12 Ways To Know If You’re Being Underpaid At Work

underpaid at work

You close up your laptop, it’s late at night, and you are exhausted – again, and all you can think about is, “Is this really worth it”? Feeling undervalued and underpaid is demoralizing and impacts your well-being and happiness.

Sometimes the problem isn’t a low paycheck – rather, you’re just fed up with the work routine or colleagues. And it’s simply time to find a different job or start a remote business.

We all know how tricky negotiating a salary can be. In this article, we’ll also look into a few tricks to negotiate a good salary for your remote job. A good salary is not just important to have a good lifestyle, but to also feel valued. But first things first! Here are 12 ways to know if you’re being underpaid.

12 Signs You’re Being Underpaid at Work

1. The industry average for your job role is more than your salary

This is probably the most common way people come to realize that they are underpaid; they come across a job advert for a similar role, and the pay is better than they currently receive. You can do your own research here, look at Glassdoor, search for industry salary surveys, or just trawl through job boards.

2. You constantly have new tasks and responsibilities, but your salary remains the same

While your tasks, obligations, and duties pile up, your salary remains steady and immutable. So, even when you have to give feedback, you aren’t in the position of telling others what to do and end up completing the job yourself.

3. You can cover other colleagues’ tasks

If one of your team members is sick, you can cover their tasks to keep the project running. But the others (with the same salary) cannot do your tasks because they don’t have the right skills.

As a result, you have to cover their tasks anytime they have a problem. And, you have to arrange your time to keep up with your and their tasks.

4. You haven’t asked for a raise

As simple as it sounds, if you haven’t asked for a raise, then you may not have been given one. While a good company will reward you for hard work, in the current climate, many are pinching pennies and saving costs where they can – which might be at your expense.

5. Recent hires receive higher compensation or raise

You have been in the company for a while, proving your commitment and effort for the team. Now the company started recruiting, and you know they are offering more than your current salary to new starters.

6. In your team, you are the expert

Whether it’s because you’ve been there the longest or you’ve picked up a lot of knowledge along the way, you’re the one that people come to with their questions. Are you being properly remunerated for your expertise?

7. You can’t take a day off

Does your phone ring every time you take a vacation day or over the holidays? That’s a sign you’re indispensable (or that your team is understaffed).  Remember that being underpaid isn’t just a question of money; there’s a value to be placed on work/life balance and being able to take some real time off.

8. The company is increasing profit because of your work – without telling you

If your work is increasing leads for your company, and your manager ‘forgets’ to mention it to you (or your colleagues in the same position, for that matter), that’s a sign that you’re not getting the credit or commission you deserve.

9. Your manager keeps mentioning a raise for your improvements, but it never happens

Your manager keeps mentioning a raise if you show improvements and commitment during the year. Yet, the conversation just doesn’t happen anymore at the end of the year. The New Year starts, but your salary is still the same. Suddenly, a possible raise comes into the conversation again – of course, for the following year!

10. Your working day never ends

If you work out of the clock, and none is paying you for those extra hours,  you are being underpaid.

11. They let people go, but the work hasn’t reduced

A common experience during the pandemic was companies cutting staff numbers as work levels reduced – but now they are picking back up again, and those people haven’t been replaced.

12. Colleagues are Leaving

If your colleagues are starting to look elsewhere, it’s a sign that the grass is greener somewhere else, but it can also put you in a stronger bargaining position as you hold knowledge and experience that new hires won’t.

How to Deal with Being Underpaid?

1.      Establish the Facts

First, do a little research to make sure you are underpaid. Do some job market research and find out the average salary and benefits in your area – Glassdoor and PayScale are two valuable indicators to start your research. However, remember to match the salary with your local living costs if you are working in a remote team.

After that, you should talk with a trusted colleague to confirm your findings and go to the HR department. Each company is different, and you might have to follow a strict procedure to complain about underpaying or ask for a raise.

2.      Book A Call With Your Manager

Once you can make your case,  book a call with your manager. If your company has a defined procedure, you will have to follow that, for example, writing a formal letter or e-mail to arrange a meeting. If not, you should mention the reason for the meeting in the invitation email and include the reasons why you feel underpaid and your willingness to discuss the issue.

Pro Tips: How to tell your boss you want a raise?

At the meeting, make the case for your pay increase. Discuss the positive impact you have had on the team, for example, where you have completed projects or helped colleagues out. Make a note of training courses completed etc., to build a picture of your accomplishments. You want to make your manager realize you are worth more and that it would cost them more to replace you!

3.      Look Elsewhere

While contacting your manager, you might also want to prepare your CV so you can apply for other roles. According to ADP Research Institute, most US workers get an average of 5.8% raise by changing job positions, so if the chat with your boss doesn’t go the way you hoped, you can always consider looking elsewhere.

You could also apply for a part-time position, telling your manager that you are taking another job to cope with the lack of salary. If you have another opportunity in your hands, you will have more power during the negotiation process – also considering how much the company will spend in time and resources by hiring someone else.

Being underpaid is one thing, but asking for a higher salary is a whole new ballgame. According to a survey, only 37% of people negotiate their salary. Here are a few ways you can negotiate a greater pay.

How To Negotiate A Salary?

Your salary mainly depends on 3 things:

  • The experience that you have and the value that you can add to the position.
  • The going rates for the role in the market.
  • Cost of Living in your area.

When you negotiate your salary, make sure you take the above three factors into consideration. Furthermore, mentioning these factors when you negotiate for the salary adds credibility to your demand. You’re not just asking for a higher paycheck, but also giving compelling reasons.

When you’re applying for a job, the hiring manager may often ask you what your expected salary may be. In such cases, always give a range. The range will include a minimum, below which you can’t afford to go.

How To Negotiate An Hourly Pay Rate?

When you’re a freelancer, you often negotiate an hourly pay rate instead of a full-time salary. In such cases too take into account your experience and the going rate in the market. Pitch your rate accordingly.

Make sure to tell your client in detail the reasons behind the cost of your service. This way you can build credibility to your argument.

How To Negotiate A Salary For A New Job?

You might ace in every step of the hiring process, but find yourself in a difficult spot when asked about your expectations of salary.

Remember the following things when you negotiate a salary for a new job:

  • Don’t undervalue yourself: Make a note of the value that you can add to the company.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the details of your job: Make sure to ask the right questions and details of the workload.
  • Don’t assume your previous salary to be your new salary: Remember that over the years you’ve gained experience and learned new skills. It can add greater value to your new position. Your new salary in most cases should be higher than your previous one.

What Should You Not Do While Negotiating For A Salary?

  1. Talking about the salary in the beginning

Speaking about your salary in the beginning may give the impression that you’re interested in the paycheck and not the job. So it is always advisable to keep the talk about the money towards the end of the meeting or the conversation. Even better, talk about it when you’re asked about it.

Furthermore, once you have had a conversation, you’ll have a better understanding of the job. It will help you get more information to negotiate a better salary.

  1. Asking too little questions in the interview

Most of us fear to ask many questions in the interview. While this fear is reasonable, asking too little questions may end you up with very little information about the job. That being said, make sure you ask only the right questions.

With the right questions, you’ll gain enough information to negotiate a good salary.

  1. Undervaluing yourself

Most of us suffer varying degrees of imposter syndrome, leading us to undervalue your potential. Make sure to know your worth before appearing for the interview. This way, you won’t talk yourself out of a good salary.

  1. Assuming your current salary as your new salary

When you’ve an existing job, you also carry a lot of experience and value. This can potentially benefit your future company. You should take your previous experiences into account before negotiating for a salary. Therefore, your new salary should be higher than your previous salary.

  1. Not doing enough homework

Before asking for a raise or negotiating a new salary, remember to have enough information to substantiate your point of view. It is important to back your claims with supporting information to build the credibility of your argument. This way your employer will understand your point of view better.

  1. Making it all about the salary

Yes, salary is important. But remember to talk about the value that you add to the company when you negotiate for your salary. Simply talking about the money can send the wrong message.

FAQs About Being Underpaid At Work 

1.      Am I Being Underpaid? Things To Consider Before Giving An Answer

When you ask yourself, ‘am I getting paid enough,’ you should consider a few things. After all, ‘enough’ doesn’t necessarily mean more money.

For example, you just started a new remote job as a content writer. Although you have great research and writing skills, as a brand new team member, you lack practical experience. Initially, you earn less than the average salary, but you get training and courses to improve your lacking skills. In this case, you are not being underpaid at work. The skills you will acquire at the end of the year will bring value to your professional figure – before bringing benefits to the company.

Salary is just one of the things to consider when looking at compensation packages. Sometimes, lower pay comes with better health care, benefits packages, meal vouchers, travel refunds, and career opportunities. In this case, you end up using less money from your salary – unlike those with higher pay and no company perks. Finally, remember your coworkers. Sometimes, it’s better to have a smaller paycheck with great colleagues and a flexible work schedule – than to deal with toxic people.

2.      How do I check my rights if I’m underpaid at work?

Usually, employers must respect a national minimum wage with their employees. In 2009, the US Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) set the federal minimum wage at $7.25/hour and $2.13/hour for tipped workers. Wage increases are due to hit the public sector as well. And in January 2022, President Joe Biden raised the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15/hour. Check your local law about minimum wage. The 29 states and D.C. have different statewide minimum wages and legal requirements.

3.      Fight for your paid overtime

According to the US Department of Labor, the workweek is 40 hours, and employees are entitled to at least one-and-a-half times the hourly wage for overtime. The law about extra hours is quite strict. However, executive, administrative or professional roles are exempt from overtime. And those who earn at least $35,568/year or $107,432/year (highly compensated employees) are also exempt.

4.      Overwork employee rights: Employees vs. independent contractors

When it comes to tax regulation for remote workers, independent contractors, or 1099, you might be eligible for overtime and benefits. According to the IRS, an independent contractor controls what will be done and how it will be done. And the clients review the final product. However, if you are using the company equipment, work under the company brand, or regularly report to a manager, you are almost an employee. Especially if you receive tasks that you can’t refuse or someone evaluates your process, you might be entitled to overtime and benefits.

5.      How to report being underpaid at work?

The first step is looking for an online complaint form or guidance on your state labor website. In these cases, the best option is to seek legal counseling. For example, the FLSA has an anti-retaliation provision for those who are underpaid at work. And it’s in the company’s interest to quickly settle these types of legal issues. Finally, you can sue a company for underpaying, salary under the minimum wage, or unpaid overtime. However, it’s always better to check with a professional lawyer what you can do and the right legal process.

6.      How to ask about salary in an email?

Negotiating your salary on email can be tricky. Unlike verbal communication, emails require a special attention to tone.

Here are some things to keep in mind while writing your email:

  • Be polite when you’re negotiating for your salary.
  • Express your willingness to work for the company.
  • Give reasons behind your demand for the salary.

Here’s a template to help you further:

Dear [Name of the person],

Thank you for taking this conversation forward and considering me suitable for the position of a [role] at [company name]. I’m glad you liked my previous work experience and the sample works that I sent. I’m looking forward to the prospect of working with you.

With my [experiences and qualifications], I’m confident that I’ll be able to add greater value to [company name]. However, I’d like to discuss the salary that you proposed.

After researching the role and understanding what my job requires, I’d feel more comfortable with a salary between [salary range].

I came up with this figure after considering,

[ mention years of experience, skills learnt, going rate in the market and other supporting elements].

I’m excited about taking up this role at [company name]. I hope we can work this out together.

Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Thanks again.

Looking forward,

[Your name]

Note that the above email has a supporting argument behind the demand for a higher salary. Make sure to include your reasons when you negotiate a salary.

Last Thoughts About Being Underpaid at Work

Making sure you have not been underpaid at work is your right, and you should fight for it. However, you always have to analyze your individual case.

As we said, sometimes what you earn isn’t money. And in some cases, the problem is that you are just fed up with the job. Just remember that besides salary, other factors determine if your job is worth it or not. You should close your laptop satisfied and feel happy with your team members and the company you work for. If this is not the case, it’s time to consider changing your job!

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