elsewhere than to stay on unengaged and unhappy.

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