If there is one true driving force behind the world today, it is to make more money than everyone else you know, or at least more than everyone you work with at the same level. After all, what better way is there of measuring self-worth than by the size of your paycheck?
Unfortunately, finding out how much those around you make is easier said than done. Because everyone else is also vying to make more money than you, they won’t readily reveal their annual salaries just because you ask. If it were this simple to find out where you stand on the salary ladder, everybody would know how much everyone makes, and workplace riots would ensue.
But if you absolutely can’t live another minute without knowing how much your fellow financial analysts, data entry specialists, or waste management engineers make, then there is one way that you can pry those figures out of them—a good old-fashioned alcohol interrogation.
I’ve written before about the benefits that drinking can have for your career, but it’s also quite useful for getting sensitive information out of your co-workers as I discovered at a recent week-long work conference. All it took was a group of us, some cheap beer, and a late night in one of my co-worker’s hotel rooms for me to find out that I make a surprisingly large amount more than all of them—even the smart, savvy ones I thought absolutely had to be making more than me. It’s a good thing I was the last one to reveal his salary because I had to make up a number smaller than my actual salary or else there might have been some workplace violence right then and there.
If you’d like to try to reproduce this exercise on your own, here’s a quick instructional guide to help you:
- Get a group together you’d like to “interrogate.” Obviously you’re not going to tell them you’re getting everyone together to find out their salaries. Just arrange for a get-together outside of work—at a bar, a bowling alley, your own home, or wherever. Just be sure it’s a friendly, relaxing atmosphere. Also, keep the number attending to a minimum; this will help you take control of the groupthink easier.
- Add alcohol. Buy the first round if you’re away from home, or stock a decent bar if you’re hosting at your place. If anyone isn’t drinking, you probably shouldn’t have invited them in the first place, but you’ll need to shed them before you can start the salary discussion. A change of venue at the midpoint of the evening might do the trick.
- Stir. Once everyone’s had a few drinks, it’s time to get the conversation heading in the right direction. It should be easy enough to get people talking about work; after all, it’s the one thing you all have in common. Add a little bitching about how underpaid all of you are, and it won’t be long before someone suggests sharing salary figures.
- Lie about your salary. Optionally, you may wish not to give out your actual salary figure. Yes, this is the exact opposite of what you’re asking everyone else to do, but if everyone else’s figures are coming in substantially higher or lower than yours, you might want to pitch out a number that’s in the middle of the pack to avoid embarrassment or animosity.
Once you have those salary figures, you’ll want to consider where you fall into the range of your fellow workers. And if you’re making a lot less than everyone else, it might be time to execute another plan I’ll write about later: getting a raise or a promotion through excessive drinking.