I have been moved into a new role as head of HR in one of the largest divisions of my organisation. A new colleague is effectively my deputy. She is about 20 years older than me and a lot more experienced. She has been very helpful and I am getting on well with her. She seems very capable. But I have recently found out she is being paid around £25,000 more than me. I understand this is down to the length of time she has worked here, but I also can’t help feeling it is unfair. I don’t blame her but what I should do about it?
There is a clash between the rational and emotional in the way you have described this scenario that is central to resolving it. Rationally, you say your colleague is helpful and agreeable. You acknowledge her depth of experience and understand the reasons for the pay disparity. On that level, everything makes sense: a quality person who has delivered over time versus a quality person who has spent less time at their grade.
The only issue seems to be your sense of ‘unfairness’, which is emotional in nature. In my view, your colleague should be afforded the respect her experience and service deserves. We now have several generations working together and this challenge is not uncommon. Should you remain effective, one day you may be in the same position.
Viewed dispassionately, a good reward strategy always leads to overlapping pay bands, assuming your organisation uses such methods. It allows for experienced people who have perhaps hit their level in terms of grade to continue to find a pay-based incentive to be the best they can. After all, not everyone can be promoted.
If you were happy with your pay when you accepted the job, perhaps reflect on whether it really is unfair in the cold light of day. How long will it be – if you perform well and meet or exceed your objectives – before you overtake your colleague? Are there elements of your total remuneration, such as bonus or car allowance, that make your situation more favourable?
If you still feel unhappy, talk it through with your manager. Use data and facts. Keep the emotion out of it and set out clearly what you feel would be fair. But think about how you will feel and what you will do if your requests are not met. And be careful you’re not perceived as competitive or even a little immature if you press an emotional cause without a decent rational case.