Working With Salary Information Can Drive You Crazy

professional woman holding money as other pros grab for it

As an employee benefit professional you have access to your organization's salary data. You will use this data to prepare compensation and benefits statements, perform nondiscrimination testing, determine life insurance costs and more. Having this information is an essential part of your job, but knowing it can cause you problems.

Every benefit professional struggles with knowing how much his or her colleagues make. We make judgment calls about who deserves to make a certain salary. And we make these judgments based on what we think we should make in relation to every other employee. You see we benefits professionals usually have at least a Bachelor’s degree and good technical skills. And we think we are as intelligent and capable, if not more, than anyone else. So to see others who we do not consider as bright make so much more than we do, can have a negative effect, if we let it.

How Not To Lose Your Head Over Salaries

Not all benefit professionals lose their minds when evaluating employee salary data. Those who do not, do the following and so should you:

Focus on the numbers and not the people. The reason you have access to salary data is to perform a task, not to satisfy your curiosity about what others make. Anytime you can use just a list of salaries, with no names included, do so. Also, never access more salary data than you need. Do whatever you can to keep employee names and salary data separate. If carving out just salary data to perform a task is not possible and you need to know the recipient of the salary, focus on the reason for the task and the expected outcome only.

Don't talk about salary information with anyone. First, talking about salary information at work may be against company policy. Second, even if your company does not have a specific policy on talking about wages at work, the salary information you access is private. Third, talking about salaries only feeds the hostility you're already experiencing. Not to mention the people you speak with may either feed your resentment or tell you to get over it. You will either get the agreement you're seeking or the lack of sympathy you're not.

The Real World

It is one thing to tell a benefit pro to ignore salary information and not compare their salary to others, but that's not going to happen. The reality is your jaw will drop when you see what some of your colleagues make. You will feel anger and resentment. You may question your commitment to the organization. You may ask for a raise. You may decide to leave the organization and go elsewhere.


Having access to salary information is a big responsibility. Some benefit pros handle it well while others do not. When working with salary data, try to focus on the numbers and not the person. In addition, don't talk about employee salaries with colleagues, friends or family.

You won't agree with every pay decision your employer makes, but no one asked for your approval. Take the time to evaluate your emotions and then let your rational side take over. You can always ask for a raise or advice on what you can do to increase your wages. Or, you can just get over it...
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