Ahhh, the murky world of salary negotiations. Chances are you’ve scrolled through entry level salaries for jobs you want, read up on tips for how to get a raise and honed your brilliant elevator pitch. But what if, even after you’ve done all that, you find out a coworker is making more money than you for the same or a very similar scope of work? Whether you suspect the gap has something to do with your gender or not, chances are you’re feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure of what to do. That’s why we asked an expert to weigh in. Alexandra Dickinson is the co-founder of Ask For It, a boutique consulting firm that helps women ask for what they deserve — which in many cases is, well, more money. Here are her best tips for what to do if you feel like you’re being paid unfairly.


1. Take a beat. Alexandra says that if you’ve just found out a coworker is making more than you for doing the same work, and you’re feeling more than a little upset, that’s completely understandable. But make sure you sit with those feelings for a bit before doing anything about it. “You might feel angry, jealous, offended, confused or even sad or humiliated,” she tells us. “Allow yourself to process this new information and experience your reaction to it before taking any action. Most people have a fine-tuned sense of what is fair (think back to sharing your toys on the playground), so finding out that someone who does the same job as you makes more will violate that sensibility.” She recommends giving yourself a night to sleep on it, and then reassessing your plan of action in the morning.

2. Do your research. “Find out what the industry standards are for jobs like yours. Salary.com, Glassdoor, Idealist, SimplyHired and Fairy Godboss are all good starting places. But dig deeper: Start talking to your friends who work in the same industry, former colleagues who’ve moved on to other companies and second or third degree LinkedIn connections to get a sense for what’s reasonable. The more credible information you can bring in with you, the stronger your case will be,” Alexandra says.

3. Know your BATNA. Alexandra says that stands for “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” and is the path that you could take if you’re not able to reach another salary agreement. “Strong BATNAs don’t just jump out at you; sometimes you have to work to create them. Maybe you get a competing offer from another company, or you start freelancing on the side. Maybe you’ve always dreamed of starting your own business. Decide what your most viable option is — the knowledge that you have a plausible alternative will give you more confidence to have the conversation with your manager.”

4. Negotiate smartly. It might be tempting (and rightfully so!) to march into your boss’s office and yell about how unfair this treatment is. And, of course, it is unfair, but you’re more likely to see the results you want if you can take a step back and negotiate well. “When you’re negotiating, make sure to ask questions to understand your counterpart’s point of view and demonstrate that you care about organizational relationships,” says Alexandra. “Considering your counterpart is something that’s easy to overlook, because you could get caught up in your own goals, but it’s essential as a female negotiator. You’ll have more success if you can explain why your requests make sense in terms of their priorities.”

5. Be brave. “It can be scary to contemplate bringing up something as sensitive as your salary, let alone that you’re underpaid,” Alexandra admits. However, she “would encourage anyone who doesn’t want to rock the boat to reconsider. Staying silent with the knowledge that your coworker makes more than you for doing the same job will breed resentment and decrease your motivation.” In other words, put on your best #girlboss face, and start negotiating.

Have YOU ever found out a coworker made more money than you for doing the same work? Tweet us about it @BritandCo!