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    Be wary of pay reports from co-workers

    Q. I recently discovered that there are a few engineering co-workers making more than I am. We had a send-off party for a colleague and he shared that he left for a 25 percent increase. Then others shared what they are making. I am at the bottom of the pile! We are all around 30 years old with advanced degrees. How do I make sure that I am being fairly compensated?

    A. Compensation is an emotional issue. We all think we should be paid more for what we do.

    There are often legitimate variations of pay within companies. If a skill is hard to find in the marketplace, then a company may pay more. If a job requires an advanced degree, the employer may pay more.


    In some companies, they pay a premium called a shift differential for those who are willing to work a second or third shift. There also are some legal requirements regarding compensation, minimum wage, for example.

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    You have to be careful where you get your information. Self-reported compensation data is sometimes unreliable or often “rounded up” by the employee providing the information. So instead of $33,000, a salary becomes $35,000. Instead of $78,000, a salary is suddenly $80,000. At a going-away party, your colleague’s new base salary may truthfully be $85,000 but, after a few beers, it grows to $100,000.

    There are a few ways to research compensation. You can check job postings in your industry.

    You can go online to see if companies might share ranges for specific jobs. You can also ask your manager if there is a range within your company and where you fall in that range.

    Some websites have reliable data for some roles, others don’t. There are compensation surveys available, but I have never heard of an employee purchasing one because they are expensive.


    Finally, don’t rely solely on reports from your co-workers. It may be that you were the only one who was honest.

    Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.