Solution Saturday: They’re Paying Him Under the Table

Dear Dan,

I have been with a company for over 18 years. I was the “Jack of all trades” for a very long time. I did everything from managing to marketing. I have a post-secondary undergraduate degree. I have made my career in business management as an Executive Assistant to a large firm to a COO of my current firm.

The job has added 3 or 4 more people since my first day but not enough to talk about. I am the only woman in the company. There are 16 of us. I actually hired the accountant. He was hired a few years ago. His salary was lower than mine by about $5,000.

I just found out that the accountant is getting paid part of his salary under the table to the tune of $15K more. Funny thing, I do the payroll. So my boss doesn’t want me to know that he makes more than I do. It’s a smoke screen.

He’s even come to me during reviews and asked me to give up the payroll and let him do it! I told him that it would feel like a demotion to me. Here I’ve worked for years taking care of the company and doing all kinds of personal things for him to picking up dry cleaning, shopping for his girlfriend, etc. Now he is asking me to hand over a privileged part of my job to someone I hired!

So the accountant gets tax free money all year and the two of them have a big secret. The extra he gets does not go onto payroll. Are they sparing me? What!?? I’m a big girl but I also know that my job description should make as much as his does.

Why does his “extra” have to be a big secret? Gosh, I am the COO, I can take it! It makes no sense to me at all.

I feel that I’ve waited long enough to ask for more money. The going rate for what I do is about $20K more than what I am being paid. Am I a sucker? I love my job and care about the people I work with/for. I do payroll, all the HR, Asst. Project Manager, Receptionist, mail, COO, Marketing, Business Development, do all the Facebook page, maintain and built the website, order business cards, order the lunches, clothing with embroidery, all the cell phones and WiFi jet packs, iPads, laptops, plan parties, flight travel, customer service, cleaning, etc., I could go on and on and on and on.

I’d like to hear what others feel about this. It’s really bugging me. It’s making me feel like not doing as much work or as good. It’s really a crappy thing to find out. I guess you gotta be in charge of the $$$$ to rate here.

My boss is really a nice person and is nice to me, just a bit for the guys I think. It’s just not fair in my eyes. What irks me the most is he is getting paid privately and not on payroll.

Thanks for your insights,



Dear What-to-do,

Your situation, for the most part, is beyond my area of expertise. I feel safe to ask questions and bring up issues. I’ll begin with some observations.


Before doing anything, confirm your suspicions. It’s possible you don’t know the full situation. I doubt it. But we’ve all made decisions based on wrong assumptions. It would be sad to make important decisions and find out you had wrong information. Let’s assume your current perspective is accurate.


You wrote, “My boss is really a nice person and is nice to me, just a bit for the guys I think.”

Nice people don’t defraud the government. Nice people don’t take advantage of employees. Nice people don’t pay the COO less than an accountant.

Move on:

  • If your boss gave you an appropriate increase in pay would you stay?
  • If your boss gave you an appropriate increase in pay would that re-establish trust?
  • If your boss gave you an appropriate increase in pay would that make you feel respected?

I suspect your answers to the above questions are, “NO.”

I generally suggest people stay and work through their issues. In this case, I suggest you sharpen your resume’ and quietly look for a new job.

Pulling back:

It’s difficult to bring your best when you feel disrespected, but you must. Continue bringing your best to your organization because it’s who YOU are. It serves you well.


You strike me as a person who is nice to a fault. You might want to read Give and Take by Adam Grant. You may be a Giver who is being taken advantage of by a Taker.


You enjoy your relationships at work. You can kiss them goodbye if you act on this inequity. If you leave and your friends stay, they will be loyal to the company.

Pay inequity:

“One of the most commonly reported forms of discrimination focused on earnings inequality. One-in-four employed women said they have earned less than a man who was doing the same job; just 5% of men said they have earned less than a woman doing the same job.” (PEW Research)

There are reasons why two people doing the same job would be paid differently – experience and education, for example. A 20 year employee should make more doing the same job that a 5 year employee does.

If anything, your experience suggests you should be paid more than the accountant. I’m not considering the difference in job title.

You might want to get some legal advice.

You have my best,


What suggestions do you have for What-to-do?

*I relax my 300 word limit on weekends.