Growth Strategies

Salary Envy

Even in a tight job market of layoffs, pay cuts and raise freezes, employees still seek fair compensation.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the June 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

I make enough money to live a relatively comfortable life. I don't need the finer things to make me happy. So why is it that I often find myself obsessing over my salary? Why am I dying to know how much money my co-workers make? I'd like to think it has less to do with my greediness and more to do with my sense of fairness.

At each job I've quit, my salary has left me feeling cheated to some extent. In my first job out of college, I made a little more than $30,000 and was thrilled about my steady income. I loved my job: the people, the laid-back atmosphere, the work I was doing. However, my excitement quickly began to fade after checking a salary comparison website. I realized that workers in my position and location were making twice as much as I was. And apparently I wasn't the only one being underpaid, as other disgruntled employees "joked" about how little our company paid. Soon, a couple of co-workers left the company and reported back that they were earning tens of thousands of dollars more to do the same work. I knew then that as comfortable as I was at that job, I really was getting played for a fool.

So I was determined to get a good salary bump with my next job. After the recruiter assured me that raises were common and the stock options were going to be worth a lot, I accepted an offer that was only slightly higher than my previous salary. Still, I couldn't help but feel bitter from Day One. It only got worse as rumors spread that newer hires were getting paid a lot more than the veterans. I reached my breaking point when I learned that a co-worker I trained and supervised (and was honestly not a great employee) was making about $20,000 more than me.

At my current job, I finally get paid what I feel is fair compensation. Others get paid more than I do, but it doesn't bother me because they actually deserve it. Even in this tight job market of layoffs, pay cuts and raise freezes, employees still seek fairness. Employers should not give huge salaries to some and low salaries to others without justification. With all the available information out there--whether it's office rumors, friends in the industry or websites disclosing salary information--if employees are grossly underpaid, they'll find out. And if they feel slighted, it won't be long before they look somewhere else for some fairness.

If you're an employee or know an employee who wants to vent about or praise an employer anonymously, e-mail us at

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