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Why it pays to know your co-workers salaries

Posted on September 2022

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Professionals within the banking and financial services sector have the potential to make very high earnings. The average salary of a Financial Manager is around $120,000, According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with further lucrative opportunities available in investment banking.

If you work in the finance sector, chances are you haven’t reached the height of your earning potential yet, and if you are providing value and loyalty to your company, it may be time to ask for a raise.

Before entering a negotiation, you need to be armed with salary benchmarks from both competitors in your sector and from within your company to see what kind of salary you should be asking for.

The power of pay transparency 

For many businesses, what they pay their employees is largely kept a secret, and due to the lingering taboo around talking about our finances, particularly amongst colleagues, professionals have upheld a standard that puts them at a huge disadvantage. Salary transparency is therefore hugely important for professionals and bestows a greater understanding of their value relative to skill set, experience, and sector when seeking a new job or a pay rise. Not only does this prevent professionals from wasting time looking into positions that don’t meet their requirements, it also works as a solution to pay disparities related to gender and race, and is therefore a vital step towards better workplace equality.

Fortunately, the tide is turning and more open communication around compensation is gaining popularity in the workplace - and even being written into law in certain states. But figuring out how your salary compares to that of your colleagues can be tricky. The last thing you want is to make peers feel uncomfortable or in competition, but there are plenty of professional and uncontroversial methods of finding out this valuable information, which could position you for salary or bonus negotiation, an/or determine if it is worth applying for a new job.

The benefits of knowing your co-worker’s salary 

Working out the salary of your colleagues has many motivations beyond pure nosiness. It can be extremely beneficial to anyone working in a sector with a competitive labor market to know their value compared to their peers in the eyes of their employer. If you have been in a position for a while and have been consistently hitting targets set by your employer, knowing the salaries of your co-workers can help determine whether you should be requesting a raise or a bonus. 

Discovering industry standard wages can also help you build a compelling case for a raise. Salary information can also help you negotiate a wage adjustment during a promotion or a transition to another department or location. This can be particularly helpful if you are relocating where living costs may be higher. Conversely, if you uncover a wide disparity of wages between you and your co-workers on the same level, it can be a good indicator that you are currently undervalued in your role, and that it’s time to start looking for a new role which will provide better compensation and fairness across teams.

A word of caution 

Despite the many benefits of finding out a colleague’s salary, it can also be a difficult path to navigate. Nobody wants to create a potentially distrustful or uncomfortable work environment, so it’s important to proceed calmly and with an open mind, remembering that wage disparity can be for several reasons, including performance, qualifications, experience and longevity in the role. Also bear in mind that some cultures will be less comfortable than others, and in certain states in the US, as well as some countries, there are rules and laws surrounding asking someone their pay, so ensure you have researched what you can ask. 

Essentially, context is important, and contracts can be negotiated within the hiring process, which may impact salary disparity in a legitimate way. These considerations are best kept in mind when approaching an investigation into your co-worker’s remuneration. Start by looking into pay structures within your company, which you may receive from HR, and remember you have the right to ask questions.

Use online tools to calculate salaries

Popular employee review website Glassdoor allows its users to leave reviews of their employers, alongside reporting data such as interview processes, work benefits and anonymous salary submissions, so you may find the answer you need without having to ask your co-workers directly. Their Know Your Worth tool uses this data to provide an accurate salary estimate based on your skills, experience, location and job title, providing a useful benchmark for salary negotiations. 

LinkedIn also provides a salary calculator based on its large amount of data accrued from job postings on the site. This provides insights such as information on annual bonuses and how your salary differs from those working the same job title in other locations, so you have a better understanding of your earning potential. 

Other online resources providing salary information include Payscale.com and GetRaised.com. Peruse several sites to find a more accurate median salary using several data points so you can gain an authentic reflection of your co-worker’s salary. Look up the current job postings at your company as well as external roles at a similar level to yours, as this can be a useful source of information if you are feeling underpaid and overworked. 

If you are struggling to find salaries on job posting boards such as LinkedIn and Monster, go directly through your companies’ talent partner and enquire about salary ranges. This can give you an indication of what your co-workers are currently earning, while helping you position your current salary against new hires. 

Approach your HR department and former employees 

If you have concerns about being undervalued, it may be best to visit your HR department to seek advice on salaries. If your company is small, it may be harder to get specific information, but if you work for a larger company you can ask for salary ranges. Perhaps start by explaining that you are interested in senior positions and wondering what the salary range would be, or ask for entry level salaries to see how these compare to when you started your career. If you don’t want to talk to your HR department, there is also value to talking to a trusted professional mentor in your workplace who may give you the insight you need. 

Another avenue is to talk to former colleagues. Those who are no longer employed by your company are much more likely to speak openly with you.

Ask your co-worker’s directly

Knowing that this avenue may require some caution and consideration of contextual factors, you could find out a co-worker’s salary straight from the source. One method is to be transparent and offer the possibility of an open, two-way conversation on the topic. Chances are they’ll be interested to gain more of an insight, too. You don’t have to be totally specific, instead offering benchmarks like what you started on and what you expect to be on in future. 

Choose who you ask about salary wisely and ask a co-worker who you have a trusting relationship with, perhaps someone you see outside work as a friend. Common sense applies here, for example if your co-worker looks uncomfortable after you have asked them, simply apologize and drop the subject. There is also legislation in some US states and countries for example on asking about salary, so make sure what you are doing is above the law. 

Take advantage of your network 

No matter how far you are in your career, many will have built a professional network of former and current colleagues, clients, suppliers, talent partners and people you have met through sector events, conferences, and organizations. Contact those who will have wider knowledge of your sector to gain information about salaries within your sector. It would be particularly useful to contact those who are involved with the hiring process within their company, and therefore hold specific knowledge about salary ranges at competitors and even your company. 

Contact talent specialists 

Few people have a better insight into your industry than specialist talent partners. They will have experience matching professions to roles across your sector and in your area for a long time and will have realistic information about your earning potential, alongside company’s reputation for salary compensation. Talent partners can also help you with surveying the landscape of available job opportunities that pay above your current salary at competitors, and how often those opportunities arise. This information can prove useful at salary negotiations. 

What to do once you know your co-worker’s salary 

If you discover information around salary disparity within your company that leaves you feeling underpaid and undervalued, it’s natural that you may wish to immediately raise the issue and request negotiations. However, the best time to bring up your salary is during a one-to-one or a regular review, and taking the time to reflect may prevent emotionally driven decisions being made. 

When the time comes, don’t mention individuals you have discussed wages with. Most importantly, combine your salary information with examples of the value you and your work have provided to your company - performance targets, KPIs, research, testimonials, and case studies will all help support you when negotiating a raise in your salary. Or if after due consideration you decide to seek a new role in which you are better compensated and/or salary transparency is offered, speak to a specialist talent partner about your next opportunity. They will help you find a role that matches your value to your salary package.

Selby Jennings is a leading talent specialist for banking and financial services. For more than 15 years, we have given organizations and professionals peace of mind that the hiring process is in expert hands. Our continual investment in best-in-class technologies and consultant training enables us to find the best talent with speed, precision and accuracy. Today, Selby Jennings provides permanent, contract and multi-hire talent services from our global hubs all over the world. We pride ourselves in keeping our professional network up-to-date with any changes that will shape the future of work or affect the hiring process. 

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