Is Same Pay Fair For Star Employee?

Lindsey Novak on

Q: I was hired as an administrative assistant at a small nonprofit. I like working in a "do-good" culture where we are supposed to take a team approach to almost every project. I'm efficient and good at developing new ways for getting things done. I also like being able to take on whatever project we have at the time.

I've been there a year and the boss knows I am a top performer. She sees I am willing to take on extra work as compared to my co-workers who do only what they are told to do. They arrange to take the easy projects they can quickly finish; then they sit there doing nothing until another one is assigned. They never offer to help and openly display no drive, energy or motivation. So much for the teamwork! But here's my problem: they make the same pay I do. That is just wrong.

I'm obviously not there for the money. I would work at a corporation if only money mattered. But I work at a much higher level than my co-workers, and I think I should be rewarded for my work, initiative and commitment. If our raises were merit-based only, my co-workers would definitely make less. It's one thing to know nonprofits don't pay high salaries, except to the executives. It's another thing to be paid the same as employees who work as if the job is an imposition on their time.

I feel like I may have to bad-mouth my co-workers to show that I am a far more valuable employee than any of them. I don't dislike anyone, they just have poor work ethics. One co-worker even asked me why I put so much into the job since I am not an executive. He said he was only willing to give the agency the work he felt was equal to his pay, which isn't much.

So how do I approach my boss about a salary increase? Is there a way to promote myself without pointing out that they are slackers?

A: Comparing yourself to others at work can lead to negative feelings about everything -- your co-workers, your boss, the work, the agency and perhaps yourself. If you end up adopting their way of thinking out of frustration, such an attitude will bring you down by focusing on lack instead of success.

Prepare two lists -- One describing your assigned projects, and the second describing the extra projects you've accepted and independently completed. Mention the tasks as accomplishments and state the outcomes. You can't just deliver a high performance at work; you must document it, as well.

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Meet privately with your boss so you can ask for and prove why you deserve a merit-based raise. Discuss your positive attitude, your willingness to do more than what is asked and your achievements. Do not say anything -- not one word -- about your co-workers. Your boss is aware of the difference between you and your co-workers by the number of assignments you complete. Now it will be your job to show your performance warrants greater pay.

To boost your confidence before talking to the boss, practice by writing several sample bios on yourself, as if you were advertising your abilities. Then rehearse those lines with a friend. Selling yourself in writing will help you find the words you will need to sell yourself in your meeting. Be careful not to crossover from confidant to arrogant.

It would be naive to think your boss assigns the same level of importance to all you've done (which is a problem when a child hears "good job" for everything and discovers later that not every action is special to everyone.) Hence, a work project that is fabulous, amazing, incredible and wonderful in your eyes may be commonplace to your boss, so keep that in mind.

At work and in life, apply the philosophy that a person should never announce how nice he or she is; that person should act kind and special to all and let those people do the complimenting.

Email life and career coach with your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit and for past columns, see



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