should you tell your coworkers how much money you earn?

When was the last time you talked with colleagues about how much money you earn?

If you’re like most people, your answer is “never.” As a society, we’re incredibly weird about talking about how much we earn. It feels gauche or intrusive to ask other people what they make, and a lot of us feel uncomfortable sharing our own numbers.

So it’s no coincidence that so many people find it difficult to figure out a fair market rate for their work … which puts them at a disadvantage in salary negotiations and leads to people being underpaid for years, often never realizing it, as well as perpetuating wage gaps by race and gender.

At Slate today, I wrote about why we should talk more openly with each other about our salaries, and how you can do it. You can read it here.

{ 280 comments… read them below }

  1. facepalm*

    I had a sneaking suspicion I was being underpaid and when 2 colleagues left, I asked if they would share their ballpark salaries. That was how I discovered I was making 10-20k less than less-qualified coworkers, and also how I leveraged a promotion and a raise. If you trust your coworkers, I highly recommend it.

    1. Lauren*

      Curious, but how do you leverage a raise based on someone else’s salary? Do you point-blank say, “I know that Sally is making $10k more than me, and based on these accomplishments and merits of my own, I’d like a raise of X%”? Or are you more coy?

      1. MonteCristo85*

        Speaking for myself, it would simply be that it would give me more confidence in what I was asking for. It would never be mentioned in detail, and it would help me determine what my minimum acceptable response would be.

      2. Tony*

        If you are underpaid, you usually, from my own experience, don’t need to push too hard to get a raise.

        But again, I think the best is to avoid being there by being pro-active during reviews and ask questions like ‘what should I do to get promoted/to get a raise’. My underpaid colleagues tended to be the shy type who is scared of asking such questions during interviews.

        Be confident !

          1. PettyPetty2x4*

            That’s very true. I once found out I was paid $20,000 to $30,000 below even the low end for my position at work. I found this out through Glassdoor, and then confirmed with departing coworkers. Much of it had been the result of “fake promotions” where I got a title but no raise. I sited the online data for my specific company and region when asking for a raise, and they told me the online data “fake” and “inflated” and that no one made that much money there (which I knew was a lie from my departing coworkers). I politely pushed, and was told that perhaps I was “too young” to make that much money, and that I needed to wait (I’d been waiting for 7 years). It was deeply insulting and I went home to cry for hours.
            Of course, I dusted myself off and found a new job that paid market value for me. When I gave my 2 weeks, they pretended this conversation never happened and they told me they would give me whatever I needed to stay. Too late!

            1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

              Stinginess is definitely an issue. But women are often punished professionally for asking for a raise where men are rewarded. It is just a very privileged opinion to say “just ask” like that’s the magic answer.

      3. facepalm*

        Well, at my company, requirements for promotions/titles are clearly laid out. So Teapot Painter 1 = college degree or 1 year of experience, Teapot Painter 2 = 5 years of experience, Teapot Painter 3 = masters + 5 years or 10 years of experience, etc. I had told my supervisor at my annual review that I met all the requirements for the next level up and was interested in a promotion, and my supervisor promised to work on it. Months went by with no development, someone junior to me got promoted, and I scheduled a talk with the supervisor. I explained that I had been asking for a promotion for ages while this junior person had received one instead, I knew other people with my title across the company made more than I did (because I asked them when they left), and that I was thinking of leaving. He was floored, and asked if he could have one week to work on it. I got an off-cycle raise and promotion a week later.

        This worked in my specific instance because I work in defense contracting, where an open seat means the contractor isn’t billing or earning money. If I’d left, it would have been a large loss of money to the company while they sought and trained someone new. I also had a good rapport with my supervisor.

    2. harmeg*

      I thought I knew how much my four co-workers were making and so when I got up the nerve to mention to my boss that I was interested in a raise and also didn’t it seem a little bit unfair that I was making 50k but everyone else in the company was making 80k… And that’s when the room went silent and my bosses said, actually everyone else is making 100k. My ears, my throat, my lungs, my eyes, my whole body just stung and tingled with disbelief and gross you’ve-been-duped feelings as I took in this information that everyone (all of them men) was making exactly DOUBLE the salary that I (woman) was! I could hardly believe that I did not ask sooner and I hardly believe that I stayed after that. Moral of the story is that you have to ask/share or reliably find out the truth because not knowing is hurting your earnings.

        1. Ben H*

          Right? I’d be curious to know if he was shocked and immediately had you bumped up, or if thought it was amusing you would even try.

        2. Hilary Ginsburg*

          He said it in a very calm but well-here-goes kind of way (revealing the info was going to be a punch to me as well as really make them look crummy). It was a sort of ” we have something to tell you… And it’s not good”

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I have to say I would have contacted the EEOC seeing as everyone else…all males…were being paid *double.*

  2. Phoenix Programmer*

    I would so like to do this, however I have been burned on this by other coworkers no less!

    One time I mentioned that HR cut my initial offer after I signed by $15k to someone who was having similar worse with HR. A coworker who overheard wrote a 2 paragraph rant about how unprofessional and awful I was for talking about this private issue at work to my bosses. My bosses then gave me a long lecture on optics, professionalism, etc. And suggested I need to be cognizant that a statement like that makes it clear that I make a lot of money and some people here only make 20k so of course they would be offended finding that my salary was cut. Not to mention a healthy dose of blah blah we stuck up for you and you betrayed us yada yada.

    I get it, keeping quite allows the systems of oppression to continue. However the personal damage of trying to be the change is just too risky to me.

    1. Autumnheart*

      Yeah. I want to fight for justice, but I don’t exactly want to be martyred for the cause.

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      Just to be clear the Company made you an offer at $X and after you accepted and signed they told you “JK it is actually going to be $X-$15k?” Do the bosses think sticking up for you was them making sure you got your original promised salary?

      That sucks about the other coworker. I take it the coworker was not offended for you because the company did such a horrible thing to you, but rather offended by you in a “How dare they complain their salary was cut by $15k when I only make $20k?”

      I admit I have felt a little jealous/disappointed when I see that the bonus for some positions/fields are my entire salary if not more. But I never get upset at the person, they made different choices in their lives and often work way more than I ever do.

    3. Kisses*

      I cannot believe they cut your offer after you signed on it. This country can be ridiculous.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Oh, I can believe it because I’ve been bait-and-switched post offer too!

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      A company that would cut you by 15K…then snapped back at you for discussing it? Shocking. Evil. Bees.

      In most instances this isn’t going to happen because they’re not going to be such brazen liars and thieves. Yikes.

  3. Danielle*

    I grew up with what we called small-town mentality. If people knew you made money, they wouldn’t shop at your store because they assumed you didn’t need the business. It was a weird concept that is deeply entrenched in the older generation, including my grandparents. I feel like this is what’s going on in some offices since coworkers can know all the other parts of your life, especially with social media. Like to travel or shop a lot but don’t mention how thrifty you are about it, or how you struggled to pay for it? You don’t look like you need the money. Though the flipside can be why don’t you work harder, you could use some bootstraps.

    So people do not talk about money or their struggles with it and everyone suffers for it in silence.

    1. Judgment day*

      Yeah, unfortunately it’s true. I work in a small office and when you’re cooped up with people you didn’t choose for 40 hours/week, it can be hard not to judge people. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of judgment, too. Yes, I do judge the coworker who constantly complains about her salary but lives in a fancy part of town. I also judged the coworker who commuted via Uber for a month and then was surprised by the cost. And I was the recipient of some snarky comments when my husband and I bought a house in a hot real estate market. I’m constantly getting information about my coworkers that I never wanted–their vacations, their lunches out. If we knew how much money everyone else was making, it would lead to even more judgment. We’d all be better off in the big picture, but the day to day interactions would be even more strained.

    2. Gladiator*

      I get this. I went to a school across the states and if I wanted to visit, I would have to save up on my $9.25 per hour job cleaning toilets part time. I would switch to full time in the summers. I was extremely frugal and saved up about 2k when I got out of school because I knew I would be unemployed and still needed to make payments on my car. Once I got a “real” job, I told my friends how much I made. I asked them to visit me and I would cover the food and hotels and they all complained and constantly told me that they weren’t as rich as me and won’t be visiting because they couldn’t afford it, blah blah blah. I was shocked as many of them made way more money than me in school and lived in the same place as me. I just didn’t spend all my money on DnD and fast food.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Yeah, I have a coworker like that right now. I’m relatively comfortable talking about salary ranges, and I do think there’s a strong cultural/generational effect on whether someone would discuss salary – my grandparents would tell me talking about finances is tacky – but this gentleman is…very focused…on salary. It’s in at least 50% of discussions that he’s in, and oscillates between apparently I make just so much more money that he does (because I don’t complain about random things that could be expected to be in someone’s budget) and complaining about his maid service. If I had a nickel for every time I had to hear about having to eat “poor people food” from this guy, I’d be as rich as he seems to think I am. I’m happy to talk salary if it helps my coworkers/friends know what they should be compensated at, but I don’t run around complaining about my theoretical spouse’s $300 salon trips. I think people mix up those two very different discussions when thinking about this kind of topic. No one’s really asking “hey, what do you spend on breeding iridescent unicorns per month?”, they’re asking “hey, based on your experience, what would you expect to be compensated for (job entailing these duties & requiring this level of experience)?”, which are two very distinctly different conversations.

        1. Bostonian*

          Oooo this is a good point. There IS a tacky way to talk about finances and money. (We’ve seen plenty of letters on this site about people seeming to flaunt their wealth in every conversation.) But there is a big distinction between the tacky way and the way that is useful information-gathering to determine whether people are being paid at the appropriate market rate.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            On the other hand, people get accused of flaunting their wealth when they just don’t bother to hide it. Should someone be forced to hide things to make others feel better? Mentioning you went to Paris isn’t flaunting. Especially when the other person spent a (more expensive) week at Disney.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              I think this though is a huge part of why talking about money in general is difficult for a lot of people. Where that line is between ‘flaunting’ and not really widely varies by personal opinion.

              I don’t personally think anyone should hide their wealth, and my line between flaunting/not is very, very fuzzy. It’s really on tone, how often it gets brought up, etc. So the coworker I have that constantly. bitches. about “poor people food” (and yes, he uses that phrase!) but also about his wife’s $300 weekly salon trips and the maid they employ….that’s over that line (mostly the tackiness line, tbh). The other coworker I have that enjoys traveling and will talk about what trips he’s gone on? To me, not close to the line. But I’ve had people tell me I must be super rich because I own a horse – my horse happens to be my phone screen photo and my desktop background, so sometimes people see it, or if they ask what I did that weekend and I say went on a trail ride, it gets brought up.

              But that’s the thing too, I often base on – it’s one thing to talk about a trip, for example – tell me about it! I like to see travel pictures! But if the only thing you want to tell me about it was the cost of your hotel, the cab ride, the excursions you went on…. nah. That’s flaunt-y. And tacky. I don’t care if your skydiving adventure was $500. I think it’s neat that you got a video and I’d watch it because I’m terrified of heights and can enjoy the video view with my feet firmly on the ground. The cost shouldn’t be the ‘cool’ part.

        2. Gladiator*

          Yes! My friends were so focused on their salary that it was a common discussion – at least there part of where they couldn’t afford anything. I thought they would have been happy for me but nope! I’ve learn since then to differentiate between complaining vs useful discussions. I would not discuss my salary with a salary focused complainer.

      2. Bagpuss*

        Yes, I have a coworker like this. She complains constantly about money worries, and if anyone else mentions that they have been away, or bought something, she makes passive agressive comments about how nice it must be and how she can’t afford stuff like that.
        The thing is, there are 4 of us who all earn exactly the same (which we all know). She is the only one who has a partner who also works full time and has a reasonably well paid job, so her household income is higher than any of ours.
        But – she and her husband chose to change their cars evey year or so, they chise to move to a bigger, more expnsive house (despite complaining about how hard it was to make their mortgage payments on the old one) , they have expensive holidays and they have them often, and so on.

        She doesn’t seem to grasp that I am not richer than her, I just make different choices about how I spend my money.

        1. TardyTardis*

          That reminds me of someone who was past retirement age and working, because they had a small ranch and well, we get fairly drought-y some years, and so I worried a bit about her, because there are a lot of farmers who are land-rich but don’t have much cash.

          Then I heard her talking on the phone about some *more* land they were going to buy, and I said to myself, ‘ok, she’s fine…’

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      As someone who is from the dirt hills small town, I’m confused by this idea and have never heard it before now. There is only a handful of stores, you don’t get to choose not to shop there unless you go out of your way to avoid the store. Which means if you can go into “bigger town” to do your shopping, you’re the fancy-pants who can afford the luxury.

      My small town glorified any perceived wealth and shunned any perceived poorness. One of my best friend’s had a dad who made a decent salary being a pharmacist and some people referred to her as the “rich girl” who everyone flocked to. Everyone went to his pharmacy, they didn’t really have a choice, it was the closest one. Everyone shops at the store buying $5 milk they could have paid $2.50 for if they went shopping in town for but most would pay the prices to save gas/miles on their only car that got them to and from work only.

      Jealousy does a lot of things but it only ruins the person who’s acting upon it in the end it turns out. Says the kid who got out of the backwoods and has parents who love talking about how I’m fancy/cultured to their hillbilly family who looks on with wide starry eyes, one of us done made it!

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Oh my gosh. I’m from a very middle of the road suburb, and this still kind of happens. I once told a hairdresser that I lived in NYC, and she spent the rest of the time discussing my glamorous life and (inexplicably) the real housewives of Long Island.

        That’s me and my glam civil servant life I guess?

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s fantastic the stories that people come up with because they’ve only ever seen “the city” on tv. I know a lot of small town folks who assume everyone in NYC is exactly like Sex in the City, no joke.

          Granted I come from a place that’s just over two hours from “major city” and there are tons of people in the area that have never “gone there”, the talk about how traffic must be the scariest thing in the world and how we all just run each other down on city blocks. No place is safe, lock all your doors! [Yet we come from a place where you have to lock your gas tank because tweakers will steal it and steal your copper piping too, so it’s like…they’re not strangers to crime/drugs but the city is so.much.worse.

          1. voluptuousfire*

            I know! I live in the outer boroughs of NYC and have a car because most of my borough has crap for public transit. People are surprised when I tell them I have a car to get around.

          2. londonedit*

            Oh yeah, I get this! I grew up in a rural area about 150 miles from London, and have lived in London for the last 20 years. I’m still in touch with some of my school friends from the small rural town, and some of them are super super weird about me living in the ‘big city’. They have this bizarre chip on their shoulder about how everything I do must be so glamorous, I must make so much money, surely I’m out on the town all the time, how can I even bear to come and visit their tiny little small town, it must be so boring for me, they must seem so boring to someone who lives in a big city. You know what is boring? Them going on like that the whole time! They won’t believe me when I tell them the most exciting thing I do most of the time is occasionally go to the pub over the road for a drink.

        2. Bagpuss*

          People have very odd preconceptions.
          Yearsago, when i was newly qualified, visted the USa on holiday . My sister was working in NC so I was visiting her, but as she didn’t have a lot of time off, I bookended my vist to her with a few days each in Washington DC and in New York.
          One of my coworkers was horified that I was going to NY, especially as a young women on my own. She was convinved that I would inevitably be raped or shot on arrival.
          The really wird part, to me, was that we worked in a less-than-salubrious part of Manchester – there were a lot of turf wars going on at the time and there had been quite a few shootings locally, none of which caused her to worry that I (or she) were in any particualr danger going around our working lives…
          I was unable to convince her that thousands of people visit NY evey year and hardly any of them get murdered.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Says the kid who got out of the backwoods and has parents who love talking about how I’m fancy/cultured to their hillbilly family who looks on with wide starry eyes, one of us done made it!

        I *wish* that our extended families took a similar view. Instead, we’re looked upon as being uppity and “too good for” the country folk, despite the fact that we’re not the types to talk down to people, talk about what we have, or say anything even neutral (certainly not derogatory) about where we come from. I have lost track of the number of times someone’s made a passive-aggressive, kidding-not-kidding comment about how that “city girl” (me, one generation off the farm v. my spouse’s grew up on the farm) is keeping my mother-in-law’s grandchildren from her.

  4. voyager1*

    Trust is the most important part of this article. You have to trust you coworkers, that is a huge ask many times.

  5. Fortitude Jones*

    I told my former coworkers at my last job what I’m making in this new job, and everyone’s jaw hit the floor. Should I hit all of my metrics and attain the full amount of my quarterly bonuses, I’ll be making only $5k less than what my former manager was making with five years less experience in this particular field than she has. My base salary is also well above what everyone in my former position makes, and my new job title is a step down from the old one (though the work is similar – I do have less responsibilities in this new job than what I had in the old one, but my new responsibilities are more high level and complex). I also told them all my benefits, which are also light years better than the ones at my former company – I know one colleague who is passively looking said she’d be keeping an eye out for jobs like my new in in my new field (software) because we were grossly underpaid for the amount of work we were doing and the better benefits are just icing on the cake if she could get them.

    I probably wouldn’t share my current salary with my new colleagues though. From my review of Payscale (which I concede could be inaccurate), I’m making more than 99% of people with my job title and years of experience in this particular job function. My colleagues have titles that are a step above mine, so I may be getting paid on par with them, which would be awkward for them since I don’t do the same thing they do.

  6. HRAwry*

    Women would benefit from having more conversations about money. Especially, women of colour and those with varying degrees of intersectionality.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I’m a black woman (and the only WOC on my new team), and I still wouldn’t talk to my current coworkers about my salary. I don’t know them well enough to trust that they wouldn’t involve me in any salary disputes they may have in the company, plus, we do totally different things. I technically dotted line report to my grandboss and another manager who reports directly to him while the rest of my team only reports to my manager, so since I’m doing a whole other hybrid job, my salary wouldn’t help them out any anyway.

      I did tell my former coworkers, especially the other black women in the office, so they could see what else was out there if they were curious. I don’t think either of them is looking to leave my old company anytime soon, but if they are, they now know what sector to go into if they want to make more money and get better benefits.

      1. BlackBelt Jones*

        I am a black woman, as well. As much as I hate to see employers with all the “power” in these cases, I understand being reluctant to discuss with co-workers. One of two things would have to be true for me to do this:
        1) I’m a new employee and don’t care how I’m perceived by my new colleagues
        2) I’m really close friends with the person I’m confiding in

        And, just to address the stereotype of POC and women being lower-paid, I’ll say this:

        I have 15+ years of IT experience in programming, data management and hardware/software support. In addition, I have a degree in a STEM field. I still manage to be the lowest-paid (or 2nd lowest) on just about every job I hold. (This conclusion is mostly based on overhearing people’s conversations, and some actual discussion.)

        It’s discouraging, to say the least.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          That’s demoralizing for sure. I’ve been there – I was always being paid less than everyone else for doing the exact same job and, often, having more years of experience. Honestly, I think this is the first time I’m being paid fairly and it’s because no one saw me during the interview/hiring stage. I did all of my interviews over the phone (my company seems to generally hate video calls for some reason) – I wonder if they had known I was black ahead of time would they have given me what I asked for. I would hope that based on the writing exercise I completed, my cover letter (which my grandboss admitted made me a solid “yes” in his mind), and my resume the answer to that would be “yes,” but you never know.

          1. BlackBelt Jones*

            “You never know” – so true!

            I have even considered using first and middle initials on my CV instead of my name. At least it wouldn’t initially be known that I’m female. However, I’m not sure what the biggest bias motivator is around here: gender, race or age. (And I don’t have any of the sought-after “numbers” for any of those!)

            Glad you’re finally being compensated fairly!

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Yeah, I would think race would be the biggest bias motivator since statistically speaking white women still earn more than we do. My name is very white, my mother even said she gave me my name for that reason, so when looking at my resume and taking that and my university into consideration (a prestigious PWI), people assume I’m a white woman until they see me and notice I’m really not, lol. So if you do have an ethnic sounding name, you probably are being lowballed based on that above all, which is disgusting but how a lot of people operate even if subconsciously.

              1. BlackBelt Jones*


                Not an ethnic-sounding name. I guess it’s all in “the meeting”.

      2. Kelly Kapoor, the Business B*

        “If you’re a working woman, you’ve likely been inundated with advice about how to ensure that gender double standards don’t impede your brilliant career. Assert yourself boldly at meetings in an appropriately low tone of voice, yet purr pleasingly when negotiating salary. Be smart but never superior, a team player though not a pushover, ever-effective yet not intimidatingly intellectual. Calibrate ambition correctly, so that none are offended by your sense of self-worth, but all seek to reward your value. Dress the part.

        Inevitably, even in the most allegedly enlightened workplaces, women contend with subtle biases. And so the fairer sex gets the message that we can’t just work. We must also contort and twist and try not to seem bitchy as we lean in.”

        1. Jadelyn*

          Thank you for that. Something about the comment was rubbing me the wrong way – I guess implying that women not talking enough about salary is the cause of the problem, rather than structural gender bias? – but I was having a hard time pinning it down enough to address it.

      3. Engineer Girl*

        It went badly when my male coworker found out I made 10% more than him. How dare I!! He took it out on me instead of taking it up with HR.

  7. ThatGirl*

    I wouldn’t hesitate to give my coworkers a ballpark on my salary if asked, but at the same time it does feel kind of weird. And when I got a not-bad raise in January, I was told to keep it “confidential” that I even got one because not everyone did. I actually am pretty sure I’m much better paid than my two main coworkers, but that’s due primarily to the fact that I’m doing a slightly different job and am being paid for my specific experience.

    1. Just Jess*

      But, if raises reward great performers, then why keep it confidential that a great performer got a good raise?

      ALSO, if they don’t want to lose an employee who did not get a raise, then why not give that employee a raise in the first place instead of trying to hide the existence of raises? Make peace with the idea that an employee might start looking for another job once they find out that others got better raises.

      Whenever the compensation secrecy issue comes up I always assume that management is having trouble justifying their decisions and failing to prioritize strategic compensation.

      1. ThatGirl*

        yeah, I tend to agree that people should know if they’re not performing well enough to get a raise. And meanwhile my raise was definitely part “we don’t want to lose you!”

      2. Tony*

        I think the issue is that the vast majority of people are average but tend to think they are slightly better than average. I see jealousy sometimes in my team and it is toxic.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This right here. It is nearly always the mediocre performers who throw a fit when they find out the higher performer, shockingly, gets paid more than they do. I did two rounds with the guy who did not hit performance objectives complaining about the person who picked up his slack getting a better raise and bonus than he did one year.

          Maybe people *should* know how they’re performing against scale (and I even have a written, published rubric! It’s on the intranet!), but over a decade of management experience tells me that, like on Lake Wobegon, all of my employees are apparently above average.

        2. MeanieNini*

          I see this all the time in HR in my company. When employees do talk with each other about salary, I end up with a few people in my office angry that someone makes more than them but they do not factor in performance, education, training, length of service or anything else. In their minds they are better at their jobs and have everything that someone else does even when they clearly don’t. We also have a group that expects to be paid more just because they feel they do more work than other departments. I love open discussions and wish people could have them in a more mature fashion … unfortunately, since I’ve found that most can’t, it just creates more work for me.

    1. Mike C.*

      Yeah, better to keep people down rather than stick your neck out and help them, right? Don’t want to rock that boat!

      1. Mediamaven*

        I don’t think it’s one person’s obligation to play advocate for a colleague. Nice if they want to do that, but no one should feel pressured or obligated to share things they aren’t comfortable with.

        1. Mike C.*

          Then at least take responsibility for your own role in keeping the wages of your colleagues down.

          1. Close Bracket*

            Naw, dude. The people responsibly for wages are the people who set wages. As someone else points out, you can want to fight injustice without wanting to be a martyr to the cause. That doesn’t make you a collaborator.

            1. Mike C.*

              You don’t become a martyr by telling people how much you make, or hinting that you know that your colleagues make too little.

              I feel like I’m arguing with anti-vaxxers focused on the literally one in a million chance of a bad reaction to a vaccine rather than the 30% chance of serious complications from measles.

          2. goducks*

            What if you’re the one who is underpaid? I think for a lot of people that’s the real discovery that they face. It’s one thing to learn you’re underpaid. It’s another to learn you’re underpaid and have your coworker know it, too.
            It’s entirely possible that the one who doesn’t want to share is actually the one who is being kept down.

          3. Jenner*

            It isn’t always that simple, positions and people are worth different pay rates. Many people don’t see the bigger picture or don’t want to believe they could be justly underpaid in relation to their co-workers. If someone was satisfied with what they make, then hear their more competent coworkers make more, who did that help? Paying everyone the same isn’t fair to the better performers.

            Not all pay inequity is bias, or unjust. So telling your co-workers what you make isn’t always doing them a favor. Maybe share with the known performers, but telling Fergus who is barely getting by that you make more probably isn’t going to make Fergus’ day or give him leverage in negotiation.

      2. Samwise*

        C’mon, Mike. Easy to say, but you don’t know MommyMD’s situation. There are all sorts of reasons not to, as other commenters are making clear.

        1. Mike C.*

          You can say a range. You can hear their wages and say, “mine is much higher/lower”. You can say, “a typical wage for someone like you would be around $XYZ. Any sort of information like that would go a long way towards helping out without getting into trouble.

          But sitting in specifically in a privileged position and refusing to do anything specifically because you hold that position of privilege is inexcusable.

          1. Micklak*

            I think MommyMD’s point was more about upsetting someone if there is a big gap. Those conversations are much more likely to lead to dissatisfaction than pay equity.

            Turning that sentiment into “keeping people down” feels a swing and a miss.

              1. Jenner*

                How do you know that there is a problem in this hypothetical case?

                An employee knowing their pay in relation to others is not justification to pay them more. But it’ll sure change the way they look at their paycheck and at their coworkers.

      3. Spongebob WorkPants*

        I’m not going jeopardize my job to let a coworker use my salary as a weapon to get more money. There’s enough salary range information online for coworker to make an informed decision about whether they are underpaid, and they are free to negotiate with the boss for more money or get another job.

        1. Mike C.*

          You aren’t really jeopardizing your job, no matter how many times you try to convince yourself of that.

          1. Natatat*

            “You aren’t really jeopardizing your job, no matter how many times you try to convince yourself of that.”

            You don’t know the workplace culture where Spongebob WorkPants works, so you have no way of knowing that Spongebob WorkPants isn’t jeopardizing their job by speaking out about salary.

            1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

              It is against the law to punish employees for speaking about salary in the US. Unless they are managers.

              1. Jenner*

                But it isn’t against the law for managers to punish employees because they view them as pot stirrers. Just saying that law would be very difficult to use in a defense unless the employer really spelled it out for you.

          2. Jenner*

            In my place of work a new employee decided she was going to save everyone in the office and tried to get everyone to share their pay information with the group. Effectively organize against management together. A few went along with it thinking it was just a one on one deal conversation with the new hire.

            I don’t think she helped anyone that day. She told some people they were under paid, not knowing anything about their performance or responsibilities, or their job history. They got upset, found out their pay wasn’t going to change just because the new face had that opinion…. It wasn’t pretty.

            I am not saying you shouldn’t talk about pay, but you should do it strategically and thinking that in every case you are going to liberate all of the women in the room and rid the world of pay inequity is naive and significantly oversimplified.

          3. TardyTardis*

            Bull hockey. People have been fired to letting out salary information. Yes, it’s supposedly legal to talk about it, but have fun filing that suit on the way to unemployment.

    2. Banana Pancakes*

      This is bad advice and you should feel bad for giving it. I don’t care if you disclose your income or not, I don’t care if you’re not in charge of payroll, but telling other people not to discuss their own salaries is pretending that the master’s tools will ever dismantle the master’s house.

      Employers benefit from us keeping quiet. They fear us speaking up so much that many of them try to ban it outright so that we never learn how valuable salary information is. This is how they keep minorities down. This is how they keep us poor, undereducated, scared, stuck under their thumb and too weak to fight back.

      Stop advertising for that system that oppresses people without power. It’s toxic and predatory.

  8. Mike C.*

    A couple of weeks ago.

    One immediately asked for a raise and promotion, the other took a lateral move elsewhere.

    1. GillysGotIt*

      But that means they’re likely to have used the information you gave them as leverage, which may hurt you in the future, which is part of the reason why people have nothing to gain by divulging salary information.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s why you weigh your risks and your goals before you give out the information.

        Everything in life is a calculated risk, some of us take more than others for reasons that are our own.

        Some of us draw something a lot more than money from helping others achieve equality. This goes for a lot of things in life. Why stand up for anyone else if you aren’t in the same boat as they are? Because you want to and you feel a calling to do so.

        1. GillysGotIt*

          I just don’t understand what the goal is, though.

          If you find out your co-worker is making more money than you, you feel bad and you have to use the fact that they disclosed their salary to you as leverage. That doesn’t go well.

          And if you find out you make more than them, then what? You feel good about yourself? Or bad?

          And what if they’re a better worker than you, or worse? Or they need the money more? Or less?

          It’s all so maddening and I just don’t see the reward for the many inevitable risks.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The goal is to help you and other workers assess whether you’re being paid fairly, to arm yourself with info that can help you negotiate better wages, and to root out gaps by race, gender, or other illegal factors.

          2. Aj*

            Also: “needs it more” should never come into it. The idea that one employee “needs the money more” is a hallmark of
            sexist pay traditions like paying a man “with a family to feed” more than a woman doing the same job.

          3. Tony*

            In my fields, there tend to be a ‘shy’ type: the type of guy who does not consider reviews as a two-way conversation and often end up being underpaid because he is passive and let people direct his career.

            Having a conversation about salary can open their eyes and they do not need to name you to ask for a raise if they are underpaid.

          4. Mike C.*

            It’s not about “SO AND SO MAKES MORE THAN MEEEEEE!!”

            It’s about knowing that such salaries are available in the first place. It means you know that when you ask for more money, that the amounts you are asking for aren’t unreasonable. It’s about knowing if there is an actual systemic problem at your workplace.

            It’s literally nothing more than a first step.

      2. Mike C.*

        This doesn’t make any sense. I was making way more than they were, and they took the information as another reason to advance their careers towards places that would pay them better.

        How in the heck was I hurt by this? You’re not making a single lick of sense here.

        1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

          Yeah, this isn’t making any sense to me either. I have always been open with my specific salary and let people know whether they might be underpaid. Shoot, I even specifically told people to go in and say, “Danger makes $X but doesn’t have supervisory duties and you are offering me $X-5K for a job where I supervise 3 people, I would like to make at least $X before I take this position”. I doubt the hiring managers were happy about it, but it never has caused me any problems.

        2. Cynthia*

          I was guilty of this once. Told a more junior (slightly) co-worker what I was making and he was floored. He all but demanded a raise from his manager, citing my salary as a reason he should earn more.

          He didn’t get the raise and eventually stagnated and was laid off. I, meanwhile, got a stern talking to about salary confidentiality, also stagnated, and wound up leaving on my own when I could eventually find a job.

          I’d never do this again. Both my co-worker and I lost in this, and if the world at large somehow benefitted from all of this, then I’m unaware of it. Occasionally this comes up and I always advise people to never reveal their salary.

          1. Mike C.*

            Your employer was acting illegally. That’s the problem here, not the fact that you shared salary information.

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              The fact that the employer was at fault does not mean that there weren’t negative consequences for the employees.

              I feel like you’re being a bit naive by not acknowledging that there can be risks to people – maybe they don’t get fired (or maybe they do and don’t have the time/money/stomach for a lawsuit or EEOC complaint), but upper management with strong feelings about the appropriateness of salary discussions (like the seriously old-school head of HR at my last job) can definitely form an impression of someone that is not favorable and has impacts on their work opportunities, promotions, and compensation – and it’s not overt and is hard to prove even if one seeks redress.

              This is not to say that people should not be more open about salary, but chastising people for assessing their own personal risk benefit seems counterproductive. The is-this-legal letters that Alison routinely answers makes it clear that a wide range of unethical or immoral behaviors by employers are not only not illegal but fairly easy to get away with, and pretending like we live in some black-and-white, right-and-wrong work world is not realistic. There is no need to shame them (antivaxxer comparison, really?) because they’re not similarly situated to you, especially when you have zero insight into the particularities of their job, employer, or life.

            2. TardyTardis*

              Employers do illegal stuff like that all the time–age discrimination is wrong, too, but after the K-mart class action suit collapsed, all the employer has to do is to say the right buzzwords to let old people and not hire them in the first place. Same goes for nonwhite people, gays and women.

  9. Chrome*

    Upper management held a company-wide meeting during which they asked/forbid everyone not to discuss wages with each other. I had a new hire I was training for a position I’d once held. I advised her that this was actually illegal of them to ask. Told her what I’d been paid when first hired, and what I’d been paid after X amount of time. My company actually pays pretty well & treats employees reasonably, but it’s the principle of the things.

    1. voyager1*

      Wow… that is just wrong. Good for you though for helping your new hire though.

    2. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Yeah, companies love to try and forbid this type of talk, but it is illegal. They can ask that you try and keep it confidential, but they can’t fire you/discipline you for it.

  10. kittymommy*

    I think this is one area you see a big dichotomy in government. While I’m in a local government my state is big on transparency. My salary, or any government worker whether it is state or local, is public record. Some places you have to call/contact in some way and ask, but I know that at one time (and possibly still) the state workers were all online.

    1. Miki*

      I was about to post, State university person here, you can google our names/department and see who makes what, public record. It used to be that you have to go to the library (on campus) and ask for either grey or blue book to see the salaries (I think grey was Academic, Blue Civil Servants), but in the past 10 years it’s all online.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Those data bases break down a lot more than just salary too, it goes into benefits from what I’ve seen! Yes, I’ve poked around on them for various reasons.

    2. Environmental Compliance*

      Yup – prior to current job in a private company, I was gov’t (state & county), and it was all public knowledge what you made. At both states it was published by level, but at the county it was by name and posted in the local paper. The only way though that was helpful was when someone got in my face about “their tax dollars paying my salary!!1!” and I could tell them to go check the paper and see how little of their tax dollars paid my grocery bill. Gov’t salaries in the agencies I worked at were set in stone, and knowing what others made didn’t help at all. There was no negotiation.

      1. Midge*

        Same here. I worked for my city government, and all of the pay scales are published in the annual budget, which is available as a PDF on the city’s website. Technically you can only see the previous year’s payscales, but it dosn’t change that much. There tends to be a small COLA every year, but you can get pretty close to knowing what someone makes if you know their job title and how long they’ve been there. The only flexibility I ever saw was that a person was sometimes hired into something other than the bottom salary step for their position, if it was an extremely qualified person and a difficult position to fill. And even then, getting hired at a higher salary didn’t raise their potential max salary. If you start at step 4 out of 6, you’re still going to max out at step 6.

        I wonder if the “my taxes are paying your salary!!11!” people ever stop to consider that the city workers’ taxes are also paying their salary? In my experience, the same people who think that way also tend to be almost religiously pro-police, and if you look at our city budget (or I’d imagine most city budgets) a huge percentage goes to police and fire. And another huge chunk to public works to make sure their water is safe to drink and their streets are repaired. /tangent

        1. kittymommy*

          I wonder if the “my taxes are paying your salary!!11!” people ever stop to consider that the city workers’ taxes are also paying their salary? – No they don’t. At least based on the one’s who have asked that question to me. They also get really prickly when I try to hand them back what they contributed to my salary – generally about a penny – and then request change back…

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            The ones that spat the question at me never really considered what all taxes go towards, or who all has to pay tax (fun fact – that still includes the gov’t workers! We pay our own salaries with that logic).

            With the agencies I worked at, the position that was posted was the only position you could get hired in at. They were very, very tight on not allowing hiring in at an advanced level – what was posted was literally what you got.

        2. Maya Elena*

          To be fair, and without judging the social value of the work performed, you can draw a fairly clean distinction between jobs that are tax funded and those that fund the taxes, regardless of the fact that both go through the same IRS process. I’d argue that most federal, state, local employees – including military, police, teachers, etc. – and 100%-government contractors qualify as this. Those who make their money in the private market can be said to be more truly the tax payers.

          Obviously, this gets quickly muddled with e.g. a private company selling to the government (e.g. Microsoft or Dell or the cafe near city hall), and government enterprises that make money through user fees (e.g., post office, transit). Its gets even more muddled if you try to estimate the imputed value of various government tax exemptions, protections and barriers to entry that increase a private company’s profits (e.g. Comcast), an initial research grant that jump-started your product, etc.

          But even still.

          1. MK*

            Frankly this is both offensive and completely nonsensical. I am working for the government and am giving value (not “social” value, actual economic value, because even if I am not producing anything, I am facilitating the economy) and I receive a salary, on which I pay taxes. I also pay property taxes, VAD, etc. But I am not a true taxpayer? And it makes it ok for some jerk whose life would be impossible without my work to think they are my boss?

          2. Environmental Compliance*

            That’s…not how that works. My positions were all gov’t, and not a single one of then was funded by state/local tax dollars. They were actually all very sectioned out; tax dollars were put in a very specific bucket to be used for public improvements. My positions were paid for through permitting (or similar) revenue in every case. This was all reported publicly.

            You are not more truly a tax payer by being in a private company, which is pretty damn offensive to say, to be frank. My tax money as a public servant went towards the same bucket everyone else’s did, at the same exact rates. You pay taxes? You’re a tax payer. You are not worth more or less as a tax paying person whether you’re private or public.

    3. Beckie*

      Yes, I’ve worked at a couple different public universities, and over the years it’s gotten easier and easier to access the salary data. Fifteen years ago we had to dig up a spreadsheet created by an enterprising undergraduate. Now, my university emails all staff annually with the a.) reminder that our salaries are public and b.) link to the website with the salary data. You can search by title or by name, which makes it very easy to see how much money your peers are making.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        My union does this for union members, although not by name (or gender) but by job code, level, years of service, and age. It also shows the market rate the company uses to set salaries. I love the transparency because I can easily pick out my datapoint and see how it compares to others with similar metrics.

    4. Fiddlesticks*

      Yep, I’m in local government too. There’s no advantage to playing coy about one’s salary, since the salary for each position is in the city budget that is publicly approved each year, and the salary scales for each position are in the official personnel manual (also a public record). If you ask a coworker what he makes, and he says “None of your business!”, you can say “Well allrighty then” and just go look it up yourself.

      The idea that coworkers “shouldn’t” know what their colleagues are earning is just so bizarre to me…

    5. AJK*

      I worked at a company that had a payscale set by seniority, if you had X years in, you were making X, no exceptions. At one point there was an effort by the company to bring our pay in line with others in the same industry (we were among the lowest paid in the industry at the time, it’s a long story as to why) and so we had our pay scales as well as the pay scales for the other companies posted in the office so we could compare them. We would regularly discuss what rate we were at based on seniority, and seniority was also posted for everyone to see, so everyone knew what everyone else made.
      Once I shifted into office work I was surprised at the secrecy surrounding salary and wages – I had become so used to the transparency that it was a little weird to me.

    6. chibawafu*

      My State has a website where all you have to know is the person’s name and if they’re in State Gov or the State Uni system and you can find their current pay.

      It’s very nice and transparent for the citizens (though they still rant about ‘overpaid’ state workers) and great for us when we want to be nosy and see what kind of pay bumps people are getting.

    7. Klingons and Cylons and Daleks, Oh My!*

      In the Great State of New York, all public employee salaries at all levels (state, county, city, village) are public record. That means everybody, from the Governor to a small town police chief to a teacher’s aide in Brooklyn. Any potential employer can easily look up your salary in a few minutes.

    8. Aussie*

      Same here. It doesn’t have our names associated with the records, but position titles.. it’s pretty easy to figure out who’s earning what!

  11. Marzipan*

    We’re on a specific payscale with annual increments up the spine until you hit the top of your grade, and after that you only get more if you’re so super-awesome they put you up to a contribution point. So basically I could tell you pretty accurately what any of my colleagues makes (and they me) just by knowing how long people have worked there.

    1. Pandop*

      Same here in the public sector in the UK, there are payscales for every job, you start at the bottom of the spine and then work your way to the top. Our individual salaries aren’t published anywhere, but you do at least know that all the people doing the same job are on more or less the same salary, with just some variation due to how long they have been there. If you want to move to another grade on the scale you must demonstrate that your job has changed to meet the criteria for that grade.

  12. Mediamaven*

    This is a challenging one for me. In our industry, everyone has essentially the same role just at different levels, so at the core, I think most employees would believe that they should all be making the same so learning of any compensation disparity would cause grief. But there are a lot of reasons why someone might make more, or less. Maybe they came on board with more experience or more accomplishments. Maybe they are a top performer who deserves to be compensated as part of retention. I have an employee who has accomplished more than senior managers above her. So I paid her more than what I typically pay for her position when I promoted her. I think there are multiple ways to look at it and I think starting a larger discussion about it among colleagues can fuel an unpleasant fire.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is an acceptable or as the laws put it “bona fide” reason behind pay differences! However how much difference are you talking about? Are you talking about “This pays 50k, but since you’re so good, I’m paying you 55k!” or “This pays 50k but since you’re so good, I’ll double it to 100k!”? So that’s sadly just the difference between a line worker mentality of “We do the same work, we should get paid the exact same” and the managerial/retention aspect of “but you need to incentivize the workforce to do more than just the minimum, so we pay more if you excel in the position and more if you stick around for long enough, etc.”

      You will always have people who will nitpick and fight you about the “fairness” but as long as you follow a guildline and aren’t shooting from the hip with wages being all over the place, you don’t need to make someone believe you, unless they’re a judge in the very end.

      We advertised for a position that essentially capped out at 62k starting out but someone who had rockstar skills, in a very niche kind of position and they asked for 70k, we were ready to pay it given the special skills he brought with him until it become glaringly apparent he wouldn’t be good at the secondary part of the role so we didn’t hire him at all.

      1. Mediamaven*

        It’s more of the first example that you described. I think the issue is peer pressure and mob mentality. It doesn’t matter that it’s a legitimate reason for paying more, it’s that if people learn about it, fury will ensure no matter what. It’s just a slippery slope because I have the right to do what I need for my business, but my team has the right to have whatever emotions result. I can’t prevent them from discussing salary, but I can sure hope they don’t!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Your team discusses their wages. I promise you. In every single manufacturing/production facility I’ve been in, everyone talks about what they make. Everyone is also always looking for a new gig and if you post a job listing and have a starting wage, they will see it. I had a lot of issues when minimum wage went up again and starting wage went up with it so we could get people to take the openings. We had people start complaining that they started at X amount, why are we starting people at Y amount now? Even with the minimum wage discussion, they were all still salty AF to say the least.

          It’s the burden of being the “boss” and having the purse strings. It’s best to just accept them and acknowledge that it’s a knowledge gap. If everyone was born with a business sense, then they’d have their own.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          So, in some ways, because you expect us to act like children, you treat us like children. We can’t be expected to be professional and understand the differences.

          If people are being petty, then that behavior should be addressed. “Percival, you know that Malicia is paid 5k more than you even though you’ve been here 3 years longer, but she also is producing 3 projects to every 2 of yours. If you want a similar pay raise, I expect similar production. Until then, I do NOT want you sniping about her pay, and if you continue, there will be consequences. I expect you to act like a professional while you are working for me.”

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            There are laws protecting people from being fired for talking about wages so even though I know right now you’re trying to drill it down into the attitude issue, you don’t want to go down that slope of threatening someone’s job for it. Find other things they have a bad attitude about but don’t touch the ugly messy “he’s mad because he makes less, he needs to shuddup about that” with a ten foot pole. That’s a box you don’t want to start poking at. People have the right to not understand payscales. That’s above their paygrade usually, just explain it once and then tell them that you have nothing else to add to the conversation. No threats of consequences.

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              Ok, I see your point. But there must be some way to hold employees to professional behavior when they are griping about justifiable and valid pay inequities.

                1. ThursdaysGeek*

                  And if they continue whining and griping instead of improving? After all, that’s the fear expressed for not being open about pay in the first place.

  13. Close Bracket*

    I will tell people who are not my coworkers how much I earn, especially if it helps them figure out how much they should be paid, but not my actual coworkers. Nope. Too much potential for stirring up trouble for me.

    FWIW, I’m female in a male dominated industry, which adds a special level of fraught to the discussion.

  14. Aphrodite*

    I work in higher education in California, Because I am considered a public employee my salary (and benefits) are public information. So are all my colleagues. You just realize that they are only numbers and meaningless after a while. I get the secrecy that has been drilled into us but for those who face forced disclosure and are uncomfortable know that it quickly becomes a non-issue.

  15. Flower*

    As a state employee with a partner who’s a federal employee, this is always an interesting discussion. Our earned incomes (and our benefits) are publicly searchable and also pretty rigid. (Though the actual flexibility of my time off is not readily apparent unless you know that life science grad students typically have very flexible time off.)

    That said, what public databases don’t show you is any investment return or interest gained on savings. I guess it leaves our actual financial status more hidden from friends/relatives/neighbors/strangers.

  16. Less Bread More Taxes*

    I got fired for disclosing my salary. I started a discussion in my coworkers’ Facebook group chat. I was pulled into a serious meeting about it, and the next morning I was fired for “performance issues” (depsite stellar reviews the previous year). It was worth it though. Turns out there was a huge pay disparity on the team.

    I’m in a situation now where I know I make 10% more than all of my colleagues. I don’t plan to share this information because it’s not necessarily discriminatory, just happens to be that way since I negotiated.

    I’m a huge proponent of speaking up at work. However, you do have to look out for your own best interests. I suppose that starts with working for a company that doesn’t oppress its employees.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And this is why the majority of EEOC cases in the last year were about retaliation, that behavior that happened to you is retaliation. If you have those stellar performance reviews and they gave you that kind of wishy washy nonsense right after talking about your salary and uncovering a huge disparity, yikes yikes yikes they dodged a bullet when you didn’t file a complaint [or did you and sadly they didn’t find enough evidence to move forward]

      Especially just firing someone, then what do you have to lose by bringing the officials into it. Usually these jabronis at least have the mind to threaten your job first instead of just straight out termination.

      Regardless, I’m glad you found it worth it in the end!

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        It was a weird situation where I was going to quit anyway a few weeks later in order to go back to school. Plus a bunch of people left after that because of the inequity and I thought that was justice enough at the time. I do slightly regret not filing something now though.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I totally get it! I appreciate that you at least thought about it. In the end with all lawsuits or complaints in general, the important thing is you know that they did something that you could have drug them further into the trouble-tank over. Then you get to decide if you dunk them or if you just walk away and be done with it!

          I too get more pleasure from other sources as well, including mass turnover. My previous job that was horrid had a complete turnover since I’ve left and I am delighted. We could have made a case out of a few things had we wanted to try but you know what, just let them play in their dirt and eat their mud pies in their self created misery.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Does anything ever happen with those lawsuits, though, except for the lawyers making bucks?

        2. alphabet soup*

          Depending on the circumstances, you could still have time to file a complaint. These are some pretty straightforward guidelines:

  17. Elmyra Duff*

    Yes. Everyone’s compensation should be available on the company intranet. It’s a good way to combat salary inequality within the business.

  18. Res Admin*

    Salaries and benefits are public info here. You have to know where to look, but easy enough for anyone who really wants to know. Even easier if you work here–it is a quick look up. I access salary info all the time as part of my job duties.

    I still don’t talk about my salary. What I do is specialized enough that what I makes is not comparable. Also my boss goes out of her way to make sure everything is equitable. Entity-wide, it would depend on what unit you work for–some can afford to pay more and others just cannot.

    In my last unit, people used to look up salaries all the time. Always made them mad because it was never what they thought it “should” be (usually they thought it was too high–that unit notoriously did not pay well). Funny thing, though, they liked working in that unit and were rarely upset enough to apply for a position that would pay more.

  19. Middle School Teacher*

    Articles like this make me happy I have a CBA and our salaries are public.

    A few years ago our provincial government published a “sunshine list” of public servants who made $100k or more. It was an interesting read.

  20. Completely Anonymous for This Post*

    Yes, sharing salaries openly would be awesome except for one thing (and I say this as a compensation professional after 35 years in the business): people frequently lie about their pay. Their salaries, their bonuses, you name it.

    I can’t tell you how many employees have contacted me over the years complaining that Soandso told them how much money they make and HOW CAN THAT BE FAIR? and when I investigated, discovered that Soandso was lying through their teeth.

    Share all you want. Take it all with a grain of salt. This problem will not end with sharing openly. It would end with companies communicating salary ranges when they post positions, or at least it would be a start.

    1. goducks*

      I too have experienced people coming to me complaining that soandso is earning a whole bunch more than them, only to realize that for some reason soandso was completely overstating their pay.

      I’ve learned to give a response of “Well, I can’t discuss other employee’s pay with you, but I can tell you that sometimes people don’t give the real number when discussing their pay with coworkers.” and hope they read between the lines.

      1. Jenner*

        Many people also talk about their paycheck, or their net pay, instead of the relevant gross number.

        So and so only takes home $300 every two weeks! Gasp! Oh…but she didn’t mention the garnishments from her bankruptcy or that she chose the most expensive health benefit option.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yes, all job postings should include salary ranges! In fact, it should be a legal requirement.

      (Lying about your actual pay is soooo middle school. Like… actual adults do that?)

      1. Bluesboy*

        I remember a friend of mine a few years ago proudly announcing the salary at his new job to everyone when we went out to celebrate. A week later it came out (by chance) that another friend was making significantly more.

        The first friend then mentioned his salary at his new job…which was suddenly much higher than a week earlier!

  21. NW Mossy*

    In thinking about this, I wonder if a piece of the problem is that those making the decisions about what salary to offer feel like pay transparency is unnecessary, but forget that the reason that it feels unnecessary to them is that the nature of managerial jobs gives access to the very information pay transparency is intended to provide.

    If you’re a manager, you almost certainly know what your direct staff makes, the pay ranges for various position levels, how raises and bonuses work, who the budget managers are, and more. If you work in HR/compensation, you likely know even more. And as humans, when we know things, we have a bias towards assuming that everyone else knows those things too.

    As a result, those who get to the people-management level (even if they don’t stay there) tend to have distinct advantages in self-advocacy that someone who’s never managed before don’t. And like a lot of things, we can tend to be blind to our own privileges.

    1. sacados*

      That is so true.
      My job is, essentially, a team lead/project manager type role. While I don’t currently manage anyone in the sense of performance reviews, etc., part of my job is managing the budgets for my projects. Which necessarily entails keeping track of all of the people assigned to my project and how much those people cost. So this means that I, and others in my same role, have access to a list of the actual “cost” of almost every single person in the company.

      Aside from that, my company is an environment where people really don’t tend to talk about how much they make (and it’s also known in our industry to pay slightly less than other competitors in the area — though we have a reputation of high quality and working on interesting projects, so people tend to view the slightly lower pay as an acceptable compromise, at least for a few years).
      So it’s very strange to know there is this huge divide between the majority of the employees, vs the few of us who know specifically what every single person’s salary is.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      What a brilliant insight! It’s like the opposite of little kids who think you can’t see them because they’re covering their own eyes.

    3. Jenner*

      Also, if you think the pay is fair, you are only going to see the downsides of transparency.

      I think (and hope most managers think) my employees are paid fairly based on their tenure and performance. So when I think of them openly discussing their pay only negative reactions come to mind.

  22. Jan Levinson*

    I have a sneaking suspicion that my (male) coworker makes more than me. We have the same job title, but I’ve been here for 5 years compared to his 2 years. We graduated college the same year (2014). I’ve gotten excellent reviews and yearly raises in my time here, but I still think my coworker makes more (to be fair, he is a solid employee as well).

    The reason I think this is because his wife recently had a baby, and has decided to be a stay at home mom. They also recently purchased a fairly large house in a wealthy nearby suburb. My coworker also bought a new car about 6 months ago. I make $41,000 a year, and could not imagine supporting a spouse, infant child, and paying off a house and car on my salary alone. To be clear, my husband and I are very good with our money (we paid off all $30k worth of my husband’s grad school loans in 9 months), so this isn’t a case of “my spouse and I couldn’t live off of my salary because I don’t know how to manage my finances”. We DID live off of my salary for 2.5 years while he was in school. However, we lived in a small apartment and did not have any children. Even so, I couldn’t imagine living off of my salary long term.

    Am I totally jumping to conclusions thinking that this means my coworker is making more than me? Or, is it more likely that he’s just bad with his money and is in some debt to support his lifestyle?

    1. Liz*

      It could be any number of things. He/they could be getting some kind of assistance from parents. or did for the purchase of their house. Or have or had an inheritance they invested, and have additional income from. Or he could be paid more, or they’re deeply in debt. It’s really hard to say

      1. Public Sector Manager*

        I have a coworker like this. He makes an average salary. His wife stays at home. His wife’s parents are loaded. Like Scrooge McDuck loaded. The wife’s parents pay for their granddaughter’s private school (and they will also pay for college), they paid 70% of the money down on my coworker’s house in the most expensive part of our city, and the parents give their daughter an allowance that is more than my coworker makes.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      It’s equally likely he’s bad with his money. Or his and/or her parents/families gave them money (perhaps because of the baby), or a lot of other things.

      I’m not saying he’s not/it’s unlikely that he’s making more than you are, but there are other plausible explanations.

    3. Beatrice*

      It’s also possible that he or his wife have another source of income, an inheritance, or receive financial help from family.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Or his wife is a demon at playing the market when Junior takes a nap. (I did taxes for that family, and explained why paying quarterly estimated taxes is really a good idea).

    4. Close Bracket*

      Some of column A, some of column B. Since you graduated in the same year but you have worked there longer, is it safe to say he worked somewhere else and joined later than you did? He probably negotiated a higher salary based on the move. He may have been making more than you at his last job as well, meaning even without negotiation, he would have come in higher.

    5. Ali G*

      In some areas where childcare is very expensive, it sometimes makes more sense for the person who earns less money to stay home with the kid. Where I live it’s easily $2k a month for daycare for one kid, so it’s not out of the realm or possibilities that it’s not worth working to just pay someone else to take care of your child when you could do it yourself.

      1. min*

        That’s a very good point. When my nieces were little my sister in law’s salary went almost entirely to their daycare. She carried on working so that they could stay on her insurance (and presumably other personal reasons), but financially the family was no better off than if she’d been a stay at home mom.

    6. Overeducated*

      You may be jumping to conclusions. It’s possible. But how much extra would it take to make you feel like you could do those things – probably enough that that still wouldn’t be the only explanation, right? Maybe they’ve been living off just his income this whole time and banking his wife’s to pay for the house and car before she quit – with a stay at home parent, babies aren’t that expensive, it’s day care that kills you. Maybe their parents helped a lot with their down payment, as almost everyone I know who’s bought a house in an expensive city at my age and income level has admitted. Maybe they had enough help with school that they had no loans, which put them at an advantage for saving right out of the gate. Or maybe they’re up to their necks in debt. Or any combination of the above, you really can’t know.

    7. Rez123*

      My partner bought a house with cash when he was in his mid 20’s. People wondered how a young guy in public sector finance could afford it and how lucky he was. He didn’t feel lucky since he could afford it due to his mother’s death and the inheritance form her house.

      It is easily possible that he makes more than you. Also, they could be in debt. It they have made smart investments or they have savings, inheritance, parents paying. Or they are smart with money and have managed to get these with modest lifestyle. I wouldn’t jump to conclusions.

      1. M2*

        Rez123–. This was me. I invested and used money from my parents and their life insurance when they passed away. I got the side eye from a lot of coworkers and finally had to tell one that my parents both died suddenly and I inherited a great deal of money that I was continuing to invest but that I used some to buy a home. I also told them that I would give it all back and never see it again if I could see them for one more day. That reply was because said coworker said “lucky”.

        You don’t know peoples situations and I find comparing yourself in work or life doesn’t do you any good.

    8. Flower*

      The first person I know in my peer group who will be buying a home is a veteran and can therefore get a 0% down home loan through the VA. You can argue that mortgages are inherently debt, but regardless – This person has 0% down.

      Also, though, someone having been raised wealthy may not be obvious to a coworker or acquaintance. And that makes a huge difference. Often it gives you a big pool of “starting money.” And that’s not restricted to the ultrarich. Not having any student loans (due to being raised wealthy, being lucky enough to get a full ride scholarship, choosing a graduate field that typically doesn’t cost the student, etc) makes a huge difference (imagine if you hadn’t had educational loans to pay back).

      He could be in debt. He could just have been very lucky, very class-privileged, or any number of other things.

    9. Coverage Associate*

      Just a stranger on the internet telling you family money can be strange. My in-laws are generally unkind people, but they have paid for a few fancy vacations for my husband and me, and promised quite a bit of money should we have a baby (more than the median household income). And, yes, they can afford what they have promised.

      For all the reasons discussed here, even my family, let alone my coworkers, often don’t know how we’re paying for the vacations, and wouldn’t know how we’d pay for an extended maternity leave, nanny, etc.

    10. MK*

      What everyone said, plus your coworker and his wife might be living a more frugal life than you, either by deliberate choice or habit or temperament. Maybe they never go out and only buy things on sales, maybe things you consider necessary or ordinary comforts aren’t important to them. It wouldn’t mean you are bad with finances if your coworker can afford these things on a similar salary,

    11. The New Wanderer*

      I don’t think that’s enough evidence either way. I bought a brand new house as a grad student. Much later I found out that my lab mates thought I was independently wealthy because I wasn’t living in a shared apartment like everyone else. But I could afford it because my parents loaned me the down payment and cosigned the mortgage, and my savings from 3 years of working a pretty high paying job covered what my paltry grad student stipend didn’t. I still had to take out a loan my last year, but I made it work. I wasn’t making any more than anyone else at the time, I just had different starting circumstances.

    12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Be careful about what you assume about someone’s finances. There are a lot of people who live above their means because they want to put on a facade for you to think they’re doing better than they really are.

      I know how much everyone makes. It’s nature of my job…there are so many new cars that come into the parking lot that I clinch at times. Meanwhile I’m over here making more than most given my senior position, with a car that has gotten a few “Why don’t you upgrade that tho?” comments over the few years.

      We have a great bonus program and so many people just run out and spend it on something like a new TV or a new car lease, every time. Instead of me building my emergency fund for that rainy day. They start spending the bonus before they get it sometimes. Kind of how some people give a ton of money extra to the tax-man just to get a big refund every year.

    13. Catarina*

      You are definitely jumping to conclusions. Maybe he inherited money. Maybe his wife is independently wealthy. Maybe they have saved a lot until now to be able to afford to live like this when they have a kid. Maybe they won some money on the lottery/in Vegas. Maybe these are the things they think are worth investing in, and they live incredibly frugally otherwise. Or yes, maybe he does get paid more than you. You really can’t tell.

    14. Mel*

      I had a similar situation. A coworker and his wife had three kids in rapid succession and she quit her job to stay home with them. And I thought, “That’s great, but, HOW?”

      Some of that I know can be explained by different life choices – I went to college and have debt from that, he didn’t. They bought a house during the recession, I rented. Etc.

      But, I’m also pretty sure he negotiated a pay raise when his wife got pregnant with their first.

    15. Jerm*

      How much more would he have to make to have this life? If he does make more than you, I would guess it amounts to a few hundred more a month, if anything.

      1. Jenner*

        That’s what I was thinking. Even if he made 50% more it wouldn’t pay for this scenario in itself.

  23. Jennifer*

    I just need to say that if you are in a union or you start working for one, know that your salary is public information. This is how unions work. I have had so many new hires come to me unaware that everyone knows their starting salary and when they get a raise. I have even had some of them be angry about it, like people are telling secrets behind their backs. Unions are successful BECAUSE everyone knows each others’ salaries.

    1. Anon4This*

      The downside to unionized payscaled, though, is that they tend to heavily weight years of service/seniority over performance. My husband is in a unionized position and outperforms most of his colleagues, yet he gets paid practically the same. He does it because of personal standards, but there is no extrinsic reward for finishing a project early and under budget or going above and beyond to resolve an issue over the weekend for someone. He stays in the job for the healthcare and retirement, but his raises and bonuses are almost laughably small. My organization isn’t lighting the world on fire on the comp side (but has better quality of life than other options), and my bonuses are typically 5-10x his.

      My issue with these sorts of systems is that they never seem to have a mechanism for rewarding high performers. I spent years moving my program away from a seniority-based system that (in our case, this is not necessarily universal) suborned mediocrity and drove away people were rockstars but didn’t have a decade of service in. One of the first things I did was establish a system that rewards the desired outcomes/performance rather than butt-in-seat years. The criteria are publicly available and reviewed as part of orientation.

      1. Jennifer*

        I will first off admit that my limited experience is with my own private sector office workers union and with the large public sector teachers union I work for. I would tell your husband to read his union contract super closely, there may be some random clauses in there for technology training or professional development or productivity that could earn him a merit based pay increase. There are sometimes salary steps or longevity increases that HR/Payroll miss from time to time. Also, in my private sector union people can meet with the executive director and ask for merit based increases. They are not always granted but it doesn’t hurt to ask, same as any other job. Like you said, the benefits when it comes to vacation/sick time and better health insurance for unions often outweigh the salary increases. Also, over the next few years unions should be able to get even more salary increases built into their newer contracts since the private sector is finally opening the purse strings since everything went to hell in 2008.

  24. Hiring Mgr*

    Agree, but I would rather see companies themselves take the lead on this rather than leave it up to individual employees.

  25. softcastle mccormick*

    Some of my coworkers and I have lowkey discussed salaries together, because we are underpaid on the scale of companies in our industry and like to be able to compare so we can ask for raises in a reasonable way. We have to be very careful and tactful about it, and there are a lot of my coworkers I wouldn’t trust enough to share that information with.

  26. mcr-red*

    We’ve been “encouraged” not to talk about salaries and if it gets out you have, there can be some trouble with management. The dirty little secret is that the people who have worked there the longest get paid less than the people that get hired later. So, I’m about 99 percent sure the man who just got hired in my dept. who has the same college degree as I have, gets paid more than me, the woman with 20 years experience.

    1. Phlox*

      Ack that was me until I saw a spreadsheet that I wasn’t supposed to see and then one meeting with ED later, I walked out with a $10k salary correction and some back pay. It is not a good idea for staff retention to not do salary audits and make sure the folks who’ve been at the org for a long time are being paid at the current salary structure (also for other considerations)!!

  27. Ali G*

    I shared my salary with a former co-worker. We have similar backgrounds, but I have more experience than her, so it was helpful for her to have some insight on where she was in the trajectory. I no longer worked at that company, so I didn’t see a problem with it (and it wouldn’t have benefited her to mention me/my salary). She was working up a case for an overdue promotion/salary bump and I was happy to help her. Happy to report she was successful!

  28. Micklak*

    My bosses literally just asked me today if I had divulged my salary to a coworker. I had. She had gone to them to discuss the differences in our salaries even though we have the same title. It was an awkward conversation. My bosses are nice and I love them but I could tell they were annoyed. They are now in the position of having to explain why they would value me more than my coworker. That’s kind of a no-win conversation.

    I don’t regret discussing my salary but a heads up that she was going to talk to the bosses would have been nice.

    1. Just Jess*

      But shouldn’t your bosses have objective reasons why they pay you more than what they pay your co-worker? I get that it’s awkward. I get that it’s personal. It feels like literally assigning a lower value to a person versus objectively looking at how their work fits with the org’s strategy.

      But it’s also a chance for your co-worker to learn how she can improve her compensation or learn that it’s time to find a new job where her skills are compensated in a way that better fits her.

      Sounds like an opportunity for a win-win.

      1. Micklak*

        They do have objective reasons. I have more years of experience and more leadership and development experience. But there can also be intangible things that are harder to quantify. I love my job and it shows. I would never suggest that I get paid more because of that but I think there have been times in my career when I’ve gotten an “enthusiasm” bump.

        1. Just Jess*

          Enthusiastic employees can make work more fun, more comfortable, more engaging, etc. Enthusiasm bumps might make sense. Just be transparent about it. That let’s employees find work elsewhere if their “enthusiasm level” isn’t in alignment with what the employer wants to reward.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Frankly, a lot of people don’t care about those objective reasons. Many people on my team talk about their salary and raises, and I tend to get a decent number of drop-bys post-review season to discuss people’s dissatisfaction with their comp. Even when I go through the factors in determining compensation/raises/bonuses and how they specifically could perform better on those factors, it IS very personal and people do take personal affront to being paid less than the person who billed 20% more client time than they did the prior year.

        And I’m lucky – I have a very proactive HR department that evaluates and adjusts compensation (both merit and market plus discrimination tests) annually, and the comp deltas I do have are easily explainable by performance, experience, and specialization factors. That is still not good enough for a lot of people.

        1. Just Jess*

          Hmm, I don’t really see a way around that that’s fair so sign me up for all employers being completely transparent about base pay, bonuses, and PTO. If managers and employees are too immature to have adult conversations about what works for everyone, oh well. I don’t understand how someone could be upset that they got paid less than a coworker who objectively brought 20% more value to the company (unless they are arguing that Mary got assigned the lucrative clients so it was easy for her to bring in more dollars?). Part of being a manager is managing irrational hurt feelings.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I’m not arguing that I don’t want people to come and see me if they have concerns about pay – I do this routinely and I have explicit performance criteria that is documented, reviewed as part of orientation, and published on my company intranet. I would *always* rather have someone come and see me rather than quit over it with no warning.

            I do not personally understand how someone could be upset that they were paid less than the person who did 20% more work than they did on the same team and working with the same people, but they did. And, candidly, the other person got more work for the same client from the same team because they did higher quality work and more efficiently, and the team would only go to the aggrieved party when a project was too big for one person or the higher performer was not available. The issues with the aggrieved party’s work and turnaround times were addressed both in post-task feedback throughout the year and in their performance evaluation, and they got a monthly report showing their billing requirement compliance. Objectively, there was no reason for the complaint, but they still complained and it still ate several hours of my time (and then HR’s when it was escalated) that I could have devoted to strategic work that I’m responsible for on top of my people-management portfolio. That’s a lot of time to invest in mitigating the feelings of one mediocre performer (and I manage 40 people).

            I’m simply saying that taking salary personally and having a hard time being objective about it is not unusual, and I think expecting that most people are able to depersonalize salary is a bit of a pipe dream. There are tons of benefits to being objective and transparent, but, in my experience, it really doesn’t go that far in reducing complaints and hard feelings.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They need to keep you out of it, it’s strange that they came to you to discuss it, like they knew that they were being shady AF and now they’re annoyed by getting found out? It’s that misplaced desire for employees to be loyal and never question a thing, just drift on by and keep racking in that money for the company, accepting the scraps they’re given.

      They should have objective reasons for paying you more, including your work quality and other assorted things that would be factored into the picture.

      Boohoo to them, they got caught with their pants down. We can explain pay differences to anyone who thinks to ask and we don’t just go track someone down and ask if they told their salary, we assume everyone tells their salary at some point.

      I agree that she should have told you why she was asking though, just so you had a heads up. That’s sneaky and why people are shy about talking as is mentioned throughout the comments!

      1. Micklak*

        I would have preferred to be kept out of it, but I don’t think that it’s shady that I’m paid more than my coworker. I mentioned above some of the objective reasons that could support that. But it’s not necessarily easy to tell someone why you objectively value them less than another person with the same job title.

  29. Mel*

    It’s so hard to have these conversations. I worked for a small business for 10+ years. I long suspected that some of my coworkers made significantly more than me, mostly based on the lifestyle they could afford that was totally out of reach for me. But I couldn’t bring myself to ask what they made.

    It might have been good if we’d talked freely though – from some off hand remarks I think one of my coworkers took a switch from hourly to salaried, but without a pay bump – so he just lost his overtime pay… and thought that was a good thing.

    Another coworker commented that she was part time so she didn’t get as many vacation days – but we all knew she worked 40 hours a week. Management sort of retroactively fixed that by giving her a huge chunk of time off one year.

    And then another one told me she knew none had, had raised in 4 years… but I’d had one the year before- and until then I’d been insulted that it was so small!

  30. Rez123*

    I work in the public sector so our salaries are public information. Everyone makes the same base salary and some people make 3% or 5% more depending on how many years if experience you have. So we don’t have this issue. In a way it’s good that everyone with the same title make sure same. Downside is that we cannot get merit bases raise ever.

    1. Loux in Canada*

      Yeah, same. In most pay scales in my organization, there’s between 5-10 steps (depends on the position – higher level positions seem to have more steps), and each year you generally go up a step.

      The other downside is that if you are at the top of the pay scale and get a poorly negotiated contract, your raises will suck when a new contract comes into force. Plenty of public servants in Canada are currently dealing with that one…

  31. Kelly Kapoor, the Business B*

    So the problem with all of this is that its gaslighting. Not by Alison (thanks for bringing it up!) but that the continual proposed solution to this problem of pay inequity falls on the victims of the pay inequity to remedy the problem by risking themselves to do so. Convincing us that we are the problem for not asking our colleagues how much money they make (Seriously? who is going to do that?) and openly sharing our own salaries, but on the inequitable and secretive practices of employers that have caused these problems and perpetuate them. We will never change the system by a few brave people asking and sharing. The system needs to change. I think it slowly is by salary ranges on job listings becoming more expected. All salary info should be public. Always. Everywhere. It should be required and done willingly. By employers.

    1. Human Sloth*

      Preach! I am job hunting/interviewing and trying to do research on pay ranges. I’ve been told “your research is off base”. Where do we to find the truth? The deck is seriously stack against job searcher and employees.

      1. Just Jess*

        But also, I know the hiring manager does not want to spend an hour studying my resume, setting up an interview, and talking with me just to find out that I can’t accept their salary. Employers are also wasting their own time.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I wouldn’t sit around and wait for “the system” to change, they don’t even enforce half the labor laws already on the books. We have places businesses ripping off of wages earned and loving their “at will” employment freedom, terrorizing their workforce with threats of termination if you speak about your salary, ask for benefits, question their dodgy practices, request they adhere to the ADA or FLMA, etc.

      This is way out there and will not happen in our live time, not as long as the American people are still so divided over who gets “rights” and who gets to be told what to do. This is a system that’s ran by people who are owned by big-business, it’s in inside job. So the best thing to do is take care of yourself, the ones around you and encourage each other as workers/citizens instead of just waiting until this gets sorted out by the ones in charge, who have nothing good to come from retooling the system we have in place.

      People now post salaries with job postings because people aren’t applying for jobs without it. They aren’t getting their desired candidates, so they have changed. We created unions to protect ourselves and join forces to demand something better. In the end sometimes it really is the victims who have to fight for what they want.

    3. Jenner*

      I disagree that salary info should be public. In most organizations where it is public it seems to prevent what would otherwise be common merit based pay raises or bonuses that would then seem unfair to those that didn’t receive them. In my county government you can see that pretty much every employee of every department that is on the same level makes within a few thousand dollars of each other. That doesn’t seem fair to me at all. What motivates people in that pay schedule?

      I definitely wouldn’t give out some of the bonuses or raises I do if it had to be made public.

  32. lnelson in Tysons*

    The only salary survey I had some faith in (don’t remember the exact name) was one produced by InsideNGO.
    They collected the salaries from many of the non-profits, mainly in the DC and NYC areas. Not everything was apples to apples, however many jobs could be close enough and used the same metrics.
    The organization that I was at then brought everyone in pretty much at the same salary/rate for the positions. VP levels are always, well, special? But entry level and several of the not quite management levels were pretty equal and salaries did vary based on performance evaluations. So. you may have started at the same rate, but the better performance earned more over time.

  33. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Not talking about salary only benefits the employer, never the employees.

  34. Human Sloth*

    BTW Alison, where can we find the spreadsheet you mentioned in your article? Please and thank you.

      1. LaDeeDa*

        Thank you again for doing this survey. I have it bookmarked and have looked it multiple times!

  35. LaDeeDa*

    I have mentioned this before- my company’s compensation department does a review every 2 years. They look at all rolls, salary, marketability of the skills needed for those roles, the skills the individuals in those roles have the market value in different areas, and we adjust accordingly. This prevents us from having huge discrepancies in salaries and prevents the inequality that so many people suffer from. I am part of the process as I give advice on skills and competencies. I really wish every company was as thoughtful and diligent in actively preventing pay discrepancies.

    1. LaDeeDa*

      One more thing– I will never understand why companies over 500 people don’t have a compensation department. I have seen many companies that didn’t even have one comp person. It is a very specific function, and most general HR people do not have the knowledge to do it successfully.

  36. Non-profiteer*

    There were a lot of reasons why I hated working in grants at my previous job, but one good thing it gave me was a knowledge of what my coworkers were making. When you apply for grants, you have to use salary levels to calculate the grant budgets. It was illuminating. My org was pretty good about equity across levels, so that wasn’t as much of an issue. But it was great to be able to see what kinds of salaries I could expect if I worked my way up the org (and now I work at a different org that pays MUCH better – and I don’t have to do grants management anymore!)

  37. austriak*

    My experience is that when salaries are discussed, someone always gets upset because they feel they are underpaid (whether true or not) and they ruin it for everyone by going to the boss mad.

  38. Ask An Author*

    Oof, in my industry this is so important! I’m a fiction writer and it’s incredibly useful for us to share with each other what we make, so much that some of us try to make a point of it. Some authors, like Jim Hines and Kameron Hurley, post their writing income online to push transparency in the industry — I don’t go that far but I’ve shared my deal amounts with a ton of colleagues I know personally, and they’ve shared with me. It’s SO helpful for long-term career planning, like what kinds of advances are more usual in different genres or categories, or how much you can *really* expect to make in self-publishing, or if a contract is a good deal or not. Especially because in writing, a lot of the public information out there is people who have either an outlier level of success or have some sort of religious-level ferocity about they choices they’re making… which makes it a lot harder to tell what the norm is, and whether expectations are realistic or whether a publisher is engaging in financial mistreatment.

    In writing we often have agents doing the money negotiation for us (thank goodness), but sometimes people aren’t sure if their agent is doing right by them, and if you’re in your own little isolated black box it can feel impossible to know anything! Of course, we don’t work for an employer where we can be fired for talking about it, so in that aspect at least there’s less risk involved in sharing.

    1. Ask An Author*

      (I should add too though that there is still completely the same taboo as in other industries and a lot of people DON’T talk about it, which is part of why the transparency is a problem in the first place and why people are trying to push back on that.)

    2. Gladiator*

      Do you have any websites that discuss this? I’m working on a fantasy novel and am curious to see what what self publishers vs contracts vs genres make.

      1. Ask An Author*

        Unfortunately I don’t know of any sites that compare all of these in one place — it’s rather scattered.

        I think I can’t post links here? But I mentioned Jim Hines and Kameron Hurley — if you do searches of their blogs, you can find them talking about (traditional) income stuff quite frankly. Jim has also done larger author income surveys of many authors. Tobias Buckell has done some too but I’m not sure if it’s still up? I think I remember looking recently and not being able to find it.

        Those surveys of course would be SFF weighted, which is good for you! ITW (International Thriller Writers) also recently did a big income survey but I’m not sure if it’s out yet. Digital Book World has done some self-publishing surveys. You can also find people frankly self-reporting their self-publishing income on a few forums — the one I’ve found most useful is Absolute Write’s self-publishing section, where you can find people doing frank monthly diaries of their sales. Insert usual caveats for being aware of the biases of self-reporting in any of these surveys.

        The self-publishing report to AVOID is the Author Earnings Report, which is really, really badly misleading statistically. It’s so misinformative it’s worse than no information, imho. There are other sites that take the same raw Amazon data and do actually decent statistics on it (I like Dustin Fife’s — but keep in mind that it’s only looking at that Amazon data, which is a greater income share for self-publishing authors than it is for traditionally-publishing authors).

        The problem with any type of larger author income survey is that they tend to be too generalized for helping people make individual decisions, though, because a lot varies by personal situation, by genre, and by book — this is something I’ve had to learn on my own work, and how it doesn’t often doesn’t follow the same trends other people’s do and I’ve had to plan my career according to what works for my own books. And if you’re writing YA versus MG versus adult fantasy, or epic fantasy versus urban fantasy versus etc, that can end up being really different, and your own particular novel may have more or less marketability in different areas even within those genres… though those sorts of surveys can at least give a snapshot of the field. :) But just to give you an example of the variance, I’m making 10x more with a publisher than I was self-publishing (adult SFF), and I know other people for whom it’s the opposite! So it can be hard to make individual decisions without a bit more context than surveys give.

        Anyway, what I tend to find most helpful is building relationships in author communities so you can get more of that personal context for those numbers. Then you can say, like, okay, this is what *that* person is making in *that* particular subgenre/category with *that* particular fanbase and history and *that* particular agent, and using *those* particular appeals and techniques. Personally I tend to find this the most useful, because the person who can self-publish a new litRPG novel every month is not going to be comparable to me, nor the person who’s writing YA or MG, etc!

  39. Karen from Finance's Work is Full of Bees*

    So, this is oddly fitting. I had a relevant situation JUST happen to me.

    My friend Jane was talking to New Girl Katie and Katie for some reason mentioned how much she’s earning, giving a number higher than they’re paying Jane right now. So Jane came to me concerned, because I’m not her boss but I do have access to payroll data, and she wanted me to tell her if it’s true. Of course my response was just “I can’t give you any information, that would get me fired. I’m sorry.” And I also haven’t checked to see whether it’s true or not because it’s none of my business, and I’m frankly quite annoyed that I was put in that position in the first place.

    But in any case. I know Jane was wrong to ask that of me, but was Katie wrong to go telling Jane how much she’s making? It strikes me as odd and unprofessional, sort of “gossip-y”, but that also has to do with Katie’s general character. Reading this article I’m having doubts. Maybe what Katie is saying is true, and instead of getting angry Jane should use this to reseach market rates and negotiate a higher salary for herself, if it turns out she really is being underpaid? That’s the advice I plan on giving her later – to do the research and bring it up in her next conversation, regardless of what Katie said.

    So if what she said is true and this information is useful in the end, would it have been good that she said it? I’m still not sure. It feels like an odd flex, like something done out of being competitive. And while there is a way Jane can use this in her favor, this is still upsetting information to her right now, which I think might have been the goal.

    I understand the benefits of sharing information. I think the concern with employees sharing this type of data with coworkers stems from this type of drama happening.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Katie wasn’t necessarily wrong to tell Jane what she was making, but she could have said it out of a competitive factor, or, like me (who keeps telling everyone around me, minus current coworkers, what I make), she could be in disbelief that she’s making as much as she is. I keep harping on my shiny new salary because just nine years ago, I was making $8/hr, and less than two years ago, almost $53k a year – now I’m at $70k with quarterly bonuses that will total over $12k and I’m doing less work than I have in the last nine years for this salary!

      Jane should most definitely do her research, though, if she’s upset about her salary in comparison to Katie. If she finds out she is in fact underpaid, she can broach the topic with her manager. If she’s not and Katie just has more experience that Jane doesn’t know about that justifies the larger salary, then she’ll know that too. Or, she’ll realize she has better options on the market and will use this conversation as the launch pad to getting a newer, better paying position someplace else.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        If I had to guess, I think they might be paying the new hire market rate while not properly adjusting the salary of the person who’s been here a while and that could have created a difference. Which is why I plan on advising her to research the job market regardless of what the new hire said, yeah.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s odd that Jane found this out and went to the person who has the information but isn’t in charge of pay rates, that’s what’s really odd in my opinion. Nobody here comes to me if they have a pay issue, they go to the boss who can give them answers he sees fit.

      It depends on the conversation and how it started to know if Katie was flexing or not. It’s also not going to get you more money to get mad, storm the castle and demand answers either, so Jane is doing so many things wrong, I feel like she’s possibly blowing a casual comment into something much bigger because she feels cheated.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        Jane came to me because she thought because I’m friendly with her, I would breach data and give her inside information. Jane was wrong.

        But you already know that “being professional” is more of an exception than a rule in my workplace in particular, so I’m not that surprised she tried. Just annoyed.

    3. Anoncorporate*

      Katie wasn’t wrong for sharing her salary, but Jane was wrong for asking you to look up that information, since it’s confidential. Obviously, you said the right thing by not giving her the info.

      However, Jane does have a right to be upset about the discrepancy, and she is not obligated to not be upset just to spare you/the company “drama”. Obviously, adults should behave like adults in the situation, but the fact that you felt uncomfortable by an awkward question for a few seconds doesn’t mean we shouldn’t share salary information. Companies as a whole deserve to feel uncomfortable for this.

      1. Karen from Finance*

        The thing is, as The Man above pointed out, Jane didn’t really raise it with the correct person if what she had wanted was to simply address the disparity. I have no control of payroll, only visibility for a reporting role. She should have brought this to her boss or grandboss in that sense.

        But by talking about it with me in the first place, what’s to say she wouldn’t have further shared the information if I had given her it?

        So it’s not about me wanting to prevent something for *my own personal discomfort*. But when I talk about drama, I mean people talking at each other’s backs about how much so-and-so is making which I think is what is going to start happening in this situation. I have worked in companies with salary transparency and I personally think it’s great, and it should be something to be imitated, precisely because when everybody has the same information it cuts out on this behaviors.

        My concern, rephrasing, comes from what happens when you’re in a company that’s not transparent with salaries, where you don’t know what people will do with the information if you speak. I don’t claim to have an answer.

  40. Z*

    Oh, I would not feel comfortable with that. My boss told me I make the most out of everyone with my job title and I would hate for my coworkers to find out. Most of them have years more experience than me. When I expressed my shock my boss told me I contribute more to the team. Which I get, but I don’t want to be (potentially) resented for it.

  41. Ellis W*

    This is silly. You can’t fix a rotten system and a rotten culture this way. All salaries should be public, or at least visible internally to anyone in the company and reported to the government. The burden of proof should be on the employer to show that any discrepancies by protected categories are justified or “merit-based”. Any employer who is unable to provide a clear rubric based on fair and objective measures, which are proven not to be discriminatory, for how their raises and promotions are calculated should be subject to fines and in-depth surveillance for equity violations. There should be no loopholes for subjective judgment, managerial discretion, or “market conditions”; however, there can be flexibility for value of benefits, negotiated PTO, or other “total compensation packages”, as long as it is approved by EEOC or other regulatory body who would oversee this.

    The regulations on manager discretion can be loosened for firms that demonstrate stellar diversity and inclusion records across several years, e.g. representation on boards, rates of promotion, representation in leadership, and meaningful distribution across job titles. I’m sure corporations will find way to game even this type of system, but I don’t see how you can get equity without taking a strict system targeting it with real teeth to enforce it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Cool, but meanwhile they’re not public, and people need to tools that will help them even the playing field. This is one. The answer can’t be “wait until we fix the system” because that isn’t going to happen for years, if ever.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Good luck coming up with the tax money it’ll cost to roll this out. Or did you want the EEOC and other entities to just work for free like during a shutdown? We cannot even enforce other laws that have been around for decades.

      1. Ellis W*

        Well, the IRS doesn’t suffer from this issue as much, does it? It:s purely a matter of political will, which I will grant to Alison won’t happen while a sizeable portion of the country votes the way it does. I’m surprised other more progressive countries don’t have anything like this.

        As it is, no reason for it no to be entirely fee-based: an employer has to pay for the compliance audit upon application for a license to business and, say, renew it every 5 yeaes. No legal business operation, no ability to file taxes, until you get approved by whoever you put in charge of this, no excuses. Can be out of Dept of Labor or IRS or Commerce. That doesn’t matter as much.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The IRS actually is super under-staffed and under-resourced right now; there’s been coverage of how much less enforcement they’ve been able to do in recent years.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            A large part of the problem is that fines for corporate wrongdoing are laughably tiny. It makes more sense financially speaking for companies to just break the law and pay the teeny tiny slap on the wrist than to do the right thing.

            I just saw that a fairly large company in my state just got fined $74,000 for a deliberate, systematic program of wage theft built into their payroll system. (They also fired the whistleblower.) That’s probably a lot less than they saved by stealing people’s pay in the first place! The fine for things like that should be ruinous in order to be an actual deterrent. Well into the millions. Proper enforcement could surely be funded with that.

            Unfortunately, the majority of our politicians want wealthy business folks to be able to kick down at the rest of us with impunity. A sizable minority of our electorate agree with them – or don’t care as long as those politicians also cater to their pet hatreds – and our entire system is skewed toward overrepresenting those voters.

  42. anony-Nora*

    One of the former accounting folks at my company, who had access to our pay rates, shared that information with some of her friends here. I wasn’t one of them, and while I’m okay with sharing my pay info with coworkers I know and trust, I’m not really keen on other people having that information in a one-sided way like that. I don’t know who all knows what I make, and I don’t know what they make, but they know my pay? Not really fair.

  43. Kisses*

    I’ve mostly worked retail, and we were frequently threatened with disciplinary action if we asked other co workers about rates of pay. I honestly don’t know if that’s legal, but me needing to keep a job trumped that.
    Once when a group of closers was discussing wages, word got back to the owner. The following week she installed cameras with microphones so she could monitor things more closely- she claimed it was in case there was a customer dispute it would allow her to check to see who was right. She also had a habit of sitting at home watching the monitors- and would call if anyone was talking too much. Since we bought and sold gently used clothes, if she could see s certain item we were evaluating she’d frequently call to ask us to raise/lower the price we were discussing at the store. Very frustrating, and I’d go back to waitressing before I go back to retail again.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yiiiiiiikes, you worked on the Hellmouth too? =(

      This is illegal but it’s typical for retail, it’s an industry that is often known to disregard laws. Just like it’s normal for service industry sociopaths to short wait staff their money when they are there all day and make a couple bucks in tips, they’re supposed to be paid -actual- minimum wage but nah, they don’t do that. Or the fast-food places that break child-labor laws and schedule under 18 year olds to work school nights, etc.

  44. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    I worked at a world renowned academic institution that is regularly bequeathed millions of dollars. Yet, the non-academic staff are nickled and dimed with their salaries. One person was told that the cachet of working there more than makes up for the low salary. Ironically, the person stating that was a six figure tenured prof. I got a raise by deciding that if I didn’t get one, I’d leave. I got a 20% raise which put me on par with others doing the same work outside of academia.

  45. NewNameTemporarily*

    This is a hard one. I’m a high performer. There was a recent article about how the bulk of the work is done by a few high performers, in many organizations, and the rest of the work by all the rest of the folks.

    I currently carry a workload that is over 2x as much as any of my male peers. Further, I’m actually doing a higher level strategic role on top of managing those 2x as many projects. And I’ve “heard” I make 10K less than the 2 recent hires – because I rose from within the ranks and they came from outside.
    On the other hand, I got a nice (>10%) salary adjustment bump up last year, when they were trying to hire and found that we were below market…and they couldn’t bring anyone in at the posted salary range. So I know they are trying.

    But I’d be pretty upset if my bonus (which did reflect my level of productivity) was “equalized” to match that of my peers.

    Interesting to watch the comments

    1. Argh!*

      Did you receive a cash bonus or an increase in pay connected to productivity? If base salaries not counting merit bonuses were public, would you be okay with that?

      1. Maya Elena*

        I’d expect, if you exempted bonuses or other fringes from a mandated public requirement, that would be where all the unequal compensation would be hidden.

  46. Bitter, party of one*

    I work for a small nonprofit and write grants for my organization. I know approximately how much my co-workers make as staffing costs is part of most grant budgets. Also, our ED’s salary is public record. Basically our ED makes 3x what I and my other co-workers make. I sometimes wish I didn’t know this information!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s pretty much SOP that execs are making that much more than anyone else in the operations. They’re also usually liable for a lot of things as well, failure to produce is much higher risk and their expectations tend to be higher too. I know a lot of the times they don’t seem to be doing anything in particular while you slave away but the ones who aren’t frauds, are working hard for that money, just as hard as you’re working for yours.

  47. JessB*

    This has got me investigating the rules in Australia, and pay secrecy is legal here! Very disappointing to see, although there is some political interest in changing that, due to the reasons that Alison mentions.
    I’m going to have to investigate what the exact rules are at my company.
    We had a lot of success about a year ago, when we pushed for a raise for our team, and got it. It took a lot of research and providing information comparing our job (at a private education company) with similar work done on campus (at registered universities).
    Having worked on campus, I really liked that pay was so structured and that everyone’s level was well-known, it made pay disparity much less of an issue.

  48. anonforthis*

    Yep. I’ve been working in my current job for 2 years and received a 6% raise a few months ago. I just found out that a coworker who was hired into the same role as me around that time negotiated a higher starting salary than me by $5000. So….despite having 1.5 years more experience than her, and having trained her, I make less than her by $2000. I am miffed (at my company, not her.)

    This is annoying even without the following context: I was initially denied a raise by my ex-manager for Stupid Reasons (I determined this AFTER doing a ton of research and asking a ton of people for their insight including the AAM commentariat! Just to make sure it wasn’t just me.) The day after my manager got fired, I asked again and was able to get it this time. However, given that my company already pays below industry average, and I believe I was due for a raise 6 months prior, AND I already do the work of people above my pay grade (did I mention I train people???), I think I’m pretty underpaid. I’m not poor, though, fortunately.

  49. Argh!*

    Some of the 2020 presidential candidates have made pay transparency part of their platforms. I think this is a great idea. Employers who claim that benefits add to the real “cost” of employees will find out really quickly that cash is actually important to lower-paid employees!

    1. Jenner*

      If employers weren’t constantly taking on additional expenses that are unrelated to trading your time for money, they could pay better. They don’t pay the insurance company instead of you for fun.

      Anyone had any idea why employment and health insurance are related? I sure don’t.

  50. MoopySwarpet*

    I don’t necessarily mind when co-workers talk about their salaries, but I get really annoyed when the admin/receptionist wants to know why they aren’t paid closer to the salary of the accountant with 15 years experience or the sales person with 20. Dude, because you’ve had one office job for six months prior to this and your position is never going to be paid the same as the person bringing in or counting the money.

    I do think transparency is good, but some people lack proper perspective to use the information in a productive manner.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      That’s something that you have to let roll off your back. That’s immaturity on display and sometimes it’s ignorance that will sadly hold them back and in lower paying gigs for possibly their entire lives. They don’t understand the concept of “more responsibility, more experience, deeper skill set, more money.” and it’s dangerous and part of the poverty cycle. It’s easier to assume that it’s unfair and the world is just against them, etc.

      It’s just like those lovely college grads that think that they’re above entry level and are shocked, upset, angry, enraged when they’re told that no, you cannot just slide into a management position.

      But it’s the same way I feel when I hear people complain or disparage anyone who is making more. Including executives. I know what my execs do and they earn that money, they also will be on their butts faster than any others if something goes sideways. Their management of the company is crucial and therefore they’re rewarded with the biggest slice of the pie.

  51. Wrench Turner*

    Yes. I talk freely about it with any coworkers that ask, always have. Worker pay should not be a race to the bottom with profits racing to the top.

  52. greenbeanies*

    It seems like it would help if all employeers listed a salary on the job description, or at least a range. I so rarely see that.

    I know it would not completely solve this problem because negotiation could happen on top of those numbers, but it would help.

  53. Fluff*

    Work in IT and healthcare. I actively teach / mentor colleagues on finances and negotiation. I am NOT an expert by any means – I am willing though to talk about the icky uncomfortable topics. There are a few things to consider
    1. The cost to you. Yes, there may be consequences. People may treat you differently, etc. Your bosses may not be so thrilled either. In my experience it helped me negotiate higher offer and showed that our geographic area was underpaying a LOT. I mean a lot (several 10Ks for the same job and yes, including benefits).
    2. Consider baby steps – instead of sharing at work, what about at a conference or with other folks in your field but not your company?
    3. There is a cost to negotiation for women, women of color, men of color, etc. The simple act of negotiation can come with a penalty (do they think less of you because you negotiated / asked for more? It happens – the asking can impact how that person is perceived) and you must consider this risk before going forward.

    For me, I share my pay and take a risk. If I help can help co-worker or younger or other “Fluff” it is worth it for me. I am also very aware that I am in a position of higher up / power where the consequences to me for sharing are very different than someone lower on the pole. My recovery from disapproval is much different now than it was for me 10 years ago. I knowingly take that risk.

    If you bring the elephant into the room – please do it wisely and knowing what you are getting into. AND please, don’t let folks give you grief for not martyring yourself for any cause. Love this thread!

  54. Really?*

    I’m honestly curious is this statement is true or false. Is it true that an employer can ban any managerial-level employees from discussing his or her salary? Because supervisors aren’t technically defined as employees under the law so those protections against employer retribution don’t apply to them? If so, how can employees share that information without getting themselves into a potentially sticky situation with their employer?

    1. MeanieNini*

      The definition of employee in the US is anyone who “suffers to work” so managers are not exempt from the law on this. It would still be illegal to tell managers that they cannot discuss salary with other managers. Employers frequently violate this or get around it by having the “it’s not professional to talk about your salary with others” conversation but it is illegal to ban that type of conversation even among managers.

  55. Diamond*

    I shared my salary with a few people at my work as I was very underpaid and wanted to figure out where I stood with everyone else. We then got an email saying that salaries were confidential (there is nothing in our contracts or law that says we can’t discuss them!). I have since had a raise and my pay is ok now but I didn’t like that we weren’t supposed to talk about it.

  56. AnotherAlison*

    My position has so many variables. 4 years ago, I know a coworker was making about $30k more than me with 2 yrs more overall experience (both 15+) and about 4 years more in that role (otherwise, we had had similar career paths and knew each other from a previous employer where we worked together). Seemed unfair, but he got recruited into his role at a good time and I moved over 5 years before him on my own. I’ve had a bunch of healthy raises since then, and maybe he has too, but I am over his 4-year ago salary at least. The flip side is I have a coworker with 10 years less experience than me, but he’s filling the same position. He’s a high performer, but he makes a wage consistent with a 10-year guy, not a 20-year person. For that reason, when I know someone’s salary, I kind of look at all the variables of who’s getting what and what’s a fair range rather than be mad about one outlier. Plus, we have discretionary small bonuses, and some people are stockholders, so someone may seem to be paid less, but could have a better package. I don’t have access to everyone’s salary, but I do for anyone who has ever charged an hour to my project, and some people talk. I definitely prefer having some inside info, but I also like that it’s not everyone’s info.

  57. Rusty*

    I do freelance writing work & literally this week I asked some other freelancers who do regular work for the same outlet what they were being paid, & we not only discovered a huge difference in what people were being paid (like, differences between getting $150 per piece & $400), but a noticeable difference in what the women were making compared to men. It’s freelance work so we don’t get offered the same protections as employees re: equal pay, but it was so illuminating & inspired a few people to ask for well-deserved raises. Also, the women were far more comfortable with the conversation than the men – partly for this very reason, I think. Women know transparency is so important.

  58. Grrrl Drivrrr*

    I’m a train driver, and I get paid exactly the same as every other train driver at my company.

      1. Grrrl Drivrrr*

        I think it’s great. I am being paid the same as the men who I work with. My value is being rewarded through a very generous salary package. No “old boys club” to deal with.

  59. TechWorker*

    My company has grades with pay bands, but they don’t publish the numbers. When we were getting acquired they said repeatedly there *are* no pay bands, but also that sometimes people would have to wait for budget for title promotion because there was a minimum salary for that grade. Uhhhh sounds a lot like a band to me.

    I think I’m paid *fairly* well for the job I do, but I’m aware both that a) friends who left my company have gone on to earn double in jobs that are potentially higher stress, but not definitely and b) some of the friends who went to the same (considered prestigious) university but work in different fields earn about half. Salaries are weird.

  60. Trebbulous, boy wizard*

    “How to compare salaries with coworkers without actually revealing them”

    If there’s 3+ of you, Person #1 adds an obscuringly big random number to their salary , and whispers it to
    Person #2. They add in theirs and whisper to person #3. Etc until the final person in the circle whispers a total to person #1. They then subtract that number they though of and can tell the group the average salary.

    Then the group members can decide if further investigation is worthwhile.

  61. Luna*

    Only coworkers I talk to are the ones I know earn the exact same amount as I do, since they have the same type of contract as I do. The one that recently got promoted to a managerial position probably earns a bit more now? But not my business, nor do I care much.

  62. Susie Z*

    2 interesting stories to share on this on both sides. I worked for state government and the salaries are public record. However, most people wouldn’t go out of their way to submit a FOIA request for their colleagues salaries…. Unless you’re the Boston Herald, of course. The day they published all State employees’ salaries online, you could hear jaws hitting desks. I really wished I had never looked… Since I was in IT, I was paid market rate for my skills, which was slightly more than my direct manager and some of the lawyers! I still barely had enough to live in a big city. Worse was that I was making 2.5x more than my coworkers who were lower level IT staff. From then on, I felt awkward going to lunch or dinner or drinks knowing that it was such a bigger expense for them so I picked up the tab more often than not. The compensation knowledge just made everything awkward.

    Second, an older colleague was one of mine was one of a handful of female execs in the late 80s. At that time, the male execs were told not to tell the females how much they make. My friend had a male ally who shared his salary, which was almost double what any of the women were earning for the same work. Eventually, the women filed a class action lawsuit and won equal pay, plus all the back pay they deserve! This story had stuck with me throughout my career because you’re right, the secrecy perpetuates inequity.

  63. Carrie Fisher's Middle Finger*

    I work in higher education, for a public state university. Our salaries are all public record anyway, so I see absolutely no point in keeping it a secret when Google is *right there*. That’s how I found out that in addition to the $5k they sliced off my initial offer in this department, my (male …) predecessor with the same credentials had been making $15k more than me when he left after a year and a half.

  64. PaperGirl*

    My company doesn’t even allow employees to see what they make until pay day.

    We have merit increases every may. Employees (usually) get anywhere from a 1% to 5% increase. Well…the accounting manager and I entered all the increases last week. The next day, my boss calls me chastising me because the new rates were visible by employees. No, I don’t mean employees saw what everyone else got…I mean, an employee simply could see his individual updated rate…along with his rate history. So one employee in particular was given a .75% increase. He was upset and emailed his boss to ask why. His boss then emailed my boss.

    Rates have always been visible to the employee, but nope, I got my ear talked off saying that I need to remove all pay data from an employee’s profile. That they have to wait for their pay check to see their hourly rate on it.

    We occasionally have payroll mistake happen. Most entry level employees at my company start at 14/hr. Every now and then we’ll bring one in at 14.50. Well, the hiring manager didn’t tell me we were bringing one in at 14.50, the employee’s signed offer letter stated 14…so I entered 14. Had the employee known how to view his rates, this would have been an easy fix, but no, we had to wait til his first pay day and spend $25 to issue him a check for the $40 difference.

    Sorry to vent. But man, I’m so frustrated, haha, my company doesn’t even allow employees to talk to themselves about pay!

  65. What Do I Do?*

    I just looked up the salary for my position (Senior Teapot Manager) on Glassdoor. The salary ranges listed for Senior Teapot Manager are about $50k more than what I’m making now. The salary ranges listed for just “Teapot Manager” (not Senior) are still $10k more than what I’m making now, assuming I were to get my full bonus this year. I just made the case for and received a small raise in January of this year, and it’s still not close to these numbers. What do I do?

    1. TeaOps*

      This is my situation too. Even discounting my past experience (related technical), other people with my title at Major Employer with 1-2 years experience is listed at $10k-$20k over what I currently make (after 3 union-mandated COL increases). In a previous meeting with the union last summer, I was informed that I make substantially less than most in my position.

      I’m preparing to ask for a 10% raise, and using both this info and major wins. Problematic that in my department I’m the only one who does what I do. =( So if they lose me, it’s very difficult to replace and would be a very difficult situation for my boss to take on all of my work, plus the work of someone who was just laid off (for non-financial reasons). It took 2.5 years for them to fill my current position, so hopefully this goes well, for everyone’s sake.

  66. Wantonseedstitch*

    I think all of the issues surrounding salary discussions make me REALLY happy to be a member of a professional organization that does an anonymous salary survey every couple of years that it makes available to its members. You can segment by title and by state and so forth, to see what the average person in your position makes in your area. The organization explicitly does this so that its members can be well armed for salary negotiations without anyone suffering repercussions for asking or telling salaries around their office (though that is now against the law in my state).

  67. OneOfManyCoordinators*

    My job title is kind of weird in that it’s a bit of a bucket title for my company. I’m a content coordinator but what I do is very different from what several somebodies with the same title as me do. We all do something with “content” in some way but that’s where the similarities end. Added to that, I have no idea what the title is of somebody doing a similar role as me at a different company. As such, I’ve never felt like I’ve been able to get a good understanding of what the market rate for my role would be. I have to trust HR when they say that they’ve done the market research, even though HR isn’t there necessarily for the employees.

  68. Another one*

    Three complications in my workplace.

    1) there are paybands for job levels but they aren’t openly available, except your own.
    2) there are actually two bands for each level, one for tech workers and one for everyone else (mixed group). Tech is $20k higher on each end. I only found this out when I was myself switched into the tech band.
    3) most of my coworkers are on work visas, h1b primarily. I look at the h1b filings when they’re posted in the break room. Even with the same job title, big difference in what the prevailing wage is listed as.

    I suspect that I’m the highest paid, but hell if I know. I know I’m paid way below market by 20k or more which is why I’m looking for another job.

  69. Annnonymous*

    This is timely. I found out that a coworker in a position that is supposed to have the same salary band as mine is making nearly double per year more than I am – and I’m not in the low part of the band, but toward the upper limit.

    Now I know why there is a policy of “don’t discuss salary” at my company. When I asked about the pay band for my own position, I was told it’s not normally discussed but given the range. Again, now I know why.

  70. Hank Stevens*

    I work in an industry where wages have increased by 50% or more in the past five years for employees with a specified certification. Sometimes new employees make close to what longer termed employees make. It’s what the market is bearing and we can’t give every long term employee a 50% increase. I prefer employees to be discreet regarding wage discussion if possible. It’s also a job where once you have the certification longevity doesn’t always matter, but if a new employee comes in and immediately says that they make “x amount”, the longer term employees think that longevity should equal more money. It’s challenging to manage at times.

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