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Feeling underpaid and overworked? What to do if you really are
Nearly everyone at some point in their professional life feels they’re overworked and underpaid. Often, the feeling is nothing more than an impulsive reaction to short-term frustration. You’re putting in extra hours on a big project, and no one’s even said thanks let alone offered to pay you overtime or give you comp time.
But some people really are underpaid for the work they do. When that happens, no one wins, not even the employer who may think they’re saving money by paying workers less than market value for the job they do. Many good people who are underpaid and feeling undervalued will leave, looking for an employer who pays better and appreciates them more.
The low-paying employer then has to replace the skilled worker, and may have to pay a higher salary to a new hire who’s unproven and inexperienced. Others who are underpaid, but who like their job, may stay put and grow more frustrated every year that goes by without a raise to bring your salary in line with those paid to incoming workers doing the same job.
There’s not much you can do about an employer whose priorities are out of whack like this, but if you think you’re underpaid and you’re unhappy about it – and who wouldn’t be – it may be time to take action. Feeling underpaid and unappreciated can lead you to feel disengaged in your current job and affects your quality of life.
Calculate your worth
First, confirm that you’re really underpaid. Plenty of online tools are available to help you calculate what you should be earning in your job, your industry, your level of expertise and education, and your region (like Glassdoor). You may find out that you’re paid more fairly than you thought. If you still feel like you want or deserve more money, think about ways you can enhance your value to an employer. Perhaps you need to go back to school. Maybe earning a certain certification will boost your earning potential.
If you really are underpaid, it’s time to take action. Try to negotiate a market salary adjustment. Ask your company what the pay range is for your job and determine where you are in that range. Let them know you feel you are worth more, and back it up with data from comparable companies in your industry. Share with them the research you’ve done into typical salaries for your job, skill level and experience. Be sure to remind them of your accomplishments and performance. Make your case calmly and strongly.
If you’re already interviewing elsewhere, and better yet if you already have a job offer, you can absolutely use that as a bargaining tool. Be sure to share what will hopefully be a higher salary offer and underscore the value you offer as an experienced and loyal employee.
If a salary increase is absolutely off the table, ask if your employer is willing to do something else to “sweeten the pot” for you. There are a number of ways employers can boost employee engagement outside of salary, such as leadership training, an improved work area, flexible hours and rewards or recognition.
Unfortunately, the reality is not every employer will be open to negotiating a market salary adjustment. If you come up against an entrenched employer, you may need to move on to a new job to get the salary bump you deserve.