Would you sneak a peek?

Confession time.

I never wondered much about my pay relative to my coworkers. Most of them are close to retirement age, so it never seemed important. After all, I’m certainly making less than them because I have about 30 years less experience (some of these people have worked for my company longer than I’ve been alive).

One coworker, however, is close to my age group. He’s a year or so older than me, with an additional advanced degree. I’d been wondering what he made, sort of idly, wondering if another degree was worthwhile.  Plus, this guy bought a house earlier this year, so I was a little curious about that since it feels like I can’t afford anything.


Because my group works out of a customer site, we have special device that automatically generates a password so we can get behind my company’s firewall. We use this for things like timecards, payroll, expense reports, etc. If you forget this doohickey, you can usually get in under a coworker’s account. 

My coworker’s card was malfunctioning, so he logged in under my name. However, he failed to log out properly, so the next time I logged in, I went straight into his account.

An electronic form of his paycheck was right there.


You guys, I peeked.


I feel really guilty, but I don’t know why.  After all, it’s not like my knowledge makes him earn any less.  I probably could have guessed his salary from the information my company supplies.  Also, I could have done worse – bank account account information, management reviews, and retirement account balances are all stored in there.  I saw the paycheck, got hit with the guilt, and logged the hell out.

Still, the damage was more in the violation of his privacy.  I’m sure he didn’t want me looking at that.

What’s worse, I know I shouldn’t have done it, and yet I’m glad I did.  I’m glad I know.

What would you do if presented with such a situation?  Would you peek at a coworker’s paycheck?


13 Responses

  1. I had a similar experience and it kind of weird. If you have a close friend group at work you can probably figure out their salaries within $3-5k just through normal conversation over time. Personal salary is more taboo than it needs to be. My company publishes “Target Market Ranges” for our positions so you could make a real educated guess at anyone’s compensation if you knew their proper title. People are still weird about it. I’d prefer if everyone just hung up their last merit increase statement with a sign that says “My salary does not define me.”

    • The issue with the publicised pay bands, at least in my group, is that the ranges are huge! As a ballpark, though, they’re pretty accurate, but this doesn’t tell you if there is a discrepancy between you and the guy doing the same job as you.

  2. I would have peeked. In fact, I have peeked. Some people are not shy about having paycheck stubs open when you walk into their cube.

    It’s good reference, he’s a older and has an advance degree, so you can get an idea of how much you could make by doing the same.

    If anything it tells how good your management thinks he is and if you think he’s that good too, you can learn something. If he’s not that good, you know to watch out for yourself.

  3. I would have peeked. I’m horribly nosy and I just wish I wasn’t given the opportunity.

    I know I’m very likely one of the lowest paid people in my group, because most are WAY older and those that are just a bit older are still enough older to be at least 2 grades up with PhD’s & M.S. degrees.

    More importantly… what did you find out?! (Told you I was nosy)

  4. I’m with SP… So how much did he make? Geez! At least give us the juicy gossip!

    Clearly I am nosy too.

    But I just see it as, now that you know, you know. Next. You’re not going to tell anyone, so you just have a secret now.

  5. lol….another nosy one here. What did you find out?!

    I’m not sure if I would’ve peeked or not. I would’ve wanted to, but I also know that if I find out that someone with similar experience as me is making way more I’d get resentful. THAT is probably why salaries are such secrets.

  6. I would have peeked, particularly in that situation. I mean, he left himself logged on to your computer; it’s not like you hacked into the mainframe and looked it up or rummaged through his office to find a paystub.

    SO…what’s the verdict?? Did he make a lot more than you?

    Also, consider the fact that just because people might have a lot more experience does NOT mean they earn significantly more than you. Depends on the industry, but many times younger folks actually get paid MORE because there is more competition for hires (like in info tech and engineering especially, but even in finance I know new entry level hires who make more than the people who do the same job with 3-5 years experience).

  7. I like to think I wouldn’t, but I would have. Yea, I would have.

    And if it wasn’t fair, it would only make me madder because there is just nothing you can do about it because you don’t know, right?

    That said, don’t underestimate the power of deductions for kids and stuff and the power of your 401(k) contributions. It might look like a lot more than it is.

  8. I totally would have. No doubt in my mind. It lets you know how the company treats its employees, among other things.

  9. Lolz… if that happened at my current workplace, I would have peeked, most definitely. Just because everyone is so secretive about everything!!

  10. Yes I would have and I have done!

  11. I would’ve. I mean in that situation, how could you physically have NOT?

    Once a page detailing EVERYONE in the company’s pay for that fortnight was left near my desk (Why? I have no idea – someone put it down and forgot to pick it up?).

    Yeah, I looked. It was a revelation. (that was my old job – less than 20 staff).

  12. […] negotiated another promotion. I know that I’m now paid very fairly, especially since I got to sneak a peek at a coworker’s […]

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