What to Do When You’re Underpaid? 

What to Do When You’re Underpaid? 
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Unemployment, underemployment, and underpayment are three of the most serious issues the workforce is currently facing. After unemployment, the most visible of these problems is underpayment. Around 41% of people believe they’re currently underpaid, either because their salary hasn’t adjusted to inflation, lack of performance reviews, or simply because their worth is not updated to the current labor market. 

What does being underpaid mean? 

Underpayment sounds like a straightforward concept. But before jumping to conclusions about if you’re getting paid enough, it’s essential to settle on the proper definition. There are instances when an employee may feel undervalued or even overqualified. Unfortunately, being underpaid doesn’t rely on personal perceptions of your worth. 

Of course, certifications, skill sets, and experience are aspects that influence the worth of your work, but salary ranges are mostly defined by the job market. So basically, you’re being underpaid if your wage is less than someone with a similar profile and job in the same industry and location. 

How to know if you’re underpaid? 

Though underpayment doesn’t rely on a worker’s perception, there are different ways to help you determine if the wage you receive for your work is fair. In case you want to prove it, here are some signs to know if you’re being underpaid.

Compare your wage with online salary data

Salary transparency policies and laws have accessible research for the average pay of specific positions in certain industries and locations. Finding out the listed medium salary of your role in the job market would be the first step to knowing if you’re being underpaid. Start by checking online job postings on Glassdoor, Indeed, and LinkedIn for example; remember to account for your location, industry, and job title when doing the research. 

Analyze any changes in your responsibilities

Another essential principle of being fairly compensated is the work you’re responsible for. If you’re feeling overworked or duties have increased over time, but your salary remains the same, there is a high chance you’re being underpaid. A change in your responsibilities is a clear signal to re-negotiate your salary or get a raise. 

Verify if your pay aligns with your skills or certificates

If your role requires specialized education or training, then your compensation should reflect that unique insight. Suppose your salary is less or the same as other positions that don’t require this specialized skill set. In that case, you have a solid argument to renegotiate your payment or start exploring new opportunities where you can avoid being underpaid. 

Participate in performance reviews

An excellent way to prove the quality of your work and growth as an employee is through performance reviews. Therefore, this is the ideal opportunity to discuss your salary with your employer. If you haven’t participated in a performance review recently, it could indicate that you’re being underpaid, because you haven’t had the chance to discuss your worth and compensation. 

Talk to a recruiter

One common reason why employees are often underpaid is that they’ve lost sight of the current labor market because they’ve spent so many years in their role. Working with a recruiter will give you the perspective you need to clear underpayment doubts. Thanks to their relationships with both candidates and companies, they have a strong sense of what your salary range should be.  

What to do if you’re underpaid? 

So, after doing the research, you’ve determined that you’re being underpaid and, most importantly, what you’re worth is. But what’s the next step? First and foremost, keep calm and carry on professionally: avoid quit quitting, going off on your employer, and any other measure that will affect your professional reputation moving forward. Here are a few actions you can take toward resolving your underpayment issues. 

Talk to a trusted colleague

Getting insight from other people at your company will allow you to solidify your case and talk through how you’re feeling. Even though many people are not eager to discuss specific figures, simply talking about benefits and salary ranges will allow you to uncover inconsistencies. At this point, it’s essential to be careful with your emotions and not make hasty decisions. 

Weigh in on your performance

Ironically, sometimes a lower salary doesn’t necessarily mean low performance. Sometimes being underpaid is related to changes in the job market, contracting conditions, or a role’s demand. Fortunately, your strengths and what you bring to the table will build up your case when the time comes to talk about your salary. So make sure to stay aware of areas for improvement. 

Consider your options

Accepting that you’re underpaid and venting about it will allow you to clear your mind and start planning how you’ll approach the situation. First, you should set your priorities and determine if the growth opportunities, work-life balance, and company culture you seek are obtainable at your current job or if it’s better to start exploring the job market. 

If you decide to stay with your current company, evaluate if improving your conditions or getting a raise is viable. But if looking elsewhere seems like the best option, try working with a recruiter. Besides providing insight to determine if you’re underpaid, they can ease your job search and help you reach that next point you’re seeking on your career path. 

Re-negotiate your salary

Salary negotiation it’s a tricky issue, especially once you’re employed. You have to make a strong case, so you’ll need salary data research, a performance review that proves the value you bring to your team, and even a growth plan that highlights your desire to develop with the company. Set up a meeting with your employer and try to get a compensation that aligns with your role and the current labor market. 

How to ask for a raise if you’re underpaid? 

After carefully considering your options, you’ve decided that asking for a raise is the best way to turn around this situation, but how will you do it? Confronting your employer and demanding a better salary and benefits won’t guarantee you’ll get the expected results. Therefore, here are some steps you can follow to increase your chances of achieving a successful negotiation.

Prepare your case

A compelling case is key to success. Demonstrate that your performance has been strong. Solid evidence is necessary; get quantitative data of your work and testimonials from managers and coworkers about your contributions to the company. In addition, include salary ranges and data that proves your pay doesn’t match your worth.

Practice before making your case

Talking to your employer about your salary may be frightening or tense, so set your strategy prior to the meeting. Define your ideal, target, and lowest numbers, so you don’t get caught by surprise when they ask you how big the raise you’re looking for is. Having clear, predetermined talking points for your arguments will make you look confident and convincing.

Pick the right time

You should be careful when approaching your boss to discuss your raise. You’ll need your employer’s full attention, so avoid catching them at busy times. You should also prepare the groundwork before speaking about numbers. Set an agenda and start discussing your professional development and growth plan before actually asking for a raise. Once you have spoken to your boss, keep everything on record by sending a follow-up email summarizing your conversation.

Following these steps will increase your chances of getting the raise you deserve and solve your underpayment issues. Nevertheless, don’t rush into quitting your job if things don’t go as expected. Finding out you’re underpaid is still an opportunity to reevaluate your next step and ask yourself what actions should be taken to be valued the way you see fit. Think through every major professional decision, and plan for your success with more pieces from the gpac Knowledge Center.

Contributed by Luis Arellano

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