9 Signs You’re Being Underpaid

It’s often taboo to talk about salaries around the office, but there are many ways to find out if you’re being underpaid.

By Ella Carroll-Smith3 min read
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Ahhhh money. We all want to make more of it, but just the idea of negotiating a raise is enough to make most people start squirming. Women, especially, have a more difficult time negotiating pay raises than men do because we’re naturally less confrontational. 

Talking about money around the office is awkward, but refusing to face facts or be open and honest about salaries might mean you’re being underpaid without even realizing it. Here are nine signs that might indicate you’re being underpaid and what to do about it. 

1. Your Company Has a High Turnover Rate

Have you noticed that a lot of people at your company are quitting recently? Or new hires aren’t sticking around for very long? This could be a sign that these people didn’t feel they were being adequately compensated for the work they were doing. Or, they were easily able to find jobs that paid more for the same position. If they were being underpaid, it’s likely you are too. 

2. Your Company Has Grown Substantially but Your Pay Has Remained the Same

So your company is doing well and growing at a rapid rate. That’s awesome! But if your pay has not increased very much (or at all) during that time, it’s a sign you might be underpaid. If your company is doing well, it’s partially because of the hard work you’re putting in, and your pay should reflect that. 

3. New Hires in Similar Roles Are Out-Earning You

If you find out that newer hires who work in similar positions are making more than you, you’re likely being underpaid. The only caveat is if they bring far more experience to the table, but even then, it’s still worth bringing up to your boss. 

4. Your Salary Isn’t Keeping Up with the Cost of Living in Your Area and Inflation

Inflation is unfortunately on the rise in the United States, with no signs of slowing down any time soon. As inflation rises, so does the cost of living, which means you’re paying more for things like groceries, gas, and rent. If your salary has not increased much (or at all) recently, it’s worth comparing it to the rate of inflation and seeing if you’re actually making less now than you were two years ago. 

If newer hires who work in similar positions are making more than you, you’re likely being underpaid. 

5. You’ve Gained More Responsibility, but Your Pay Has Remained the Same

Gaining more responsibility at work is a good sign that your boss likes you, trusts you, and believes that you’re doing a great job. More responsibility, however, will likely mean that you’re working harder, later, and longer than before, and your salary should reflect that! If you’ve gained more responsibilities in recent months or gotten a title bump, but your salary has not increased, you’re likely being underpaid!

6. Your Career Is in High Demand

If you see job postings for positions similar to yours all over LinkedIn, that’s a good sign that your career is in very high demand right now, which means you’re kind of a hot commodity. Companies want you! If you’re not feeling that love at your own company though (i.e. you don’t feel you’re being adequately compensated or haven’t gotten a raise in a long time), it’s probably time to talk to your boss or look for a new job. 

7. You Haven’t Recently Had a Performance Review

Performance reviews are the perfect time to discuss your salary with your boss – that’s literally part of the reason we have performance reviews in the first place. If for some reason you have not had a performance review within the last year, then you’re missing out on a key opportunity (sometimes the only opportunity) to discuss your pay with someone who can actually do something about it. 

8. Online Salary Survey Data Proves It

Salaries for the same position will fluctuate dramatically depending on experience and location. A product manager living in Chicago, Illinois will likely make more than one living in Topeka, Kansas because the cost of living in Chicago is much higher. There are a number of online salary data sites out there where you can check to see what the average person working in your position in your area is making. If you check a few of these calculators and see that you’re making less than the average, it might be time to talk to your boss about a raise. 

Salaries for the same position will fluctuate dramatically depending on experience and location. 

9. You’ve Never Negotiated a Higher Salary

You might be under the impression that whatever raise your company gives you (if they give you one at all) each year is the best you can do, but that’s not true! You have a lot more negotiating power than you think, especially if you’ve been at the company for a while and have a lot of institutional knowledge. 

How To Negotiate a Raise

If you identify with one or more of the points on this list and truly feel that you’re not being paid enough, you might be wondering what exactly you can do about it. Well, the first and most obvious thing you can do is look for a new and better-paying job – especially if your career is in high demand right now. 

Let’s say you really like working for your company, though. You have a good relationship with your co-workers, a healthy work-life balance, and genuinely enjoy the work you’re doing. If you value your company, then they should value you too. It’s time to have an open and honest discussion with your boss about how you’re feeling, and you don’t need to wait until your next performance review to do it!

Set a meeting with your boss, then do some research. Look up salaries for similar roles in your area that prove your current rate is below the market rate. Also, bring concrete examples of why you believe you deserve to be paid more. Don’t just show up to the meeting asking what your boss can do for you, show up with proof of what you’ve been doing for your company. Bringing data to back up your ask will make it harder for your boss to deny the fact that you’re worth more money. 

Closing Thoughts

I know that talking about money with your boss can be super uncomfortable, but if you don’t ask for the things you want (and deserve!) then you’ll never get them. So do your research, know your worth, and be confident in the value you bring to your job. 

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