Money. It’s something we don’t talk about because it’s considered rude and even taboo in many cultures. But without talking about it, how can we know how to manage money, avoid debt or plan for the future? The reluctance to talk about money carries over into the workplace too and can lead to employees being underpaid without even realizing it—or being willing to ask about it. We are well aware of the gender gap, with men earning more than women for the same work, but other pay discrepancies exist as well. Sometimes one employee earns more than another for valid reasons, such as experience, education or certifications earned. Other times, however, those pay discrepancies are not so easily explained away.
According to Monster, it’s not okay to talk about your salary at work. How then are you supposed to know if you’re being underpaid if you can’t talk about it? Do we simply grin and bear it and hope for a raise later?
No, because that lack of pay could follow you into the future, at your current job as you stay stuck at a certain salary, or at your next one. Although asking for salary history is now banned in some places, most potential employers can still ask for it. And if you were underpaid at one job, that means you’ll probably be underpaid at your next one too when your new employer finds out and offers you something that’s also less than it should be.

How to Know if You’re Underpaid

If you’re not supposed to talk about your salary at work, and money is a taboo subject in general, how are you supposed to know if you’re underpaid? Use these three methods to find out:

1. Check your salary at one of the many websites that offer this service. Glassdoor offers a tool called Know Your Worth that you can use to get a custom salary estimate. You can also go to Payscale or Dice to get a comparison. Better yet, find reviews of and comparisons between 10 different salary calculator services at Recruiter. One caveat: Salaries differ depending on the geographical location of a job as well as the experience of the employee, so take those factors into account when making comparisons.

2. Determine if your salary is keeping up with inflation or your company’s growth. If inflation has increased the cost of living, but your paycheck hasn’t increased to keep up, you might be underpaid. Or if your company is making headlines for growth and profit, with happy shareholders enjoying big increases in stock values, but your paycheck is the same, you might be underpaid.

3. Compare your workload or qualifications to your pay. Has your employer regularly increased your workload and responsibilities without increasing your pay? That’s a sign you’re being shorted. Or maybe you have advanced degrees, specialized skills, or in-depth experience you’re not adequately compensated for. That’s another indication that your paycheck is falling short of where it should be.

What Can You Do About Being Underpaid at Work

If you determine you are underpaid, what can you do about it? You can take several steps to determine why you’re earning your current pay and to possibly get a raise.
First, avoid assuming the worst about your employer. It could be there are valid reasons for your paycheck being what it is. Try to find out. Learn how to negotiate salary which includes actionable tips on how to ask for more money in and after a job offer and help job seekers understand what they are worth and how not to sell themselves short. Ask questions to ask of your manager, so you can learn the reasoning behind your paycheck. These include: 

  • Is there a salary range for that position? If so, what is it?
  • What is your maximum earning potential at that job?
  • How do people move through the salary range at this company?
  • Is that movement based on longevity or performance?
  • Are there certain skills or certifications you can earn that would lead to a pay raise?

Based on the answers, you can determine if you want to stay at that company and ask for a raise now, move on to a different job with better pay, or earn a certification to justify asking for a pay raise in the near future. Certification not only leads to new skills but also demonstrates your commitment to your field as well as your willingness to advance your knowledge and career. Even if your manager doesn’t suggest a certification as a route to higher pay, you can propose it and find out if it will help. And once you’ve determined a certification is in order, turn to Simplilearn to earn it. Simplilearn offers hundreds of courses in dozens of subject matter areas, all with an emphasis on hands-on learning.

The money will probably remain a taboo topic, despite the negative consequences of staying silent on the subject. But you can still determine if you’re fairly compensated for the work you’re doing or not, and take steps to earn more if not!

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