How to Justify Salary Differences at Work

by Justin Reynolds on Aug 31, 2016 8:00:00 AM

salary transparencyIn every organization, you face the same situation: the graphic designer starts at $60,000 regardless of experience, and HR starts at $40,000 no matter what. But due to a confluence of factors — education experience, job experience, skill sets, certifications, age, and previous salary history — it’s not that easy.

It’s not uncommon for two employees who have the same job title to be on different salary levels at any given company. But put yourself in the shoes of the employee who makes less yet tackles the same exact job responsibilities as a peer who’s paid more. On the surface, it doesn’t seem too fair now, does it? And many companies forbid their workers from talking to each other about salary-related issues.

Increasingly, organizations are building cultures that value salary transparency. In theory, being transparent about salaries helps establish organizational cultures of trust. It also reduces the chances an employee will complain about their salary because it will be easy to determine how the number was arrived at.

If you find yourself having to explain why Employee A is making less than Employee B, keep the following in mind:



Just like college graduates generally make more money than those with high school diplomas, those who have graduate degrees make $17,000 more than their peers who have bachelor’s degrees, as reported by GoodCall. Everyone’s heard the saying that tells us we’ve got to spend money in order to make it. It appears to apply to academia as well.

Graduate degrees



Yes, two employees might have the same job title. But the “reporter” who just graduated college isn’t on the same level as the “reporter” who’s been covering international affairs for three decades. There are other things to consider here too, such as industry-related experience versus unrelated experience. Your particular situation might not be as extreme, but you should be able to draw some parallels.



If you were a hiring manager with an unlimited budget looking for an IT technician, would you choose someone fresh out of college or someone who had the same education experience but had also racked up four certifications? Simply put, certifications not only prove a candidate’s subject matter expertise, they also show the individual was willing to put in the extra effort to improve.

Certification programs

Other factors also come into play. For example, a talented professional who made a killing at their last job might have been offered a more lucrative package. Age may also come into play too. As a general rule of thumb, older employees tend to make more than younger ones, as reported by CNBC.

It’s perfectly understandable for an employee to want to make more money — particularly when it appears as though someone doing the same job is making a lot more. However, taking a transparent approach with respect to salary should help you limit (or eliminate) these kinds of conversations.

If your company isn’t ready to give salary transparency a problem, that’s perfectly fine. Just brush up on the above and you should be able to convince your employees everyone’s getting paid fairly.




author avatar

This post was written by Justin Reynolds

Justin Reynolds is a freelance copywriter, journalist, and editor based in Connecticut.

Connect with Justin