How to Ask for a Raise When Coworkers Make More [7 Steps]

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Want to learn how to ask for a raise when coworkers make more? I’m glad you asked. 

Asking for a raise is never fun. It becomes more awkward when you learn that a few of your coworkers make more than you. How aggravating!

In such a case, it’s only natural to feel undervalued and wonder whether you’re doing enough to earn a higher salary. 

You may even feel like getting worked up about the situation will help you get faster results. Wrong!

You don’t want to come off as ungrateful or jealous. And you certainly don’t want your boss to think that you’ve been running around the office spreading salary information. But if you wing it, you could end up shortchanged. 

Here’s the good news:

There’s a way to handle this situation that won’t hurt your relationship with your boss or coworkers. How about turning it into an opportunity to make more money and improve your financial freedom?

This post will cover possible reasons for your current situation and show you how to ask for a raise when coworkers make more money.

Can Two Employees Doing the Same Job be Paid Differently?

Yes. And the reasons usually boil down to one of these four:

Age difference

That’s right. An older employee who has been with a company for over 20 years and has been doing the same job can still earn more than a younger employee at the same level. That could be attributable to training costs, experience, and skills.

Differences in responsibilities

While Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, it does not prohibit companies from offering employees different salaries based on their responsibilities.

A good example would be an assistant manager and an assistant team leader who both take care of customer complaints; however, the team leader may be responsible for more than just resolving customer issues. The manager could also have to manage employee relations and handle disciplinary actions. As a result, he would make more than someone spending most time dealing with customers’ complaints.

Another instance could be two photographers in a company. One may only have to shoot pictures, while the other must capture, edit and retouch photos.

Locality-based cost-of-living adjustments

Another prominent reason for pay differentials among coworkers is the cost of living in different geographical locations. For example, a person in NYC should earn more than someone doing the same job in Omaha. Why? Because living costs will be higher in NYC compared to Omaha.

As of 2021, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that price level disparities between states range from 12 percent higher than the national average cost of living in Hawaii to 18% less than average in West Virginia.

Discriminatory pay discrepancies 

This can be based on gender, race, or other factors besides the cost of living. In some cases, it’s because of their managers’ prejudices or personal relationships. 

For example, if your brother-in-law gets a better job title with a higher salary than you because he knows someone in management, that’s discrimination. That would be considered illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. 

Pay disparity is also attributable to nepotism, especially in smaller organizations where a key decision-maker has a personal relationship with an employee. 

And let’s not forget that the gender wage gap remains a real thing across the country. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among full-time workers aged 35 and above, women earn about 78-81 cents for every dollar a man makes in jobs with similar experience and education requirements.

What to Do if You Find Out a Coworker Makes More Money?

There’s a tricky line to walk when you find out that a coworker makes more money.

While it’s a frustrating situation, please treat your coworker like a human being, not a walking dollar sign. You don’t want to put them on the defensive before getting the chance to make your case.

Telling other coworkers about the situation is one of the worst things you can do. Even if everyone on your team already knows this person makes more money, don’t go around flaunting it. You’re only going to make yourself look bad and make your co-worker feel like he’s done something wrong.

Telling your boss is a bad idea too. And if you’re doing a good job, it’s unnecessary. Instead, here are some steps you can take to figure out why the discrepancy exists.

Figure out if you’re getting paid less than the market rate for your position. If so, you have a solid justification for broaching salary with your boss. Find out what people with similar jobs in other companies make and use this information to back up your case for a raise.

After which, make an appointment with your boss and be prepared to explain why you deserve more money — and don’t forget to mention any steps you’ve taken toward advancing at work, like completing extra training or taking on new responsibilities.

Should I Tell My Boss I Know My Coworker Makes More?

That can be tricky—it could make things uncomfortable for all parties if it appears whiny or aggressive. The coworker who out-earns you might feel judged and guilty, while your boss may feel uncomfortable knowing there’s a pay discrepancy in the company. 

Regardless, an employer should not punish employees for discussing wages. Learn more here

Your best bet? If you believe you’re underpaid, speak to your manager or human resources department about a raise. You want to focus on your value to the company, not the coworker earning more than you. More on that later. 

How to Ask for a Raise When Your Coworker Makes More

Okay, so you’re earning less than your coworker. The instinctive reaction is to approach your boss with a pay raise request. But preparing ahead of time will give you the best chance of success. 

Below are some helpful pointers on how to ask for a raise when coworkers make more:

  • Don’t get emotional
  • Do your research and know your worth
  • Pick a good time and place.
  • Build a compelling case based on your value to the organization
  • Practice how you’ll ask for a raise
  • Go in prepared for negotiation
  • If you’re turned down, focus on the future

Don’t get emotional

It’s understandable to feel hurt or angry about finding out you’re making less than your coworker. But try not to bring those emotions into the conversation.

Stay professional and remain calm and collected as much as possible. You’ll also appear more credible and trustworthy if you present yourself as even-keeled rather than hot-headed. So, by all means, cool down first. 

In addition, think about what sets you apart from the coworker who makes more than you do: Are they more qualified? Have they been there longer? Answering such questions will help you approach the conversation more objectively. 

Do the research and know your worth

Before making a case for why you deserve a raise, you’ll need to know exactly how much other people in similar positions outside your company make. 

Conduct some research online (try sites like Glassdoor and Payscale), speak with a recruiter, or reach out to peers at other companies and see what they’re being paid. You’ll get a better idea of what an “OK” salary is, what a “good” salary is, and the salary that would be considered fantastic.

Just because the average salary for someone in your position is higher than yours doesn’t necessarily point to discrimination. Perhaps that person has more experience or has been there longer than you. 

And please be considerate—your boss is busy and they’ll appreciate it if you keep things concise and organized.

Build a compelling case based on your value to the company

Make a list of all the reasons you deserve a raise and how you contribute to your company. Start by outlining everything you bring to the table, particularly the achievements.

For example, don’t just say that you completed tons of spreadsheets—explain how those spreadsheets help your company analyze data and make better decisions. Consider also positive feedback received from your manager and coworkers.

The list should be specific to your role in the company’s success. Something like “the stock market has gone up 30% over the past year” doesn’t translate well as an argument for why you deserve more money. Instead, focus on instances where other people have acknowledged your value within the organization: promotions from within, efficient use of budgeting, stellar performance reviews, etc.

Pick a good time and place

Then comes the trickier part: the actual conversation. Showing up in your boss’s office on a Friday afternoon to ask for a raise is like proposing marriage on a speed-date night. It’s just not the right time. 

The last thing you want is to catch them off guard or interrupt them in the middle of an important task when they’re distracted and busy. 

Instead, schedule a meeting with your boss when you can speak privately and have time to discuss the subject thoroughly. The same goes for asking at an inappropriate time. Your boss is less likely to pay attention if they’re stressed out by work or personal issues. 

Check out: When Is It Appropriate to Ask For a Raise? [How to Decide]

Practice your script

Another pointer to how to ask for a raise when coworkers earn more is to think through what you’ll say to your boss. That way, you’ll feel comfortable and confident going in and not like you’re just babbling or saying whatever comes to mind. 

Here are some things to think about when coming up with your script:

  • What will you tell your boss about why you deserve a raise?
  • How will you explain why this number is the right amount for your worth?
  • What will you say if they ask follow-up questions? You might be prepared for a simple “yes” or “no” answer, but how would you respond if they asked something else?
  • Are there any areas where they could challenge your reasoning (maybe there was a period where your work wasn’t as strong)? If so, how would you answer them if they brought those up?

Having a friend help you sort out your talking points and rehearse your delivery will make your pitch more natural and confident.

Go in prepared for negotiation

Of course, expect your boss to pose some questions and objections. And they may provide several reasons why your coworker gets paid more makes. 

For example, if you’ve only been at the company for a year, it could be because they’ve been there for five years. In that case, ask your boss if he could help guide you towards the same level of compensation through future performance reviews or other plans. 

If an immediate raise isn’t possible, would it be okay to have one in six months? Or perhaps negotiate other benefits like extra vacation days or improved healthcare coverage?

If turned down, focus on the future

If you’re denied a raise, be gracious and positive. Don’t make threats or fall apart emotionally; this will sabotage any chance of getting what you want in the future. 

While keeping calm and positive, ask for concrete steps that could get you closer to your goal. In addition, schedule another meeting to follow up before the end of the year; this will help ensure that your request doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. 

If your boss declines again at the second meeting, it’s time to make some tough decisions about whether or not to stay at the company.

What Do You Say When Paid Less Than a Coworker for the Same Work?

When you find out that a coworker is getting paid more than you for doing the same job, it’s completely understandable to feel hurt, angry, and confused. 

In some cases, pay inequality is based on experience and education, but it can stem from gender bias. It’s the employer’s responsibility to prove that affirmative defenses like merit, quality(or quantity) of production, or seniority apply to the differential.

However, you can’t begin to solve the problem until you know where it comes from. 

The first step is to approach your boss and ask why there is a discrepancy in pay between yourself and your coworker. 

Try to keep your emotions under control during this conversation. The more professional and calm you are, the better your chance of getting your boss to address the issue.

It helps to be direct and to the point when you ask this question. You don’t want to start on the wrong foot by sidetracking your boss with other topics or trying to get them on your side with a question like, “How could you do this to me?”

Don’t back down if they acknowledge that a discrepancy exists but give a reason that doesn’t sit well with you (such as your coworker’s years of experience or educational background). You should explain to your supervisor why you think you merit more pay and provide examples of exemplary work that support your claim. 

If necessary, consult an HR representative for advice about how to proceed. And when you’ve exhausted your options, it could help to consult with a lawyer specializing in employment law to see what recourse is available to you.

What Not to Say When a Coworker is Paid More

It’s only natural to wonder why your coworker earns more than you do. But even if you’re justified in your frustration, here are five things you should never say when raising the matter with your boss.

“My coworker gets paid more.”

You want to be paid well—and that’s great! But with the above statement, you just made a personal issue public, and now you’re asking your boss to take sides. That won’t get you closer to that goal.

 It’s unprofessional and ill-advised to compare yourself with coworkers when asking for raise. 

Instead, say: “Here’s what I bring to the table.” The key is to focus on what you do well and emphasize how those skills benefit the company, career experts advise.

 “I’m just as good as she/he is.”

It’s among those statements that sound like a compliment but aren’t. While it may be true that you think you can do everything that your coworker does, what you’re implying is that if you were paid more for doing the same job, then she must be getting overpaid—how could you possibly justify paying them more when they and their

“I really need this.”

This can make it seem like you’re asking for a raise as a favor rather than because you’ve earned it. Instead, try: “I think my value here is worth more.”

 “I’ll leave if I don’t get a raise.”

Don’t threaten your boss with leaving if they cannot give you a raise immediately. It may force them into giving you something little just to get you to stick around. Furthermore, you could be bluffing while your boss is ready to let you go. 


Mastering how to ask for a raise when coworkers make more goes back to self-worth. Though you might think it’s unfair that some peers make more than you, there’s a reason. And there is nothing you can do about their fatter paycheck. 

Your best bet is to focus on your skills and strengths and utilize them to make a compelling case for why you deserve a raise. Leverage the above tips to increase your odds with that bump.

Should your boss says no the first time around, don’t worry! You can always bring it up later. If your efforts don’t pan out, start exploring new opportunities.

Continue reading with this helpful post next: How Not to Ask for a Raise [Never Do These 9 Things]

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