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One of the worst things that can happen to any employee is to find out they aren’t being treated the same as their coworkers. We’ve all been there. Perhaps you didn’t realize the person who sits next to you gets a week more of vacation. Or, maybe they have special permission to leave early every day. Or, they make more money than you do. Perhaps their mobile phone is paid for.

This grim discovery can make an otherwise pleasant job feel miserable. It’s like a wakeup call. You realize that your company doesn’t value you or your talents in the way you thought they did. It makes you second guess your future there. It makes you angry. It’s like your company has been cheating on you with someone else – someone younger.

Common complaints are that the coworker is less experienced, less knowledgeable, and produces less value for the company.  “They don’t know what they’re doing!” you may argue.

Unfortunately, in the corporate world of work, salaries and perks are not always decided in a way that’s considered fair. They’re based on other factors. First and foremost, they’re based on negotiation skills. They may also be based on other details, such as the school you went to or your salary history.

If you’ve discovered your benefits are out of balance, what should you do? One option is to go to your human resources department. You can certainly go through the process of asking for a better compensation package. And, in some cases, this may be a sound idea.

But, for the vast majority of cases, take the time to reflect on the situation. If you make a case and win, then what happens? Will you enjoy working for a company that wasn’t straightforward with you? Do you want to work for a boss who doesn’t believe in your skills enough to compensate you fairly?

It may seem a bit passive, but I’d encourage you to consider focusing on your future rather than on your past. Be happy that you finally know you’re being treated differently. Allow this knowledge to be a catalyst for change.

Take the time to look for a new company who will appreciate what you bring to the table. Find a new boss who will stand behind you and be your advocate. Look for a new place where you can truly grow your career.

Search for just the right opportunity. You want to avoid recreating the negative situation you have today. While you’re looking, don’t quit your current job. It may take time to find something new.

Once you find the perfect job, negotiate for a higher salary and more vacation. By ensuring you’re paid fairly, you will likely see a considerable pay bump on your way into the door of this new organization. Not only will you reap the benefits of more financial stability, but you will also know that your new boss truly values you – and is willing to pay you what you’re worth.

Angela Copeland is CEO and founder of Copeland Coaching and can be reached at or on Twitter at @CopelandCoach.

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