Der Standard – 21.04.2022

Why does the manager earn less than her employee?


Many companies have embedded fairness in their corporate values and strive to live a culture of inclusion, where everyone feels that their unique individuality has been embraced.


But one thing is clear: What one person perceives as fair is a highly subjective feeling and may well be judged as unfair by another.


In order to convey the value of fairness to employees in a way that they can feel and experience, especially when it comes to salary, objective criteria and processes are needed that describe in a transparent, clear and comprehensible way

– how the area of responsibility and total compensation are related

– when and how a salary increases

– how the bonus rules work (if there is a bonus)

– whether the benefits are the same for everyone or whether there is any differentiation according to function


What is fair?

Easier said than done.

What exactly does fairness mean for individuals in the company? How do you know whether your own salary is fair and how can you claim fairness?


Again, the less emotion, the better. Instead, openly discuss with superiors the criteria that can generally lead to a salary increase.

And make sure that the goals you pursue in your job are in line with the company’s goals. It’s not uncommon to put a lot of time and commitment into something that may be less relevant to the company at the time.


Market relevant compensation

In general, you can consider the market value of the position you hold.

If you are paid a salary that is in line with the market for the position and have had more or less the same duties and responsibilities since the start of your job, then everything should be fine.

And at the latest, if the market value develops significantly higher than one’s own salary, it is a good time to talk about a salary adjustment. After all, a newly hired worker would also be paid this increased market value.

But be careful: assess thoroughly whether your own skills are still completely marketable or whether it is time for further training. If the company allows time and money for such reselling/upskilling, this is already the first step of the salary adjustment.


Employee earns more than her manager

What if, as a new manager, you find out that an employee in your team earns significantly more? Such a case is not at all uncommon and can have several reasons:

– One is a rather inexperienced manager and at the lower end of the possible salary range for the position, and the higher earning employee is a very experienced and important expert in her field, for whom the market would also pay more.

– Employee is a top salesperson and, in some months, earns more than supervisors due to high variable commission payments

– The employee’s original higher qualified position has been eliminated due to a merger or restructuring and an adequate job is not yet available.


So, in these three cases, it’s better to get clarity before you feel you’re being treated unfairly.


Part-time employees

One hears time and again from part-time employees that they are automatically not considered for exciting tasks and ultimately also not taken into consideration for salary increases. What is needed here are objective parameters and a discussion with superiors to arrive at comprehensible criteria together.

And a company that has fairness in its values doesn’t wait for the frustrated employee to come forward, but proactively addresses the issues.


Fair pay for all starts with the willingness of both sides to engage in open dialogue.

And we will also need this openness to socially question the current market values of some top-paying jobs compared to the low-wage sector.