Talk openly about your salary? I know what you’re thinking.
Many personal finance topics have long been taboo, and salary is definitely near the top of that list. Openly discussing wages can be off-putting, especially for those of us who directly correlate our salaries to our self-worth. Regardless of how much a person makes, talk of money can elicit feelings of shame, jealousy, fear, and more.
Most employers keep salary information confidential, and employees have typically been discouraged from discussing how much they make with others. Of course, the National Labor Relations Act protects an employee’s right to discuss important, work-related matters — including pay — so salary conversation bans cannot be formal company policies. Even so, having the freedom to discuss salary doesn’t mean we feel comfortable doing it.
But is keeping quiet about pay what’s best for everyone? Not according to those on board with increasingly popular open-salary policies.
4 Reasons to Share Your Salary With Coworkers
1. You Can Make Sure You’re Earning What You’re Worth
The unfortunate truth is that some employers try to get away with paying workers less than they should. If no one in your workplace ever discusses money, how do you truly know your value to the company, let alone whether or not you’re earning equal pay for equal work?
Most people research their market value when interviewing for a new job, but if you’ve been in your role for some time, you may not be privy to current market information. Pay transparency can help ensure that, if your market value goes up, so does your compensation.
2. Negotiating Salary Works for Some but Not for Others
Some people walk away with more money than others simply because they successfully negotiated for it. That’s what Chane Steiner, CEO of financial services website Crediful, had to say when discussing how being open with coworkers about salaries can help achieve fairness.
“One employee might be a better negotiator who talked their way into a much higher salary than a coworker doing the same job,” Steiner says. That might not be the case if pay were transparent. Salaries would be based on qualifications, rather than on how convincing a person is.
Yes, in an ideal world, you’d be paid fairly for what you bring to the table without having to jump through hoops. However, if you happen to identify a disparity between your salary and what you should be earning, you can use it as an opportunity to improve your negotiation skills.
3. You Can Advocate for Higher Pay as a Group
Asking for a raise for yourself can be daunting. Talk about a power dynamic: You want more money, and you have to convince the person who pays you to give it to you. A more effective strategy might be advocating for higher pay as a group, which you can only do if you’re prepared to openly discuss salaries with your coworkers. Having numbers on your side can make it easier to push for change — and easier on everyone’s nerves.
4. You Can Combat the Gender Pay Gap
According to PayScale, women earn, overall, 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. Even if you factor in details such as occupation type or workplace seniority, a gap still exists. PayScale states, “[W]hen men and women with the same employment characteristics do similar jobs, women earn $0.98 for every dollar earned by an equivalent man.” While this controlled wage gap has been shrinking over the years, pay is still not equal. Discussing salaries with coworkers can help shine a light on discrimination, even if it’s not an instant cure-all for inequality.
For more expert career advice, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:
Tips for Having a Conversation About Pay
Don’t just walk up to a random coworker and ask how much money they make. That would be weird. If you’re interested in having a discussion, try approaching it with these tips in mind:
1. Have a Private Conversation With a Trusted Coworker
Given how personal this topic is to many, approaching it with someone you consider a friend at work is probably best. If you haven’t previously connected with a coworker on a personal level, there’s a good chance this sort of intimate question will lead to a very awkward situation.
Start a casual conversation with someone you trust and who, more importantly, trusts you. You can start on a related note — not necessarily about salary — and see how receptive they are to discussing money matters. Remember, you’re already on board for having this conversation; they may not be as comfortable right away.
Additionally, you may not want to have this conversation at work. You could be overheard, and your superiors might not be happy to hear people discussing such personal details.
2. Start the Conversation by Sharing Your Own Money-Related Experience
Opening up about your salary first might be the icebreaker needed for a coworker to discuss theirs. You could start with something like, “Hey, I’m trying to make sure I’m receiving a fair wage here at work. I’m earning (amount) per year. Do you find that to be on par with others in our field?”
3. What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do With This Information
Wage-related information is personal, so be sensitive. Maintain the trust of your coworker by not sharing what they told you without their express permission. They may have felt comfortable talking salary with you, but they may not be as receptive to everyone else knowing how much they make.
Even if you learned something from the discussion — like that you’re not being paid fairly — you can address the issue with management without naming names. Let your coworker decide whether to be more open about their salary with others.
As taboo as it may feel, talking about your salary doesn’t have to be something to run from. Instead, salary can be a topic worth exploring to help ensure everyone gets to enjoy both pay equality and fairness.
Matt Miczulski is an associate writer at FinanceBuzz.