Tableau Wow – Compare Salaries to the Median


This goal of this visual is to compare an employee’s actual salary against the median salary of all employees with the same pay level (cohort). Along with this, a salary scale determines how close that employee is to the median, and then provides an effective way of being able to see how employees in the same cohort compare – are there some departments that typically pay more than others; are there employees who may need a pay increase as they’re quite adrift?

WoW Challenge Link

#WOW2024 | Week 1 | Can you compare salaries to the median? – Workout Wednesday (


The things that jumped out to me to build the visual are:

  • reference lines
  • the FIXED LOD expression
  • synchronized, dual axis

Reference Lines

Reference lines are what enables the bands around the median that visualize the difference from median. This involved a few different types of calculations:

  • calculate the reference bands themselves (90% median, median, 110% median, etc.)
  • calculate the median salary for each pay level (outlined below)
  • calculate the difference of an employee’s salary from the median salary as a $ amount as well as a %


I tend to think of Tableau functions through a Power BI/DAX lens, so FIXED is essentially a CALCULATE() statement with simplified syntax.

One of the requirements of the report is to compare an individual employee’s salary against the median for their pay level. So for each employee, I needed to determine what their categorical pay level, return all of the salaries for each employee at this pay level, and then calculate the median.

This can be done with a level of detail expression. I wanted to “fix” the calculation of the median salary to the Pay Level field. This will return the relevant pay level median salary for each employee, which I then used to compare their salary too.

{ FIXED [Pay Level]: MEDIAN([Salary])}

Dual Axis

In order to properly recreate the visual and show all of the reference lines, I needed to create a dual axis. This is part that I struggled with the most and ended up looking at the solution.

On one axis, I was able to visualize the employee salary, the median salary, and the various comparison bands. In order to visualize the difference of the salary from the median with a horizontal bar, I had to create a secondary axis and then synchronize with my original axis.

This was a nice trick! Off the top of my head, there isn’t a real comparison in this functionality to Power BI, which is perhaps why I struggled to think of the solution with this method!