I’ll never forget a day back in the 1990s when a 25-year-old employee walked into my office and said, “I want you to double my salary.” He explained that he’d heard through the grapevine that a 55-year-old colleague was making twice his pay even though he had the same title.
“It’s only fair that I get paid the same wage for doing the same work,” the young man said.
Where do you begin? I’m sure I told the guy something like this: “First, you don’t do the same work because an employee with 30 years on the job has a wealth of experience that comes out in ways you don’t see. And second, because you’re low in the pay range for this job, you have potential to be promoted and get larger percentage increases year by year than colleagues who are already near the top of the pay range.”
I have no doubt that made little sense to the fellow and that he walked away a little wounded.
The only way to avoid a Win/Lose in a situation like this is to never have this conversation in the first place. That is, to manage expectations about pay. Here are two suggestions:
1. Set broad pay ranges. When I worked at Hay Group, who historically have been THE experts on pay, I remember seeing ranges from $40k-$90k, or $75k-$150k.
2. Talk to job prospects about pay in the job interview, emphasizing that they may be starting at the bottom of a range but that you want to help them move up the scale. Tell them flat out that “we’re committed to the long-term with you and it’s not going to happen overnight.” Repeat that message on day one of the job and in every salary discussion thereafter.
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