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I'm currently facing a dilemma with an upcoming performance review. When I started with my company around 1 year ago I tried to be as honest as possible in my perception of my programming skill set and knowledge. I based my perceived skills on my coding ability relative to those I consider to be good programmers and developers. So the salary I was provided I was happy with at the time.

I have no problem with that as I believe honesty is important when going for a job and while in it. Also, I believe that once I'm in the job if I'm better than what I have given the employer to believe then my performance will reflect that.

At the same another developer was hired. We were both hired to work on the same project doing the same task set. A few months back I found out that this person was on substantially more than me wage wise. Now during the project I have come to realise that this person is well below me in programming skills and even business knowledge. I have had to help him out numerous times with programming tasks, review his code and offer better solutions, and explain concepts about the project we are working on. Even though we both started at the same time.

How can I go about increasing my salary (during the review) to be at least comparable with this person without directly mentioning their name or that I know what they are on. If I justify it based on the work I have done, what if they don't offer me a comparative package. Is it fair that I want more or am I being greedy?

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It sounds like what you want is fair. Whether they will be willing to give it to you is another question... Good luck! –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Jun 14 '11 at 21:45
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What makes this question specific to programmers? –  Rein Henrichs Jun 14 '11 at 22:46
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I don't need to post, you've gotten some good responses already. However, I will say, be prepared for all options, including leaving. Many companies are reluctant to pay for talent once that talent is in-house. It's sad that those same companies will pay lots for an outsider to come in rather than grow from within, but it does happen. I wish you the best in your negotiations, but keep your options open. It's common knowledge that sometimes the best/only way to achieve high gains in compensation is to leave. –  Bernard Dy Jun 15 '11 at 1:12
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@Jeff O: Companies requiring employees not to discuss their saleries are living in a dream... Apart from the wheather, salary is amongst the most discussed topics in any company, regardless of whatever rules the company may have come up with to prevent employees from comparing what the company is prepared to hand out to whom. –  Marjan Venema Jun 15 '11 at 6:14
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@Marjan Venema: I have to disagree. It could well be a cultural thing, but in the UK I have only once had a conversation with co-workers about salary, and that was when I first joined and they wanted to know what I earned before, not what I earn now. –  Matt Ellen Jun 15 '11 at 9:48
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closed as off topic by Blrfl, Martijn Pieters, Jalayn, Kilian Foth, Stephen C Apr 3 '13 at 13:07

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9 Answers

up vote 25 down vote accepted

Some of the other answers have stated something that is right on — be bold, ask for a salary increase, and show why you deserve it.

However, that really doesn't address your issue — you accepted a salary that you were happy with in the context of your own experience, and you have found out someone in a comparable role (and equal or worse performance) is on a substantially higher salary.

Not to throw other answers under the bus (they have generally good advice) but the advice to ignore that issue completely is going to leave you perpetually underpaid.


How do you address it then?

Obviously the other answers are correct that you can't make it an issue of "office politics" or make it a comparison contest — both of those will be bad for you.

The fact that your coworker, who is behind you in skill/experience/whatever, earns a significantly higher salary than you is only a symptom. To figure out how to address this to your employer, you have to figure out the real problem, so look into it deeper. How did this person get hired?

  1. When a company agrees to hire a person, they must believe that the hire will be equitable. In other words, they believe that the return (the person) must be worth the investment (the salary).
  2. If your coworker was hired, then the company believed it to be an equitable investment.
  3. Unless your company is completely clueless, then they must believe that the salary for your coworker was at least somewhere in the range for what they knew about his experience/skill.

In other words, either he fooled them, or his salary in fact is in the acceptable range for your position. If you really want to be paid what you feel you deserve, you need to investigate the second reason.

Going in with "I want a raise, here are my accomplishments" alone is not going to solve your problem — it's generally good advice, but it will only net you the type of raise they are accustomed to giving employees who are doing good work. Not what they should give someone who is being paid way under his market value. Be prepared to explain:

  • How you have succeeded for the company
  • That you enjoy your work and envision a long and mutually beneficial time working there
  • That you have learned much so far and you look forward to what else you can learn to continue to benefit the company

... and then lower the boom — your salary is not commensurate with what your value is on the market. In the United States at least, programmers are currently in a very good position to negotiate salary. In all likelihood, your coworker simply already was being paid at a higher level, asked for a salary slightly higher than that during the hiring process, and they granted it, knowing that programmers are hard to find.

Be prepared to deliver at least some information about what you know the market value is for your position. Chances are good that they don't have a great idea about this, and this will net you a good increase in salary.

All without mentioning your coworker or getting into office politics.

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First off, double check on whether the expectation of management is that a "performance review" is a place where you talk about money. In some companies the two tasks are separate, although the outcome of the performance review SHOULD impact the subsequent decisions about money.

I don't think you're being greedy at all, but you definitely want to pull off the right vibe.

Generally, a performance review is the "what have you done this year" conversation. So be ready with examples of how awesome you've been. Awesome doesn't have to mean writing more code than the other guy. Signs of being a more senior/experienced engineer also include giving guidance to other people - so the fact that you've been helping this other guy should come up in the conversation -- especially if the help is always flowing from you to him. That kind of mentorship of others should factor in as good things you've done performance wise.

When getting into the sticky subject of money, it's good to point out that you'd like to move forward in both compensation and position and that you'd like to know what you need to do to advance in your career. It's worth pointing out your current rank - since sometimes we forget what rank a person is, especially when they are performing above their level.

It's also worth asking when the right time to talk about compensation would be. You can certainly go so far as to ask if now is a good time, or if there's a better time to schedule a talk about that. That cues up your manager to do some thinking.

You're right that marching in and saying "I'm at least as good an engineer as X and I deserve to make at least as much money" is a faux pas. Usually you can nose around and say that you think you're underpaid, and that your salary isn't in line with the job needs you currently satisfy. If asked why, you could easily say how much you are helping that other guy. If that isn't a shot across the bow for them to look up your comparative salaries, I don't know what is.

I don't think you're being greedy at all, but there is an element of the fact that people get what they negotiate for. Worrying about a small difference in salaries is usually fruitless, but where it's significant, it's worth realizing that you should be demanding more and you can start with asking for more from the current company.

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thanks. I sometimes think I don't negotiate enough but that's never been a strong point for me. I prefer to let my actions speak for me if I can and hope they are good enough to be recognised. I'll try and come up with things I have done etc to help my case –  dreza Jun 14 '11 at 22:03
    
+1 Talk about it ahead of your performance review. You don't know when salary adjustments are decided, but it may be well before your review. If you talk about it before everyone's is decided you can influence it. After they've decided what your getting it, well you're in the queue for next year. But your manager should know where you are at. –  Jeremy Jun 15 '11 at 0:22
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Even if salary decisions are "already made", everything can be changed and negotiated at any time. Don't believe it? See what happens when you resign and say you love working there but needed more money, and found it somewhere else. If you're good they'll try to move mountains to keep you. –  Kevin Jun 15 '11 at 1:55
    
@Kevin - I totally agree, but that isn't a game I'd try unless I had a better offer in hand. :) –  bethlakshmi Jun 15 '11 at 14:45
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You are not greedy but you are jealous. Which is not exactly better as it will ruin the relationship you have with your collegue.

He may not be as good as you at programming but he's better than you at negotiating his salary. As he learns from you programming, you can learn from him salary negotiation and how to be bold with your boss.

Working is not just programming.

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Simple is best. At some point say "I want a salary increase".

Have a number of justifications at the ready, all the good points that they went over in the review. Make sure to point out all the projects you've worked on. (In case this is some bizarro review where they skip that). Mention how little of the review was negative. You could even go with the vague "I simply feel I'm worth more to the company".

Do not mention your co-worker or compare yourself to him. That would veer towards office politics and nobody wants that.

And if they refuse, ask yourself if you're content with your pay. If not, start looking for work elsewhere.

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Be greedy, your employer is. They're trying to get the most work for the least expense. You're trying to get the most compensation for your work. Cave when and where you WANT to cave. Accept what you're willing to work for.

Don't think too much about what you're making in relation to others. It can help you gage what your employer is willing to pay for, but in the end it has nothing whatsoever to do with you and the more you worry about it, the worse off you'll feel. It's one of those bits of human nature that are best avoided.

People will actually harm themselves if they think someone else is getting an unfair amount above them. Numerous tests have been done to show that this is the case. The trick is to try your best to avoid it being you. If some total butt-monkey makes 10k a year more than you do, what has that really to do with you? If you're happy about the compensation you're getting then be happy with it.

But yeah, get what you can...always. Consider other benefits too though. Not everything is about money. If they don't give you what you ask for consider what else they're giving you that also has value? Are they giving you instruction? Are they helping you advance your skills and career? Is it a comfortable job? Many are not you know... I know it may seem a little Randian (ick) but when it comes to your job you really do need to negotiate in your own best interests. It's how the game works and it better guarantees that you'll be happy, which your employer will thank you for.

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This is absolutely correct, BEFORE you find out about that moron that makes 25K more. Knowing this helps you to avoid finding out what others make, rather than seeking it out. However, AFTER you've already found out, there's nothing you can do. You ARE that guy whether you like it or not. On the upside it's a great job market and the easiest route to better pay is another job. –  Kevin Jun 15 '11 at 2:35
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Remember: You don't get paid what you are worth, you get paid for how well you negotiate and the relative supply/demand of programmers at the time you were hired.

I'd suggest not worrying about what you make compared to other programmers and focus on what salary you think you can make a good case for on your own merits.

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If you want a salary increase, there is only one way to do it. Look for job adverts that are similar to what you do and your experience level and determine roughly what you are worth on the market.

You may want to print some of these off to show them, but this could be confrontational.

So at your performance review, you say this is roughly the going rate for someone like me and I am getting X amount less and ask them what they think about it. Assuming you are doing well you can highlight your achievements.

They probably wont give you this amount, but you should get something.

If you don't (and you are keen to stay at your current job), the next level is to apply for said jobs and get a letter of offer. Then you can ask them to match it or you leave.

In the end, you will probably have to change jobs to get what you deserve. It is hard to get to increase your salary much when staying in the one company.

Note 1: I definitely wouldn't mention this other developer. The fact that he is getting paid more is good to know though as it means they are aware you are getting underpaid.

Note 2: In 99% of companies they will pay you as little as possible when hiring and giving raises to keep you. They won't pay you what you are worth by default, so it is up to you to raise this.

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Get an offer (or offers) outside your current company for what you think you are worth. Negotiate high since you have little to lose. If you get that offer, then see if your current company wants to match it. If they do, pick whichever appears to be the best place for you to work.

If you can't, then maybe that other guy is actually being overpaid for some random reason, and may be the first to go in any downsizing or re-org.

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Here is a suggestion. Most employers utilize performance evaluations, merit-based recognition systems. You could incorporate into your SMART objectives one or two, at most, specific areas in which you are focusing that enable to you demonstrate stated objective fulfillment.

Supervision and management love to see plain and clear objectives and nothing speaks volumes about an employee who satisfies those objectives. One such objective could be mentoring of new employees or giving assistance. Utilize your employer's means of evaluating you as one method to increase salary.

What I would not do is compare salaries with employees or concern yourself with who has more merit. You are an individual at the review table so ensure your individuality is enhanced and highlighted through your employer's means.

Wanting more is human but wanting too much or thinking you deserve it is another thing entirely. Focus on demonstrated performance and keep that the focus on any performance review. Remember, you can be replaced so you don't want to be obnoxious or place yourself into a position in which your management deem you more trouble than you are currently worth.

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Cheers Mushy. That is essentially what I did focusing on my own abilities and accentuating my achievements. By doing this I got the salary increase I was looking for. I also discussed my desires on where I want to be in 2-3 years and that led to how we could go about achieving that. –  dreza Apr 3 '13 at 19:23
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