More Than Half of Tech Workers Believe They Are Underpaid

By: Christine Persaud

April 22, 2019

Photo by phaendin; freedigitalphotos.net

There are traits that typically define what makes a good job, including a positive work environment, fulfilling work, and sufficient pay. When it comes to the latter, a new study finds that a number of people who work for some of the largest tech firms believe they are underpaid in relation to the value they bring.

The survey, which was conducted with a community of 10,000 tech workers using the anonymous workplace community app Blind, found that more than half of the workers believe they don’t make enough money in relation to the value they bring to the company.

Users of the app were asked to answer true or false to a simple statement: “I am paid far less than the value I create.” Of the total 10,563 respondents, a surprising 55.8% answered “true.”

Though respondents answered anonymously, Blind, which counts workers from companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Uber, Apple, LinkedIn, and Salesforce among its users,  was able to break down the results by company to discover where tech workers are least satisfied with their pay.

Based on the aggregated results, workers at Uber are most likely to believe they are underpaid, with 60.68% of the respondents selecting “true” to the statement. LinkedIn wasn’t far behind, however, at 60.53%, followed by Intel at 59.09%. Conversely, Facebook might pay its tech workers well, workers could be more appreciative of their pay there, or employees aren’t as confident in their skills, as “only” 31% of employees say they are paid less than the value they create at the social media company. eBay and PayPal, meanwhile, were in the middle of the pack at 44.64% and 46%, respectively.

Other tech firms worth mentioning on the list include Adobe, where 56.76% of workers feel they are underpaid; Apple (54.39%); Microsoft (53.1%); Amazon (52.79%); and Google (48.87%). The full list of results can be viewed in the Blind blog.

Dollars and Cents

While there is some variance, at least a third and up to more than a half of tech employees in all of the companies surveyed feel that their pay does not equate to the value they bring to the organization. So what does this all mean?

Tech workers are known for making six figures and above, and often receive large signing bonuses when working in specialized fields like software engineering. Research firm Equilar, which tracks data on executives, found that the median salary at Facebook, Alphabet (parent company to Google), Netflix, and Twitter of US$63,058 is higher than at major firms like Exxon, Chevron, and Goldman Sachs. The median employee pay at Facebook in 2017 was US$240,430 – highest of all tech firms analyzed, which could explain the higher than average employee pay satisfaction in the Blind study. But at Intel, where more than half of workers are dissatisfied with their pay in relation to value, the median salary is US$102,100 – still way above the average person’s salary.

Interesting, while more Amazon workers said they felt their pay fell in line with the value they offer than other companies in the survey, median pay at the company is only US$28,446. These numbers, however, could be heavily skewed when factoring in high-powered tech executives who are most likely to use an app like Blind and entry-level pickers and packers, as well as seasonal and part-time workers. While almost half of Google’s employees say they are worth more than they’re paid, the average salary at Alphabet as at 2017 was US$197,274.

It’s worth noting that most tech CEOs receive the majority of their income in stocks versus salaries. Jack Dorsey, for example, CEO of Twitter and Square, made an actual salary of $2.75 in 2016, but he’s worth close to US$4 billion. Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, had a salary of $1. But employees of those firms, as noted, have median salaries in the six figures.

Are Tech Employees Really Underpaid?

The question becomes whether the skills that tech employees possess are worth being paid more for what they bring to an organization, or if tech employees are over-inflating their own self-worth and value. Were they answering the question in such a way as to boost their own confidence? Who, after all, would say “nah, I get paid just the right amount.” And is a single employee’s worth looked at in relation to how much the company is making in profits, how much the CEO takes home, or how the business performance and pay scale compares with other tech firms?

Interestingly, a question posted just three days ago on the Blind Website from an anonymous employee at Salesforce reads “I make 300k and feel underpaid in the Bay area. How much do you make? Do you feel the same way?” It’s unclear, however, what position this individual holds at the company, and what a typical salary should be for his or her job.

It isn’t, of course, all about money. Many of these employees also receive additional workplace benefits, such health plans, access to day care or other facilities, like gyms, access to food, flexible schedules, and more. And while money talks above all else, the survey did not allow employees to indicate whether they felt they were valued in other ways, nor clarify if they feel they don’t get paid enough period, or just that the value they bring is far above any type of realistic salary. Egos are, after all, quite comment in the tech world. And there’s nothing wrong with believing that your value consistently increases within a company as you work towards making yourself a more valuable employee.

Either way, it’s interesting to see that even among employees at some of the biggest tech firms in the world, many of whom are making high six-figure salaries, people still feel there’s a disconnect between the value they bring and the cheque they take home twice a month. Whether it’s justified or not is another question altogether.


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