Office Politics 101: A colleague just bought an expensive car!

always thought we made the same salary, but he obviously is making much more. I feel upset. Should I speak with our boss?

Q: A colleague in a similar position to mine just bought a very expensive car. I always thought we made the same salary, but he obviously is making much more. I feel upset.  Should I speak with our boss?

A: It sounds as if you envy him, which is understandable to some extent, especially if you have the same taste for luxurious automobiles. But, be careful not to presume too much at this point.

You say he is in “a similar position,” but maybe he is compensated at a higher level because of additional responsibilities you don’t have.

Perhaps he is more senior to you in the organization and has consequently benefited from incremental increases in pay based on completing certain steps.

On occasion, employees can be recognized for their education. It could be that he has completed a course of study — such as a diploma or a degree — that you haven’t earned.

If your company uses a salary scale (grid), it may be that he has been placed at a higher level than you. While you may not know the rationale for the decision, it may nevertheless be logical and defensible.

In addition, he could have some received some financial recognition in the form of a bonus or commission that was not given to you. Companies will sometimes reward employees for outstanding performance and this may be the case with him.

On the other hand, while these points might be worth considering, I would suggest his new car can probably be explained in more simple terms.

Consumer purchases are often a matter of making priorities. He may have chosen to sacrifice to buy this car, while you have instead chosen to have a nicer home or take more vacations, for example.

He might have inherited the extra money from the estate of a parent or grandparent or sold some investments or other assets.

He may not even own the car. Leasing is increasingly becoming a popular way to drive a car with smaller payments, although there are mileage restrictions and other limitations.  About a fifth of drivers today choose to lease their car.

While the car may look extremely expensive, he may have found a good deal or perhaps it is a somewhat older model that has been well maintained by a previous owner.

While you may be envious of your co-worker’s new automobile, there is probably a reasonable explanation. He might legitimately be making more than you; however, more likely it can be explained by his personal financial situation and choices he has made.

Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life here.