Feeling chronic exhaustion from working overtime for your current employer? Or are you always making decisions that are way above your pay grade? 

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) revealed in a 2018 report that although labour productivity increased, Malaysian workers were paid less than workers in benchmark economies.  

Continue reading to learn about the telltale signs of being underpaid or unfairly compensated and how to deal with it.

how to know if you are underpaid
how to know if you are underpaid

1. determine if you are underpaid

Here are 4 signs to know if you are getting underpaid at work.

feeling way more overworked than you should

Getting promoted in your job would mean that you’ll take on bigger projects or new responsibilities to deepen and showcase your capabilities. However, there’s a difference between feeling challenged and being overwhelmed with work with no end in sight.

Working overtime will leave you exhausted. You’ll lose interest in socialising with your friends and family. No matter how hard you try to keep a positive attitude, if you are feeling underpaid and overworked, it will eventually negatively impact your performance and mental health. On the other hand, this can be a motivation for you to start looking elsewhere for more caring employers to work for.

if your salary is not aligned with your personal and professional goals

You’ll know if you are underpaid if your salary is not enough to sustain your personal needs and your professional growth. This is an easy sign to spot.

We all have fixed expenditures to consider every month, such as rental, food, transport, phone and electricity bills. On top of that, you also need a budget for healthcare insurance and dental visits. If you’re a parent, you’ll also need to pay for your child’s education as well as enrichment or hobby classes such as arts and crafts or piano.

Besides budgeting for the essentials, you put aside some of our income to meet your personal expenses such as travel or to dine at a more expensive restaurant with your friends and family. These expenses would be considered necessary to help strike a healthier work-life balance as it helps you relieve stress from work when we are with your loved ones.

You may also want to spend some money attending a professional course in your own time to upskill yourself and increase your chances of getting a job promotion.

Clearly, these expenses add up to be quite a hefty amount of money. When you find yourself turning down dinner invites from your friends who are of the same age and work industry as you, then you may be underpaid for your work contributions.

consult a recruiter about your salary expectations
consult a recruiter about your salary expectations

by talking to a recruitment consultant

Talking about salary can be a tricky and stressful topic but discussing it with an independent career expert like a recruitment consultant, can help to clear the air.

A specialist recruiter will have the latest job market insights and in-depth knowledge to help you determine whether you’re paid fairly based on your skills, experience and the market average. If salary is your top priority, they’ll also be able to recommend companies that are known to be good paymasters.

by consulting your social and professional network

A quick search for a job role and company on Glassdoor can offer you more insights on the salary structure, culture and work experiences of previous and existing employees. You'll be able to get an idea about the typical salary offered based on your specific industry. Remember to filter the results to the country that you are working in, as salary comparisons may not be accurate across differing tax and salary systems.

Confiding in those whom you know and trust like your friends and family can be helpful when it comes to gaining different perspectives on salary and compensation packages.

If you have maintained a good relationship with your former bosses or colleagues, you might be able to reach out and ask them about their current hiring practices and how much they pay their employees. This will help you determine if you should be asking for a raise at work.

When connecting with your network and friends about salary discussions, do give them a heads up. Don’t just jump straight into the topic without letting them know why you want to talk about it. Not everyone is open to discussing their finances with you.

2. know your worth

A salary calculator uses real-time market data to benchmark your pay against peers in the same function and industry who have similar professional experience and skills as you. A good salary report will present the average pay you should receive for your current role and remit, and allow you to stay up to date with current market salary benchmarks.

Knowing how much you should be compensated for your skills, responsibilities and experience level is important. You’ll be able to know whether your boss is trying to take advantage of you, intentionally underpaying you, or if you're getting the  market average expected for your role.

Real-time and accurate market salary data is good evidence that you can use to support your claims that you’re underpaid and deserve more remuneration for the work that you’re doing.

how to ask your boss for a fair compensation
how to ask your boss for a fair compensation

3. ask for fair compensation from your employer

If you haven't had any increase in compensation for a long time or even a salary conversation with your manager, there is a high possibility that you might not be paid according to market rates.

When it comes to negotiating for fair compensation with your existing employer, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Here's how to ask for a pay raise when you know you are underpaid:

prepare your new salary expectations

Before the discussion, you should already have a clear salary range based on the research on your expertise and workload. Be honest and realistic with yourself and consider the following questions:

  • What is the new minimum salary that you’re willing to accept? 
  • Are you prepared to walk away and search for a new employer? 
  • Which number should you start with during the negotiation process? 
  • How do you think your hiring manager will react to that figure?

prove your worth with your past work contributions

Don’t just ask for a pay raise when you don’t have anything to show. To have a successful salary negotiation, you need to present examples of your strong performance and demonstrate the value you bring to the company.

Prepare evidence to highlight your quantitative achievements and how they have led to higher productivity or revenue growth.

You should also talk about your plans for the next 6 to 12 months to showcase your potential. It shows that you’re committed to your job and have the intention to grow within the company.

It's important to have a negotiation strategy and consider all your options to boost your chances in getting that pay raise.

be prepared to negotiate

Even if your manager wants to and is able to increase your salary, it may not be high enough to meet your salary expectations as they may not have the budget to do so right now.

If your company is not able to meet your salary expectations, ask if there are other options available. You might be able to get some additional employee benefits, such as overtime transport allowance, hybrid or remote work, or a more manageable workload.

You should also follow up closely with your manager on the company’s next salary adjustment cycle, to ensure that they secure enough budget then to revise your pay to be more in line with your expectations.

These adjustment cycles usually happen around three months before the end of the financial year, so be sure to set up a meeting with your manager to discuss your salary outlook for the next year. The performance review is also one opportunity where you can raise your concern about your salary.

if necessary, be ready to quit

Should you make a job switch if you’re underpaid?

Many people stay in jobs they don’t like because of the reasons that make a job switch sound scary. This can be due to the fear of not having another job lined up after resignation and not having enough savings to tide you through the job searching period. Others may be afraid that they will face the same situation in another company and would rather not risk their job security.

However, sometimes a change is what you need, especially if you are underpaid, overworked or stuck in a stagnant career.

As author and motivational speaker T. Harv Eker once said, “Successful people have fear, successful people have doubts, and successful people have worries. They just don’t let these feelings stop them.” If progress is what you seek, perhaps it’s time to get out of your comfort zone and pursue a more meaningful and fulfilling career.

Start your job search for a company that can offer you the salary that you want as well as a better work-life balance, working culture and career progression opportunities. A new employer may be willing to pay you a higher salary or offer better benefits if you show your desire to learn and develop within their company.

Furthermore, if you work with a specialised recruiter, they’ll be able to negotiate your salary offer on your behalf so that you’ll get the most out of it.

Ultimately, the decision to make a job switch should be based on what is best for you and your career. If you feel that your job satisfaction is steadily declining, it’s time to explore your options. Even if you feel negatively about your current employer for underpaying you, you should still try to leave on good terms as much as possible.

Check out all our latest job openings or create a myrandstad account with us to get started.

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