Thanks to a fear of lawsuits and dissension in the ranks, companies usually employ a systematic process, complete with outside paid consultants, to determine compensation.
Typically, however, companies don't do a good job communicating to employees how they arrive at pay decisions. But they should, and if yours doesn't, don't be afraid to ask. "It's only fair to say 'can I have the basic facts,'" said Dallas-based compensation consultant Rebecca Elkins.
What you should do: Ask what salary surveys they use to assess the going rate for your position and which competitors' pay scales they use as a point of comparison.
Salary surveys that companies use may not be available to individuals. But Salary.com now aggregates findings from a number of those surveys, updates its numbers regularly and offers both general and customized salary reports for your job based on where you live, your tenure and other specific factors. The customized reports cost between $29 and $79.
Another, more expensive option at $200 is a quick-call salary report from the Economic Research Institute, which also aggregates the findings from a number of salary surveys.