Can a Manager Be Paid Less Than Her Direct Report?

I’m a brand-new HR director, and I recently discovered that an employee earns $13K more than her director, who oversees a team of 10. The highly paid employee, Jane, signed her offer letter in 2021. The finance team explained to me that the employee’s higher pay was due to certifications and difficulty finding a qualified candidate at the market salary. Upon learning that her direct report made more than she did, the director, Heidi, naturally requested a salary increase. However, the director’s salary is already in line with other directors, and Heidi would be happy if she hadn’t noticed this error. Options to consider are: maintaining the employee’s current salary, reducing the employee’s salary, or increasing the director’s salary (although we might not have the budget for the latter). What should we do?

To read my answer, click here: Can a Manager Be Paid Less Than Her Direct Report?

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3 thoughts on “Can a Manager Be Paid Less Than Her Direct Report?

  1. Excellent question, solid answer, good advice.

    At a much lower level, but I think it’s germane:

    In my second job after leaving the Army and getting a master’s degree, which turned into a 19-year career with the same organization, I was earning more than my immediate working supervisor, and for a while (about 3-4 months as I recall) the gentleman who showed up one day to start emptying the wastebaskets and sweeping the floor was earning more than me.

    And thinking of work and life in general, there are things that could be, things that should be, and things that just are … and I think this situation is one of those “just are” things.

  2. So very common in academia. I was a department chair with a degree in management and several of my direct reports with more in-demand degrees (accounting, finance) made significantly more than I did.

  3. This also happens in the restaurant business. Tipped servers often make more than the managers over them since managers cant take tips.

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