How to Stop Being Overworked and Underpaid

How to Stop Being Overworked and Underpaid

Maybe a job you recently started is way more demanding than it was originally made out to be, or your responsibilities have expanded over the years while your pay has basically remained the same. In either case, being overworked and underpaid is a predicament that many people find themselves in, whether at a new job or an old one–thankfully, there are several possible solutions. Below we’ve provided a list of options for anyone who is overworked and underpaid:

Ask for a Raise

It’s the first thing our mind goes to, but requesting a raise might not be the easiest solution for a number of reasons: your employer could be strapped for cash, for instance, or you could ostensibly be earning market value for your work. If neither of these are true, though, and a raise does feel appropriate, then you should start building your case for why you deserve one. A raise is never an easy thing to ask for, but a couple simple steps go a long way toward helping out:

  • Keep Record: Even before you ask for a raise, you should record your accomplishments and proactively share them with your boss. This way, your boss will know what contributions you’ve made and how crucial you are to the company. Each time you go above-and-beyond, try to keep your boss in the loop. If this seems impossible or too vain, you can always share a list of accomplishments when the time finally comes to make your request.
  • Propose a Specific Amount: Instead of vaguely asking for more money or giving a range, you’ll want to come into your meeting with a specific number in mind. This shows your employer that you know what you want, in addition to making negotiations a whole lot easier. Do your research by consulting with websites like and asking for advice from your colleagues–collectively, they’ll help you figure out what the market value of your work really is. Once it’s time to talk to your boss, you’ll have all the evidence you need to prove that your request is a reasonable one. It’s important to remember that raises greater than 5 percent are rarely granted.

For more pointers on how to ask for a raise, take a look at this article. This guide provides all the insight you’ll need to frame your request as convincingly and agreeably as possible.

Talk About Hours

If you’re unhappy because your pay doesn’t reflect the exhausting number of hours you work and you doubt that your boss is open to the idea of a raise, perhaps it’s time to talk about cutting back on hours instead. Many employees who gain new skills while on the job are asked to take on more responsibilities than their position initially entailed. And while this might be a good thing as far as career development goes, it doesn’t always mean that your salary will go up.

This increase in responsibilities (and therefore hours), coupled with a salary that lags behind, is a form of pay compression–more work is concentrated into each dollar you earn, giving your employer a better value on the labor you provide. If you find yourself the target of pay compression and you don’t think your salary will increase anytime soon, try to bring up the idea of lessening your load. This could mark the perfect compromise, since since your boss won’t have to worry about a heftier payroll, and you’ll get the time you need to enrich your life outside of work. With all that extra time, you might even be able to give yourself a raise bypicking up one or two side gigs.

Look Into Equity

Let’s assume your company needs you, but you doubt that a raise or a decrease in hours is in the realm of possibility. This probably means that you’re making the kind of sacrifice that’s usually made by people who have a financial stake in the company. Perhaps, then, these sacrifices could be reflected in partial ownership or stocksin the company. This might be a viable solution for both you and your employer–your hours and pay might remain the same, but the extra hours you put in can now be rewarded as the company grows.

When the time is right, try bringing up the possibility of partnership or equity with your boss. Prepare a clear explanation for why you think you deserve equity, so that they can fully understand the merits of your request. The benefits you gain from partial ownership could be a vital asset in your long-term financial outlook: stocks go a long way towards planning for retirement or saving up for a house.

Assess the Market

Maybe it doesn’t look like any of the above solutions are possible, or perhaps your request was quickly turned down. If that’s the case, then it’s probably time to join the majority of high-performing workers who tend to switch jobs every two to five years. Take a look at the job market, and start sending out cover letters for positions that pop out – there’s probably a job out there that will pay you more equitably for the work you put in.

If you can’t find a desirable job nearby, you might want to start considering a move to another city. This article about the 15 cities in the US with the best work-life balance could be a great place to start your search.

Consider All of Your Options

If you can’t find a more desirable position at another company, you might realize that you don’t have the right credentials to earn the wage you seek – perhaps, then, it’s a good time to go back to school so you can bolster your resume. Or you might want to look into the financial benefits of being self-employed – you could be one of the millions of Americans who plan on working for themselves by the time 2020 rolls around.

Being overworked and underpaid is not an enviable position for anyone to be in, but luckily it’s possible to take immediate action. Take the next opportunity you get to sit down with your boss for a meeting, and use it to talk openly about your position at the company. With the right language and proper attitude, you could be the next person with an inspiring financial story.

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