Signs You’re Underpaid At Work (And What To Do About It)

By Caitlin Mazur
Sep. 20, 2022
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Salary can be a secretive word when it comes to landing a professional job and building your career. However, your salary or pay as an employee is one of the, if not the most, significant reasons for your drive and motivation as an employee. However, there are times during your career that you may suspect you’re underpaid or making less than your fellow counterparts.

If you’ve started a job and been working at the same company in the same department for multiple years or even decades, it’s a good idea to look at how your salary compares to the market average. Your salary should keep up with you as you build out your qualifications, but sometimes, this doesn’t happen the way it should.

It can be difficult to know your worth, especially if you’re new to a career or industry. In this article, we will discuss how to find your worth and list warning signs that you may, in fact, be underpaid at your current job.

Key Takeaways:

  • A sign that you are underpaid is if your salary is lower than the online average your collogues with the same qualifications are paid more.

  • If you believe you are being underpaid you should talk to a trusted coworker of HR, negotiate a higher salary with you boss, or just start looking for a new job.

  • To find out your worth you should talk to a recruiter, use a salary calculator, and network with people.

Signs You're Underpaid At Work (And What To Do About It)

Signs You May Be Underpaid at Work

Now that you know your worth, you may want to start looking for signs you’re underpaid at your current job. Below, we list some common signs that you may be underpaid.

  1. Your salary is lower than the online average. If you’ve done your research as suggested above, and you notice your salary is lower than the average, you may be getting underpaid at your current job.

    Similarly, if the online salary calculator suggests you are underpaid, this will be even more telling. The calculators typically use aggregated data and will give you a good indication about where you sit salary-wise in your career and industry.

  2. Your responsibilities have changed, but your pay is the same. If you have recently taken on more responsibilities than initially agreed upon, but have not seen an increase in your salary, then you are likely underpaid.

  3. Your benefits seem lacking compared to your counterparts. If you notice other colleagues may have different perks, such as more time off, or sick days, there’s a potential you could also be getting paid less than them. Even if your salary is the same, the discrepancy between perks means you are being offered less than your counterparts.

  4. You’ve switched industries, but your salary is the same. If you have transitioned to an industry that pays better than your old one, but your salary has stayed the same, then it is likely you are underpaid.

  5. You’ve been with your company for a few years but haven’t negotiated a higher salary. If you’ve been with the same employer for a while but never negotiated a higher salary, chances are you are underpaid. Negotiating a higher salary every few years can help ensure you are fairly paid for your work as salary expectations shift.

  6. You’ve been offered a promotion, but not a salary raise. If your employer offers you a promotion there should be a salary increase that goes along with it. If they didn’t give you a salary increase, chances are they are just trying to take advantage of you and underpay you.

  7. Your collogues are paid more. If your coworkers that have similar experience and education with you but are being paid more is a red flag. Compare the qualifications of your coworkers to determine if you are being paid similar.

  8. You notice similar positions offering new candidates more money. If you notice your company highlighting job openings with a higher salary but similar responsibilities to yours, then you may be underpaid.

  9. You haven’t had a recent performance review. If your company puts off performance reviews, then there is a high possibility you’re being underpaid. Performance reviews are essential for employees to discuss the quality of their work and growth.

    If you haven’t discussed this with your manager in over a year, it’s time to have a conversation about your salary and performance.

  10. A recruiter indicates you may be underpaid. As mentioned above, discussing with a recruiter can give you a good idea as to the appropriate salary for your job title and industry. If they indicate your salary should be higher, they likely know what they’re talking about.

  11. Jobs at your current company with fewer responsibilities pay more. This is a huge red flag and should immediately alert you that you are being paid less than enough.

  12. Similar jobs in your area pay more. Salaries may differ from city to city, but you should assess your jobs salary based on where you live. check similar positions in your area can help determine if you are being underpaid.

  13. Your salary has not increased during your employment. If you have been with a company for a considerable amount of time, say one to two years or more, and your salary has not increased, you may be underpaid.

  14. Your salary is not reflective of your specializations. If you are in a specialized career or a job that requires specific qualifications, but your salary hasn’t risen to meet this, you may be underpaid based on your skillset. Be sure to look at niche job postings to view the salaries being offered to ensure you’re paid fairly.

  15. Your salary doesn’t reflect your high-demand career. If your career is in high demand, such as a role in healthcare or technology, then you should take another look at your salary. Be sure your salary reflects the high demand of your industry.

  16. Your salary hasn’t increased to account for the cost of living. Depending on where you live, your salary may differ. If you’ve recently moved areas and are living near or in a city, make sure your salary is reflected properly.

  17. Your salary hasn’t accounted for inflation. As the value of the dollar changes, so should your salary. If your salary isn’t increasing, but everything else around you is, be sure to take a look at negotiating a higher salary.

  18. More recent hires are receiving more money or raises. If your organization offers increases or higher salaries to new team members to fill positions, then you may be underpaid.

  19. Your company has a high turnover. When people aren’t paid fairly, most have no problem jumping ship to find a company that will pay them fairly. If your business has a high turnover rate, then this could indicate you are also not being paid fairly.

  20. Your company has become more successful, but your salary remains the same. If you hear that your company is doing great financially, but you haven’t seen an increase in your salary, then you may be getting paid less than what you deserve.

  21. You’re offered a higher salary at a new position. If you are already looking for a new job and you get offered more money to work at a new company for the same position you are already doing could be a sign you’re underpaid.

What To Do If You Suspect You’re Underpaid

Once you have a good understanding as to whether or not you’re underpaid or not, you may want an action plan. Be sure to do extensive research and compare your salary to the averages in your industry and job field. Once you’ve done this and are sure you’re underpaid for your work, you can take a few different steps.

  1. Talk to a coworker or someone from HR. If you have a trusted co-worker you can lean on, confiding in them can help you think through how you’re feeling. This conversation can also help give you more insights into how you or others at the company are compensated.

  2. Negotiate. Once you’re sure you’re underpaid, you’ll want to consider negotiating a higher salary with your manager. Before having this conversation, compile your salary research so that you can use this to back up your claims when speaking with your manager.

    This will give you the confidence you need to make your case and show your employer that you have a good reason for having the conversation.

  3. Look for a new job. If your employer responds negatively to your discussion, then you may want to consider looking for positions outside of your company where you’ll be paid more fairly.

    Employers should not react negatively to having a conversation about salary. This is a fair conversation for any employer to have with their manager. Any adverse reaction is a definite red flag that the employer isn’t treating you fairly.

How Can I Find my Worth?

There are plenty of ways to find out what you should be making in your career field. It’s not always smart to start poking around your office to ask what others are making. Instead, try these subtle suggestions that can help you discover what individuals in your field are really making and how you measure up.

  • Talk to a recruiter. It is a recruiter’s job to scan candidates, conduct interviews, and study portfolios and resumes to find a perfect match. Because their compensation often relies on how high they ‘sell’ their candidates, they are highly invested in salary considerations for candidates.

    This means they’re an effective resource to use when gaining a better understanding of what your skills might be worth. Talking with a recruiter doesn’t mean you need to leave your current job right away, either. You can set up an informal interview to pick their brain on what they may observe in the job market.

  • Network. If you’re interested in staying in a specific industry or venturing into a new one, it’s important to network. Depending on your industry, search for networking organizations that you may be able to join for a small fee (or for free).

    Many of these groups offer opportunities for members to share information with each other, including job market and salary conditions. You may not want to outright ask individuals you’ve just met about their salary, so start with your close peers, or be honest and let them know you’re researching for your own means, or even for a friend.

  • Scroll job boards. One of the best ways to quickly look if you may be underpaid is to look for jobs with similar experience and skillsets. On job sites, you can sometimes view salary offerings as well as job expectations and qualifications.

    Sites directly related to your industry can be even better, as they will show you the typical salary in your specific industry. However, there will be times and jobs that require negotiation, so you may be required to interview for your position, depending on the job, the industry, and your circumstances.

  • Use a salary calculator. There are a few different salary calculators online. These tools typically aggregate data from employees and employers to provide estimated salary ranges for different careers and industries.

    However, these calculators are only an estimate as they don’t always account for education backgrounds, the type of organization you’re applying for, or any additional soft skills you may bring to the table. This should be used as a starting point in your research only.

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Articles In Life At Work Guide
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Caitlin Mazur

Caitlin Mazur is a freelance writer at Zippia. Caitlin is passionate about helping Zippia’s readers land the jobs of their dreams by offering content that discusses job-seeking advice based on experience and extensive research. Caitlin holds a degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA.

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