I work closely with someone who is less able than I am and a lot lazier. I've sometimes wondered whether to say anything to my manager, but have decided not to as I like my workmate and don't want to make a fuss. However, by mistake I have just opened a payslip that I thought was mine but was his. It turns out that he earns nearly 30 per cent more than I do. I now feel furious and want to do something. How can I get more money and recognition without looking like a creep and a spy?


Let's suppose things are exactly as you say: that you are brighter and more industrious than your colleague, though nice enough not to mind doing more than your share. You are a bit scatty so you don't check names on payslips before opening them. (I find this easy enough to imagine, as I've done it myself.) In keeping with this "decent chap" image, you are absolutely hopeless at asking for more money. Your colleague is good at this and hence the big gap in your pay packets.

On this reading, it is clear what you should do. Go and see your boss and ask for a rise. You must not mention your colleague under any circumstances. Bosses do not like this, not because they think it unprofessional but because it forces them to justify unjustifiable differences in pay. Instead, you must solemnly list all your strengths and try to make a sound case for a higher salary. It sounds easy, but I guarantee it won't be. If you've reached the age of 31 without ever asking for more, you'll find it horribly embarrassing and come away with almost nothing. In which case you can either give up hope and accept that pushy doesn't suit you or decide to try harder.


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