is there any good reason not to share salary bands within a company?

A reader writes:

My company recently underwent a pay equity analysis, which revealed that we are in the middle of our industry for compensation and that we have a significant disproportion of white males in executive leadership. No big surprises there. However, part of the action plan is to create salary bands that will adhere for the same job title across our company (about 1,000 people, distributed throughout the U.S.).

During the Q&A after the presentation, neither our HR nor the analyst they hired could give a good answer for why, once the bands are created, they won’t share them internally. Their specious reasoning was a) very few companies do that (not a good answer!!) and b) that the reasoning behind specific salaries and bands is “too complex” and involves “many factors,” and that employees should trust management to be paying them correctly (!).

It seems to me (an exec myself) that they just don’t want the folks in the low bands to know how much the execs are making, and they don’t want anyone to know how much they’re being (under)paid vs. their counterparts in the band. By which, I mean: they want to continue inequitable practices and not be held accountable.

But am I missing something? Is there a good reason you’d keep this information away from your employees, that isn’t a CYA move? I know you’re in favor of sharing salary ranges in job ads (something I haven’t been able to get the company to do even for roles I am hiring, despite protests), and I would think that the more information employees have, the better. Am I missing something though?

You’re not missing anything.

The only reason for a company to keep pay bands a closely guarded secret is because they believe it makes life easier for them — it makes them less likely to have employees pointing out inequities by race and gender, and it denies employees data they could use to push for higher salaries for themselves.

“The reasoning behind specific salaries is too complex and involves many factors” means “we don’t use objective criteria to set salaries and we don’t want to bother explaining to someone why they fall in a particular spot within a pay band because we might not have compelling reasons to offer.”

“Employees should trust management to be paying them correctly” means “we are startlingly out-of-touch” or possibly “we know how ridiculous that sounds and we don’t care because we just want you to shut up, so here is a wall that you can’t get past.”

Hopefully your employees will realize that they can pool information on their salaries on their own and get a ton of useful data that way — a right that’s protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Unfortunately, that law doesn’t cover management employees, so as an exec you wouldn’t be legally protected if you participate in that, but perhaps you might discreetly ensure some lower-level staffers become aware of the law. (Or not discreetly — sometimes there’s cover in doing it very openly, as if it never occurred to you anyone might object … like by saying in discussions of the pay analysis, “Of course, federal law protects any non-management employees who choose to discuss their wages with other employees.” But you’ve got to know the politics in your company to know how safe that might be.)

{ 248 comments… read them below }

  1. MechE*

    “about 1,000 people, distributed throughout the U.S.”

    Salary bands make sense. Not accounting for cost of living differences across the country is ridiculous. It will be difficult to retain talent in different markets when a manager is forced to pay someone in, say, NYC the same as someone in, say, Boise. Salaries reflect the “value” of the work being done (theoretically), but they also reflect what it takes to attract and retain talent in different markets. Of course WFH throws a bit of a wrench in everything, but that is not a reality for every industry/company.

      1. MechE*

        I agree that the lack of transparency is a huge issue. I think that not adjusting bands for COL is an additional issue. However, that may actually be occurring but no one knows due to the lack of transparency. There are some places where the COL adjustment occurs within the bands, there are others where the bands have a factor added to them to account for COL.

        1. sacados*

          It doesn’t say anywhere that they *don’t* adjust for COL though, does it?
          The band could very well cover “Project Managers make between $XX and $YY depending on experience and location.”

          1. Michele*

            Exactly – if you can’t explain why people fall where they do in the band (and that reason could be geography!) then how are you making those decisions in the first place? Lots of places, especially now, have COL-adjusted the same person even (I know people who have had their salary lowered as they relocate to a less expensive place).

            1. HereKittyKitty*

              I literally applied to a really transparent tech company once that had a calculator for finding out what your pay range would be for their job based on the location you live and how that compared to other locations. It was great!

    1. Kassie*

      I work at a place with salary bands (not what we call them) and a few people in locations outside of our central office. Those in higher cost of living places get cost of living adjustments. So someone in our Chicago office gets 10% more, someone in our New York office gets 30% more. The federal government does this too.

      1. TheAccountant*

        So someone in NYC and someone in Idaho could be at the top of the band at $60,000, but the NY person’s gross is $78,000? (I feel like that sounds like I’m aghast but I’m really just curious how it works!)

        1. Federal Locality Pay*

          Yes- in the (US) federal government we call it “locality pay” which is a percentage of the base salary added to your pay depending on where you live. If you google “general schedule pay calculator” you should find a site where you can pick a GS level and step and figure out what the pay is in different places.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            And in the UK I’ve heard “London weighting” because there’s one salary for London and one for the rest of the UK.

        2. Snow Globe*

          My company has 3 sets of salary bands, your work location determines whether you use A, B or C bands. Des Moines would be in A, Chicago would be in B and New York or San Francisco would be in C, for example.

          1. Smithy*

            Where I used to work I think they might have even had 4. But essentially it was the kind of organization where you’d need an office director (and endless parallel roles) in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Missoula. These were truly location specific jobs, so someone wanting to personally or professionally move from the NYC office to say Missoula would technically be taking a pay cut in terms of raw numbers. But hard not to see how the cost of living wouldn’t be significant.

          2. Fran Fine*

            I used to work at an insurance company that did this (though we had five or six bands – we had offices all over the U.S. and in Europe and Mexico). It was semi-helpful, though my company also made adjustments within the bands based on things like advanced degrees and years in the field.

      2. LW*

        To be clear, our salary bands are not only based on geography. Each position has a band and the idea is you start in a certain place based on experience etc and you move up based on your tenure and accomplishments.

    2. Chc34*

      Tbh I wholeheartedly believe that the people in Boise and NYC doing the exact same work should be compensated the same, regardless of where they live (and yes, that means the person in Boise should make more, not that the person in NYC should make less).

        1. darcy*

          but if it meant the person in Boise got more and the person in NYC got the same surely it would just be easier to hire in Boise!

        2. Anon today*

          Why would paying someone out of market a lucrative salary have any impact on their ability to recruit locally? I live in the Midwest and work for a NYC company. I’m currently interviewing with and nearing the offer stage with a SF company. Both of them have compensation in the range of what it costs to hire someone locally in those high COL areas. What they pay me as a remote employee has absolutely zero bearing on their ability to hire someone locally.

          1. Chc34*

            Yeah, I said this in my initial comment but people are willfully ignoring it: I’m not advocating for people in NYC to get lowered to the salary of Boise. I’m advocating for the person in Boise to get raised to the salary of the person in NYC.

            1. Beehoppy*

              But then the person in Boise could be living a much more lavish lifestyle than their counterpart in NYC, or putting away more in savings, etc.. The same money would go much further.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yeah it’s still not fair, especially if you can’t WFH and move somewhere cheaper. People working in retail and other menial jobs would all want to move to Boise and it wouldn’t be possible to find anyone willing to work in Manhattan at menial jobs any more so you’d have to offer them more money: this vicious circle is called inflation.
                Of course if everyone did it probably rent and stuff would then go up in price in Boise and everyone would be paying Manhattan prices for everything… but without living in Manhattan, which is still not fair for the many people who would like to live in Manhattan and can’t afford it because let’s face it, lots more people fancy living in Manhattan than in Boise (I’m European and have no idea where Boise even is so obviously it has zero appeal apart from apparently lower prices than Manhattan, which is surely not hard to achieve.

      1. Lady Blerd*

        This is an equity vs equality issue. By paying both the Boise and NYC employee, you are actually underpaying the NYC employee who is spending more on cost of living. So sure you’ll make the job attractive for someone in Boise but the person in NYC will feel like they are being underpaid when this take away after taxes and expenses is less then the Boise employee.

        1. Chc34*

          That’s a slippery slope, though, because I’m sure you wouldn’t argue that someone who chooses to rent a more expensive apartment should get paid more simply because their takeaway pay is now less than their coworkers who rent less expensive ones.

          1. LW*

            If the job wants a candidate in NYC but would be ok with someone in Boise, it does make sense they’d pay Boise less? But that’s more because the person doesn’t have one of the “nice to have” qualifications, which is living in NYC.

            1. Nanani*

              Exactly – the person in NYC presumably can do in-person meetings without needing long travel times, for example.

          2. Lady Blerd*

            I think you are doing a bit of a strawman here, I am arguing strictly for reasonable cost of living. No one will advocate paying someone more for a penthouse appartment with a view of the NY harbour but a regular 250sqft appartment in an NYC outer burrough is infinitely more expensive then a spacious two bedroom appartment in Boise.

            1. Anononon*

              Yup. My single-family home (in a suburban, mid-Atlantic area) is double the size of my friend’s condo in DC but cost half the price.

          3. Anononon*

            They’re two entirely different arguments. Cost of living is based on, well, the cost of living in the area as a whole/on average. In higher COL areas, most things are more expensive compared to their equivalent in lower COL areas. It’s a calculable number.

          4. Drag0nfly*

            You’ve clearly never, ever, watched an episode of House Hunters. The price you pay for a mansion in Toledo is the same price you pay for a cramped, single story, two-bedroom house in New York City. The salaries reflect that.

          5. KHB*

            For what it’s worth, I’m with you on this. Part of what you get for paying the astronomical rents in New York City is that you get to live in New York City. Which is a pretty cool thing, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into. But you shouldn’t expect your employer to subsidize your expensive lifestyle choices, whether it’s the choice to live in an expensive area or the choice to live in an expensive home in a given area.

            Now, if having an employee based in New York City is worth more to the employer for some reason (like if they have a physical presence in New York City and they absolutely need to have people there), then it does make sense to pay more based on location. But if it’s a job that can be done from anywhere, I don’t think it does.

            1. lemon*

              It’s weird to frame living in NYC as an expensive lifestyle choice. People can be born and raised in NYC. They go to school there, make all their friends there, their families live there, they have kids and their kids go to school there and have friends there. It isn’t a “lifestyle choice” to want to be close to your family, or to not want to disrupt your kids’ lives—it’s a basic psychological need for home and community.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                And the thing is that NY is a unique place, the star of countless films, and there are far more people who want to live there than there are places to live there. Supply and demand then drives prices up further than what is warranted.
                Boise is cheaper, it doesn’t have the glamour of NY and while I don’t know Boise at all, I imagine it doesn’t stand out much compared to other cities with the same population across the country. So if you can’t find a decent place there but want to live in a city the same size, there’ll be plenty of choice.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yeah, this reminds me of a weird situation in France. There’s a little island off the Atlantic coast called Ile de Ré. It’s a charming place, a few hours’ drive from several different cities. A while back they built a bridge so you no longer had to take a ferry to get there. Suddenly it became highly fashionable, THE place to buy your second home.
                Farmers who’d been tending the land on Ile de Ré for generations started getting slammed by the tax office for not paying the wealth tax. They said “how can we be eligible for paying wealth tax when we barely make minimum wage and never take holidays?” Turned out that their property was now worth millions, so they were officially millionaires despite just scraping by. They changed the wealth tax law after that, so they no longer took your main home into consideration when calculating wealth tax.
                A perfect example of how

          6. Gumby*

            In a LCOL area the difference between a more expensive apartment and a less expensive apartment is not that large when compared to renting in a HCOL area. Going by CL, 2 bedroom apartments in Boise seem to fall in the $1500 – $2000/month range. The range in SF is in the $3000 – $5000+/month range. So it isn’t just moving into a slightly nicer apartment — it is **doubling** your rent. (And if you want to *buy* a place instead? Just keep in mind that any place is going to sell for well over list price. $250,000 over asking is normal and expected; $1,000,000 over list price has happened more than once.)

            If the job doesn’t have to be done from a HCOL area, then I might agree that there is no reason a company should just up and pay more because an employee chooses to live there. But if you put your office there and want people to show up in person? You have to pay them enough to afford to live near the office.

      2. Chc34*

        I should also add that I do work for an NYC-based company who specifically told people their salaries wouldn’t change if they moved out of the area due to the fact that they’re now more open to remote work. And because of that, a lot of my coworkers are now looking to move to less-expensive COL areas because they now have the freedom to do that rather than be tied to the city.

        1. MassMatt*

          It’s one thing to not reduce salaries of existing employees that move from higher cost areas to lower cost ones, it’s quite another for a company to offer NYC wages in Boise.

          If your work can be done from anywhere, them you can post nationally (or internationally) and announce you are paying X for this job. But most employers have at least some jobs that are location-specific. For those jobs, it makes sense to pay prevailing local wages. Someone in Hyderabad or Brazil having a mansion on the wages needed for someone to work in a shop in Manhattan isn’t likely to happen.

          1. Chc34*

            I was hired after this policy was instituted, for the same salary this position would be paid in NYC, in a much lower COL area.

      3. BPT*

        Even if the locality is determined by the job? I can maybe understand this if everyone in the company is remote and has the option to live wherever they want. But if your job requires you to live in NYC or DC, for instance, and another branch of your company is based in Montana or another LCOL area, and those employees are required to live near that office, you’d still advocate for the same exact pay? Even if they are doing the same job, there are requirements for where people live (often commuting distance to the office). It makes no sense that those two localities should pay the same.

        1. Cascadia*

          Yes. I’m a teacher in a high COL area. My mom is a teacher in a low COL area. I make more money than she does, despite the fact that I have 10 years of experience to her 30 years – because I live in a very expensive city and we are paid accordingly. My mortgage is also 2x more than hers is, as is my grocery bill, gas, etc. If I moved to her city, my pay would drop accordingly, but I would likely still have a roughly similar amount of take-home pay after bills, etc. that I do here.

      4. Marzipan*

        In the UK it’s common for jobs based in London to receive ‘London weighting’ – i.e. a higher rate of pay than jobs outside the capital, because of he extra costs of living there (or commuting there). There’s currently lots of people doing the whole ‘now we can work from home, let’s move to the country!’ thing, and the rest of us are not super-enthusiastic about what that does to property prices if they’re still getting paid the London weighting ..

        1. AcademiaNut*

          Yeah, it sucks for the people from low COL but reasonably pleasant areas – a bunch of highly paid transplants from NYC, the Bay area DC, etc, blow in, dump money, and drive the property prices up (and the vacancy rates down) so the local people who are doing the in person jobs that make the area a pleasant place to live, now can’t afford a decent standard of living. The salaries for teachers, service staff, city employees, medical workers, drivers, repair people, etc. aren’t going to suddenly shoot up to NYC levels so the locals can afford to compete.

        2. Storm in a teacup*

          As a Londoner I can tell you that I was previously on the maximum (capped) amount of inner-London weighting when I used to work in the NHS. This was capped at approx £6k per annum and sounds quite a lot. However it in no way accounted for the vast difference in house prices or travel so my friends who lived in the Midlands or North in the same pay band had a much, much higher standard of living. As a Londoner born and bred who wanted to stay close to family and my community moving OOL was not an option so I left and went to work in the private sector instead.
          I think COL is essential especially in government style roles where you have significantly less flexibility on what you pay but I also think that the COL should actually reflect the true cost differences.

          1. Storm in a teacup*

            To add the biggest shock moving from NhS to private for me was the lack of transparency on salary. In the NHS everyone is on a payband and those are available in the public domain. I have no idea what my payband is and where I sit now in my current company and I feel it’s really opaque. However they do conduct an annual exercise each year to average out salaries within bands apparently so it prevents you being significantly underpaid or overpaid compared to colleagues at the same level.

      5. Boof*

        I think that depends a lot on whether you have to come in physically for your job. If it’s 100% remote and can be done in any state, then sure, pay them the same. If the job requires frequent travel to work then it requires living in a certain area, unless the company wants to start paying for commute fees and is willing to fly someone in every day… then you HAVE to adjust the pay to reflect the cost of living; a “living wage” for an adult with no children in Aberdeen misssissippi is $12.90, in san fran it’s $28.00 – and the min wages are different too.

      6. AntsOnMyTable*

        So do you feel that way about all jobs or just the ones privileged enough to work remote? A RN in NY or CA makes probably 50%+ more than I do and we are essentially doing the same job. An employee working for a national convenience store chain or fast food is going to be doing the same job no matter where the store is located.

    3. RB*

      When I worked at large Fortune-50 beverage company, the salary bands were available for staff to see, and you could also see the ones for other geographical areas, not just your area. That way, if you were considering a transfer from, say, Los Angeles to Iowa, you could see how much less you would be paid for the same job code, due to the cost of living being lower. (I don’t think people actually got pay cuts if that happened, but they didn’t get raises for a few years).

      1. Majnoona*

        What bothers me about the pay difference is that some of life’s big ticket items are the same regardless of where you live. If I want to retire in Vermont, costs the same. If I want to send my kid to an expensive private college, costs the same (in fact as I recall FAFSA gives you a break if you live in an expensive place – we know your mortgage is high!) But when they retire, they have an expensive house to sell and Boise doesn’t.

        1. JB*


          Cost of living adjustments are to adjust JUST for COL differences. The things you’re describing are not part of COL.

          The whole point is that, without the adjustment, a person living in NYC would have less money to put towards those things than a person living in Boise (because it’s being eaten up by housing, transportation and food costs).

          Once the pays are adjusted, both people have the same amount to put towards non-COL items like higher education, retirement savings, and other big life events like weddings and vacations.

        2. Cmdrshpard*

          I would disagree and say almost nothing costs the same across the board.

          Sending your kid to a fancy private college in a rural area will likely be cheaper than sending them to a fancy private college in a major urban city. Their beer/alcohol cost will be cheaper, groceries/take out will be cheaper, rent for off campus living will be cheaper. Yes the sticker cost of tuition will be the same, (assuming all else being equal) for someone from a rural area compared to someone from an urban area.

          Retiring in rural vermont, is likely going to be cheaper that retiring in NYC.

          Again this is all based on average/general cost of living. Even if you are retired you still have to pay groceries, utilities, taxes all that is heavily dependant on where you live.

          Whole online communities exist about the best places to retire to get the most out of your money. $2k a month in retirement goes a lot further in area A vs area B etc…

  2. Cindy*

    Can someone clarify, please? If I work for a private organization as a manager, and I share my salary with other managers, the company can legally fire me for that?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, assuming you’re in the U.S. and don’t work in a state that has its own special protections (I’m not sure a single one does, but it’s possible there’s some state law I’m not thinking of).

      The National Labor Relations Act — the same law that protects unionizing — also protects less formal organizing, including just discussing wages and working conditions with your coworkers. But it only applies to non-management employees.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        (That doesn’t mean they WILL fire you for it. But they can in theory, and it’s not at all uncommon for companies to create a lot of pressure on people not to do it.)

      2. IEanon*

        I have always wondered why it doesn’t protect management employees. Was that a concession made to private businesses when the law was drafted? Or is there another reason why it makes sense to limit protections to non-supervising employees?

          1. BubbleTea*

            Why is that the case? I’m from the UK where unions work slightly differently and I believe anyone can join one – they’re not workplace specific either (I’m part of a very large national one, the largest public sector union in the country, and I believe my manager is too).

            1. Lora*

              Historical precedent – in the US anyway, in the 1930s when the NLRB was created, management and owners were hiring private security firms to massacre labor organizers (literally, see Homestead Strike, Ludlow Massacre) and essentially wage private war. Unions were not the tame “let’s work with management to get a better training module and $0.50/hour more” people we have today, they were the IWW and similar groups, and some ran for public office and won. The NLRB and various other New Deal programs were created to defuse what was viewed as an incipient American version of the October Revolution, and the labor unions wouldn’t have considered it remotely valid if the people who were shooting at them and burning their houses (management) had been included.

              1. Commie Wage Slave*

                This is an excellent explanation.

                From my understanding there’s different philosophies around who is included in class solidarity. In some, if you work for a wage you’re working class, including management in theory. If your capital earns you money, you are not working class. Depending on your philosophy and how broad of scope you’re using, you can view managers in some solidarity with employees and other wage workers. In others, working for management means advancing the interests of capital and its owners, necessarily working against the interests of working people. Unless the management class picks a side, that conflict will probably continue forever.

            2. Sue Wilson*

              Furthermore, theoretically part of your managerial job duties is to act [i]as[/i] the company in your decisions w/r/t labor, which is what separates you from labor, and means that it is against labor’s interest for you to be in a union with them (i.e. advocating for managerial outcomes will work against labor outcomes). Considering the way retail “managers” are treated, this is mostly theoretical in some industries.

            3. JB*

              USA unions are specifically to protect against management overreach.

              It may be a little outdated – our union laws and regulations come from a time when ‘management’ usually meant ‘the owner of the business’. There were shift leads, etc. in union jobs that we might consider today to be management positions, but they weren’t seen that way at the time.

      3. A Genuine Scientician*

        Does that apply even when the salaries are public record?

        I’m aware enough to know that academia is its own weird beast, but since I work for a public university, all salaries here are public record. Setting aside that I’m not entirely positive what counts as management (am I a manager because I oversee the teaching assistants in my course?), I would find it ridiculous if I was disciplined for telling someone something that is public record, but I’ve learned not to assume that the law is logical.

        1. Bread and Roses and Books*

          University faculty are not management – we can and do unionize. See, for example, the California Faculty Association for the faculty of the campuses of the California State University System. We can undertake all union activities, up to and including strikes.
          Academic management is deans, provosts, and the like.

          1. Bread and Roses and Books*

            Your teaching assistants are likely graduate students. If you want to make an analogy to the skilled trades more commonly associated with unions in popular imagination, they’re apprentices. Both master carpenters and apprentice carpenters could be in the same union. You oversee their tasks, but don’t set their wages or benefits; the deans or provosts, etc do that.

          2. oleander*

            In a weird twist, university faculty at private colleges and universities are NOT legally allowed to unionize. The argument is that faculty ARE management, in a way, since they have control over hiring and promotion in their own departments. I’m not sure what the legal reasoning is for public-college faculty having the right when private-college faculty don’t, but it’s part of some Supreme Court case called Yeshiva v. something.

            (And of course public-school faculty may unionize only in states where any public employees are allowed to unionize … which leaves out Wisconsin and many Southern states.)

      4. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        This might be going down a legal rabbit hole, so stop me if needed:

        Are there any laws about using company resources to share salary info between non-management? Such as printing out survey to pass around or posting a spreadsheet people can fill out in a shared drive?

      5. Omnivalent*

        California Labor Code 232 doesn’t exempt managers.

        No employer may do any of the following:

        (a) Require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from disclosing the amount of his or her wages.

        (b) Require an employee to sign a waiver or other document that purports to deny the employee the right to disclose the amount of his or her wages.

        (c) Discharge, formally discipline, or otherwise discriminate against an employee who discloses the amount of his or her wages.

        1. MissNomer*

          Colorado has a similar law that was recently enacted as part of their equal pay legislation. It doesn’t exempt managers either.

  3. Badasslady*

    To me, these answers mean “we know the salary bands would not totally fix pay inequalities, and we don’t want BIPOC/women/other folks vulnerable to bias to understand how badly they’re being screwed over.” But that’s just my perspective as a woman of color who consistently has to struggle to get paid what she’s worth.
    Workers – share salary info with each other! Especially if you’re white men who are likely to be over paid in relation to others! Also, unionize.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Exactly. How can you tell if you are not being paid according to your band if you don’t even know what the band is supposed to be?

      1. quill*

        “Your salary band is 45-60k. Nine of ten of you are making 45 or 46k, and this one dude is making 60k.”

      2. Badasslady*

        Or, if you don’t know what the band is, you might not know you are being paid on the lowest side of it despite having advanced degrees/a decade worth of experience/being the most productive worker by x matrix.

    2. hbc*

      In my company, it’s more “we don’t want people to call us on it when we make exceptions to the pay bands.” Which we only do for exceptional employees–who just happen to be white males who get along really well with white male management/ownership. Bonus if you can play golf, because of course.

      1. singlemaltgirl*

        ooh but that never happens /sarcasm.

        i’ve never managed a company that was large enough to have ‘exceptions’ to the pay bands. i’ve worked in companies with them, of course. but again, all benefitted white males. i was told the band for my role and comparing that to the 2 other women on the trading floor, we all were told the same band. we also knew the men we were trading alongside who were paid far more than the top of the band we were given. and then we went to all the dudes we knew who would share info and none of them had the same band as we did…for the exact same job. but no surprise. it was a male dominated field.

      2. Smithy*

        The other thing I’ve seen is that specific teams/departments get exempt from the pay bands because they’re deemed uniquely difficult to recruit for. And then those also *just happen* to be fields where *the vast majority* of candidates are white men.

        So while in every other department, a Director is paid between $X-Y, on the Special Boys Club those salaries are made by far more junior staffers.

        1. Evan Þ.*

          On the flip side, occasionally those specific teams really are uniquely difficult to recruit for. That’s why the IRS is still running a kludgy mix of 2005 and 1985 software on top of Windows XP – they’ve been trying to find people who know those archaic systems well enough to rewrite their software for more modern systems, but nobody who can do it is willing to accept the standard government pay rates.

          1. Gnome*

            Even the federal government has special bands for hard-to-hire positions. E.g. being a Mathematical Statistician in the DC area pays more than a Survey Statistician because there are fewer, requires more education, and are harder to find at entry level. The increase wears out petty fast, but it does help get folks in the door who would otherwise go elsewhere for more money.

    3. TechWorker*

      The company I work for does not publish pay bands (although being in management I can in effect view them). They also do regular reviews of salary in a particular role (role tied to grade/grades are what determine the bands, although they are location specific) to ensure they are not paying unfairly based on gender. I think how this works is if they determine women are paid less well on average, all women receive a small bump to make the averages right. Of course – IMO this doesn’t fully make any potential discrimination go away – you are relying on grade promotions being done equitably… but there is at least an attempt to ensure that pay is fair despite pay bands not being public information.

    4. Cat Tree*

      What I don’t understand is, why do the analysis of not to adjust salaries to be more consistent? Years ago, before I started working there, my company did this kind of analysis and bumped the pay for those who were underpaid. What other reason is there for doing it?

      1. LW*

        So this is what they did. They are establishing pay bands and have adjusted salaries for people who were discovered to be making less than their bands would require. (They did not lower anyone’s salary who was above their band.) However, the pay bands themselves are not going to be shared.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          I was once the beneficiary of a pay bump due to a company review of market salaries. I didn’t know I was underpaid (first job out of college, I didn’t negotiate because I was only staying for a year) and I don’t know what my peers made or what was the range of the salary band I was moved into.

          I’m union at my current company so we get de-identified information about salary across a number of different metrics (years with the company, grade level, and so on) every year, which I value highly.

          I’m about to move to a federal job and my salary will be public, but they already post the pay range in the job description so there’s a lot of transparency relative to industry.

        2. CCC*

          So if someone says “Hey, thanks for the raise. What is my pay band, by the way?” They’re just not going to answer? Are they going to adjust people so they’re like $1 into the proper band, or are they going to be scaled depending on experience/skills/location? And how can people know that it’s a fair wage if you don’t tell them?
          Seems to me like you’re about to go to a bunch of people and say “we weren’t paying you fairly. Now we are” and they’re just supposed to take your word for it.

    5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      At my last company, we were doing a company wide DEI training, which included ways to incorporate equity into the work. During one of those formal all staff discussions, right after leadership (including HR) talked about how committed we were to it, I asked about making salary bands transparent.

      HR answer? “Well, that would be a lot of work, so…no.”


        1. JB*

          I’m guessing HR was thinking less about the work of actually making the pay band info available, and more about the work they’d have to do after the fact dealing with any pay inequities that were brought to light as a result…

    6. JustaTech*

      I was told (recently as in a few months ago) by my HR person that it was “not allowed” to share salary information. I quoted state law at her (the person who had shared salary information did so as she was leaving, so wasn’t around to be chastised).
      So then my HR person said that it was “unprofessional” to share salary information. Uh huh, sure.

      And that even though I was getting a promotion and therefore entitled to see the salary band for my new title, they wouldn’t do it. When I *again* quoted state law the HR person came back with the bottom of the salary band. I never did get her to give me the top and it wasn’t worth fighting. But I’m still deeply frustrated by the whole thing.

  4. COBOL Dinosaur*

    I work in IT of a health insurance company with about 1500 employees. We are given the salary range for our position and the next level position. This is better than most but I’d love to see all of the positions and ranges.

    1. Qwerty*

      I like this! It solves the privacy bit that gives a lot of people pause, while still giving you the relevant info for your career.

    2. LW*

      This is what one of my colleagues suggested, which is better than no visibility at all, but I want to know what the C-suite is making too!

      1. Red*

        It sounds like you’re corporate enough to be possibly publicly traded. If your company is on the stock exchange you should be able to see what at least the ceo is making. That’s common info investors like to know and is generally searchable. Sometimes you can find other c-suites in the investor report too.

          1. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

            Maybe you could look at competitors who are publicly traded? I believe the SEC requires publicly traded US companies to report the CEO’s total compensation as a ratio to the median non-exec employee salary at the company (something like 200:1 is not uncommon). If you or anyone at your company wants to try to look that up, it could be in a Schedule 14A, which is the Proxy Statement, filed by the company with the SEC, which makes it publicly accessible.

        1. Lord Peter Wimsey*

          All US public companies are required to file (usually yearly) proxy statements with the SEC that disclose (among other things) executive compensation data, which is often quite detailed. Easiest way to find one is to google the company name + proxy statement 2021.

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          Similarly, I think non-profits that are rated in Charity Navigator have to share/publish their top earners (or something like that).

          1. Red*

            Nonprofits also have to report leaderships compensation on their 501c3 which must be accessible to the public so usually they just post it on their website.

    3. BenAdminGeek*

      Just want to say that I love your username! We still utilize COBOL in some areas, and one of my former employees loved to talk about how in college his professor told him COBOL was dead. And here he was, 15 years later, slogging away.

  5. Michelle Smith*

    I am a public employee. My salary is literally available to anyone with an internet connection and access to Google. The concept of keeping this information private is foreign and creepy to me. This should not be secret information unless you are trying to cover up injustice or other wrongdoing.

    1. Kassie*

      I’m also a public employee and in a union. It is so goofy to me all this secrecy around pay. I know I’ve had some awkward conversations with people in the private sector when I ask what something pays. They are so secretive! I just want to know if it would be worth me leaving my job, but since it is all a big secret, clearly it is not. (I know I could make more in the private sector, but I would never leave the benefits I get.)

    2. Rock Prof*

      Same! You can even find a break down of what I make for base salary versus overloads. You can do fun and depressing things like check how much more the football coach at the flagship school in the system makes than the chancellor of my school.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I’m in the same boat. Work for public university and the local paper published the database where you can find everyone’s pay. It’s take home pay, and it’s by the year, but its really interesting to see that the dean, or provost or that the chancellor made X last year, especially when you hear that they have gotten a raise of X thousands of dollars and the rest of the staff doesn’t even get a cost of living increase

        WOW! You mean I got a whole .17 cents! Thanks! (Sarcasm)

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Same! And it sickens me to know how much football coaches make. But it’s better than not knowing.

        Oh, & I make more money & have better benefits now that I don’t work somewhere that isn’t transparent about salaries.

    3. Bimble*

      I agreed, I’m in similar position and the only disadvantages are where some tiers get different pension or allowances, or working arrangements (flexi hours / work from home) which are harder to quantify, but people still compare the banded salaries. It’s also good for recruitment as the salary band is advertised. Here’s to being OPEN about pay!

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      Ditto. I asked my boss (a Member of Congress) for a pay increase, and she told me there was no money. Thanks to the quarterly salary postings, I found out she gave double the raise I asked for to my male coworker who worked fewer hours and did less overall, which resulted in my increased workload. That’s why I asked for a raise.

      I quit. I gave her two weeks notice exactly even though I knew more than a month in advance I was leaving. I declined her offer to throw a going away party or anything else. I wanted nothing from her

      To this day over ten years later, I still tell that story and I still name her. (Probably should have just given me that raise.)

    5. OyHiOh*

      I worked for the fed for a time, and my spouse did for most of his life. It’s not just that our payscales were public, it’s that the payscales adjusted for locality as well as number of years in service and grade, and number of dependents were easily searchable (when applicable, mainly military service). Every time I see this question come up, it amazes me how much secrecy most of the private sector throws up around salaries. Hundreds of thousands of public employees function just fine knowing roughly what their peers make.

    6. Anon4This*

      One of the benefits of working in private industry is that the whole world doesn’t know my salary. I make a lot of money because I’m in a high-availability position, have a broad portfolio of work, and have consistently outstanding performance reviews. I outearn people in my title class by a substantial amount (I am a woman), and I have no interest in that information being public and having to hear snarky comments about it or justify it to others. There is not a polite way to say to a coworker, “Well, I completed twice as many strategic objectives as you last year, I respond to emails in less than a week, and people call me instead of you because I actually help them.”

      In my experience, there is a lot more performance/above-and-beyond latitude in private industry that result in wider pay bands than grades/steps and a greater need for flexibility. I have to be a spread player and do things that are not part of my job description very frequently (“that’s not my job” is not an option here). My spouse works for the government, and they are much more defined about what they can and can’t do and being able to decline work that is not part of their position. I could not work where they do and vice-versa – they like the job boundaries, and it would drive me nuts to stay in bounds all the time. They have much better benefits and a pension but raises and bonuses are a joke; I routinely get substantial raises and both annual and performance-based bonuses.

      1. darcy*

        people who earn a comparatively high salary being against salary being public because it might help their peers get a better salary is a great reason for salary to be public :)

        1. Anon4This*

          My salary being public doesn’t help my peers get a better one. The way they get a better one is to do their job better, and that should be worked out with their manager and without my having to be involved with it.

          I think people who think this is all going to fall on managers and HR to explain are really overestimating human nature. People can be petty, passive-aggressive, and weaponize personalized information – definitely not all, but enough that the squeaky wheels becomes my headache. I have no issue with people sharing their own salaries with each other, and I’ve done it with people I trust. My folks discuss their own comp, and that’s A-OK and I’m happy to chat with people who want to know how to move up. I do not want mine posted on the company intranet so I can hear all the comments about how I should take Undesirable Task since I get paid so much or being harangued by people who should be taking this up with HR/their manager, especially if their manager is crappy or doesn’t welcome such questions. I literally have too much to do to put up with that or the resentment.

          1. Boof*

            Unfortunately, there’s often a lot more to salary than purely objective metrics of work output; otherwise pay disparities wouldn’t exist

          2. HereKittyKitty*

            If the issue is the employees at your workplace would use your salary to snark about you or to you, then that’s not an issue with the salary being shared- that’s an issue at your workplace.

          3. JB*

            Either the dynamics at your workplace are extremely unusual and unpleasant, or, well. You know what they say – if you meet one asshole in the morning, you’ve met an asshole. If you meet assholes all day…

            The fact that you assume that everyone at your job is being paid in direct accordance with their performance makes me lean towards the latter.

      2. KRM*

        Your comfort in not having to justify yourself doesn’t make not sharing salary info fair. You can go with a “I believe I’m paid fairly based on my performance reviews and experience”. If someone pushes, you broken record with “that sounds like a conversation you should have with your boss”. Because really, if the employee isn’t performing well, that’s on the boss to tell them why they get what they do. Might it be an uncomfortable conversation? Yes. But if you’re not a top performer and want to be paid like one, it’s on the boss to say “You have to hit metrics S, L, and K before you can get there”. If you hide salary info that is perfectly justifiable (you make more because you get top reviews and thus maximum raises), what’s to stop them from hiding info that isn’t so justifiable?

      3. Blackbird*

        This. I work in private industry, financial services. I know I’m the highest paid of my job description, and am actually outside my salary band. I am a woman, and the only woman of my job title. There is literally no way to truthfully tell someone (if they asked) why I make more than my “peers” without sounding impolite or passive-aggressive. My husband is in a field that’s government-adjacent and as a result his pay is much more restricted, public knowledge, and his work fits “in a box” whereas I wear multiple hats and can’t really say “no”.

        1. LW*

          I think the upside of underpaid people being able to recognize it and take action is more valuable than the downside of highly paid people who are defensive about their salaries being called out.

          1. Marillenbaum*

            Ding ding ding! If you make significantly more than your peers and you don’t want people talking it about it with you, you can just…decline to discuss it. That doesn’t mean that labor pricing (which is what a salary is) should be opaque to the people who are exchanging their labor for a wage.

            1. AntsOnMyTable*

              I think the problem with salary is so many people think it is entirely a reflection on their skills as a worker and it is just isn’t. Biases come into play, company policies come into play, random luck comes into play, etc. Hence the defensiveness. But as you say it is labor pricing. How many people would be happy to buy a product not knowing what other people spent? And have to trust that even though it can vary drastically the sellers are pricing it fairly and not adjusting the price because someone is friendlier or is a white male.

      4. Charlotte Lucas*

        I would argue that those of us who work for government health agencies have definitely gone outside of this mythical box in the past year and a half. YMMV but I’ve seen just as much (if not more) above-and-beyond work in government jobs as in private.

      5. Tech worker*

        I hear you but I also still think it’s overall better for salaries to be public. The difference in salaries isn’t always due to performance – it’s often due to differences in negotiation, pay not being appropriately adjusted for the market relate going up, etc. In my last role I learned that there were others in my function who were paid over 20% less than me, even though I know for a fact that their job performance was just as good as mine and if anything they had more experience than me. It wasn’t until their coworkers shared with them what their salaries were that they realized they needed to go to their bosses and ask for more. If salaries were public within the company, this big discrepancy probably wouldn’t have happened in the first place. (For what it’s worth, all of us are women.)

      6. Julia*

        So if all the salary information is private, how do you know for sure that you’re getting paid more than all your colleagues? Answer: you don’t. You’re patting yourself on the back for making more because you do more, but a lazy or incompetent colleague who happens to be besties with the boss (or just a white dude) could be making the same as you, and you wouldn’t even know.

        1. Anon4This*

          Answer: I have job-related access to salary and yearly assessment information for all but c-level employees. I’m not making some self-aggrandizing assumption. I’m also involved in the regular discrimination audit process and intimately familiar with corporates safeguards to prevent and detect pay discrepancies and have seen what happens when someone tries to give their buddy an out-of-scale raise (it didn’t go well and I love our take no crap comp & benefits VP).

          1. HereKittyKitty*

            So you’re saying because you have access to everyone’s salaries and yearly assessment information… you’re able to better understand your own job worth in the context of your company and set appropriate benchmarks for yourself.


            1. HereKittyKitty*

              and that because you have access to salary, you’re able to participate in yearly discrimination audits and probably have a good idea about whether or not you are being discriminated against… so you can bring that up… because you have access to salary information…

              I just…

              1. HereKittyKitty*

                sorry in case this isn’t clear it feels very much like “gotcha! I in fact know exactly how much I’m paid compared to everyone else and I’m able to use that information to look for discrimination issues, but no one else should have access to that information because someone hypothetically might mention how much I’m paid in a manner that I don’t like.”

          2. New Here*

            Your confidence in your salary comes from having access to information your peers don’t. If you didn’t know where you fell in the distribution, wouldn’t you also wonder whether your high performance was appropriately compensated?

      7. Bamcakes*

        >> I outearn people in my title class by a substantial amount

        — how do you know? And why do you know? I’m not being sarky, I’m genuinely interested in how come you apparently know exactly where you stand in relation to everyone else but believe they don’t know the same thing about you?

      8. Feral Humanist*

        The personal discomfort of the highest earners should not not trump other people’s ability to organize against systemic bias and pay equity issues. Period.

      9. MsSolo (UK)*

        I mean, wouldn’t you want to know if some of those colleagues who are doing less are being paid more than you? Because of their race/gender/school friends? Because trust me, as a woman, it doesn’t matter where you work or how well paid you’re being, as long as there is an intuitional lack of salary transparency the people benefitting most from it are not the female employees.

  6. Qwerty*

    My experience with adhering to salary bands is that companies just end up giving men the title that corresponds to the salary he negotiated. So technically the women are all being paid the same as their male counterparts, because they give the incoming male candidates the title of Senior Teapot Designer to justify the higher salary that he wanted. My last company kept hiring men as senior managers despite them having no management experience, simply because they had a higher salary requirements.

    Part of the process for defining salary bands should be creating better job descriptions for each pay level and making sure that is being applied as a standard.

    1. Emily*

      Yup. I’ve seen this as well. They hired mid-career men in at at a higher level than women with the same age and experience level. In some cases we had women with decades of experience being hired in at our entry-level position, and there weren’t male equivalents. For us I think it was to some extent because they were basing incoming salaries on your salary at your previous job, so if you were being underpaid relative to your previous role/set of responsibilities, then we would both hire you at a lower salary than someone with the same previous role/responsibilities, AND we would put you in a more junior-level role.

    2. Need More Sunshine*

      Ugh, that’s so frustrating. Technically, those female employees could still file a complaint with the EEOC, but then of course the company probably made it really difficult to prove that the experience was the same between the males and females and thus no justification for the bump in title and pay. :(

    3. Lora*

      Yep. At one job I had, OriginalCompany was notorious for low pay but fairly interesting work with minimal politics. MegaMergerCo who bought us was notorious for golden handcuffs and much backstabbing. Women scientists with 10-15 years of experience who had a Scientist or Investigator level title were re-leveled according to the pay band where they fit in MegaMergerCo: Research Associate (i.e. entry level fresh out of undergrad, regardless of their advanced degrees or experience). Male Scientist/Investigators were declared Research Fellows, a much higher pay grade, and bumped up in pay scale accordingly. This was about 10 years ago, so not the 1950s.

  7. ASW*

    I wish my company would make these public. I know what they are because I’m involved in payroll, but regular employees have no idea. I recently tried to get my accounting clerk’s pay grade bumped up to be more in line with our purchasing positions that are two grades higher but doing substantially similar work. It was denied and the only reason I was given was “it’s appropriately positioned.” Which is a non-answer as far as I’m concerned. Fast forward a couple months and I find out this week that our new receptionist’s position has been upgraded two pay grades which now makes it two pay grades higher than my accounting clerk. When I saw that on the new hire’s paperwork on Monday, my blood was boiling. I still haven’t decided how I’m going to address it. I think if employees knew how their pay and ranges compared to other employees, we’d have some complaints on our hands. And rightly so.

    1. All the cats 4 me*

      Speaking of blood boiling….

      I have been doing a lot of work for various clients which requires access to all employee salaries, and it is GLARINGLY OBVIOUS how much women are underpaid.

      Like, half as much as men. Even in companies in which the women are owners – when the male spouse is also an owner.

      It is simply infuriating. In 2021. FFS.

  8. Snarkus Aurelius*

    “employees should trust management to be paying them correctly (!).”

    I graduated from college in 1999, and almost every employer I had did not pay me “correctly,” but went to every effort to tell me they did! Oh boy did I hear some doozies!

    If nothing else, look what happened to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella after he said the same thing and it turned out Microsoft had a huge pay disparity problem. He had a dozen eggs on his face when he apologized.

    1. Someone*

      Microsoft still does not publish pay bands, even internally. It’s *incredibly* frustrating as an employee. Quoted directly from the HR site as of today, under “Why we don’t publish our base pay ranges”:
      Like most companies, we don’t publish base pay ranges because this is proprietary and confidential company information that allows us to compete in the market for talent. We are careful in how we share compensation data in order to minimize the risk of it getting shared with our competitors.
      It’s a good company to work for in many ways, but this is not one of them. It’s complete BS that shows no respect for employees.

      1. Qwerty*

        How is that proprietary information??

        I’m really confused how companies claim that hiding the numbers makes it easier to compete for talent. When job searching, I always filter postings by salary. Having a decent salary range is literally an advertisement!

        1. Adam*

          In this case, what they’re worried about (or claim to be worried about, anyway) is that if Google and Amazon and whoever else knew their pay bands precisely, their competitors could always offer good candidates just above the top of Microsoft’s pay band, knowing that Microsoft can’t match it very easily. They’re also worried about a ratcheting effect on salaries (Google and Amazon set the top of their pay bands to Microsoft + $5k, Microsoft raises the top of their pay band by 10k to be able to compete, repeat). It all boils down to wanting to pay people as little as possible, but if their pay bands are known and others’ aren’t, that does put them at a disadvantage.

        1. HereKittyKitty*

          It was the most baffling thing when I was interviewing at a SF tech company. They wouldn’t even tell me their own salary range! And I asked a former coworker to please give me an idea of what tech companies in SF pay because he worked at one, and he was like “no, it’s forbidden” like they plugged a tracking chip into his brain when he signed his offer letter. It was the weirdest experience.

  9. Quantum Hall Effect*

    “employees should trust management to be paying them correctly”

    Ah ha ha ha! Yeah, trust is built, so what is management doing to build that trust?

    My company also has salary bands that are not shared by management. So a few people contributed to a spreadsheet that gets updated regularly by people in the know with all the salary bands. You only get to see it if somebody who trusts you shows it to you.

    I came into my company with three times the experience of the typical person who hires into my salary band, and I was given the same starting salary as those people with less experience. It was only because people were willing to share their salary with me that I discovered that I was underpaid. I managed to advocate for a salary that was much higher within the salary band, and the experience did not build trust in my company at all. I paid it forward by sharing the salary bands with my advisor at my alma mater, from which my employer recruits heavily. Hopefully that will help at least a few people be paid fairly when they hire in.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      The best part is this was said by a company that had identified disparities in employment at their company (i.e. executive level dominated by white men).

    2. LW*

      The worst part was in the presentation they implied that if we were good managers our reports would trust us to be paying them correctly. Like they tacitly shifted the burden to management.

      1. Quantum Hall Effect*

        They can shift the trust building at the individual contributor level to the middle management level, buy to do that, *they* need to build trust at the middle management level. Which it sounds like they aren’t doing, at least not in a way builds your trust. Which sucks, and I’m sorry.

        Focusing on the things that are under your control, you can advocate for your employees to paid fairly to the best of what you know and at least build their trust that you are doing everything you can. It’s not perfect, but maybe knowing that you are doing everything you can and holding to your values in doing so can counterbalance not having the transparency that you want.

  10. Pescadero*

    The ability to discuss salary doesn’t apply to:

    Federal government employees
    State government employees
    Local government employees
    Employees of employers subject to the Railway Labor Act
    Agricultural workers employed by someone who only employs agricultural workers.

    1. Student*

      Important caveat: US federal employee pay schedules are posted publicly in great detail. The pay bands for federal positions are posted on every job opening, and our pay bands for individual positions are often included on our org charts. It’s not hard to get the pay band for a federal government employee.

    2. Flower*

      Given that government employees have their salaries Googleable… I find this a weird assertion. Even as a grad student at a public university my salary was Googleable

    3. doreen*

      The fact that the NLRA doesn’t protect the right to discuss pay doesn’t necessarily mean those groups don’t have the ability to discuss pay. I have worked for both a state and municipal government. Government payrolls and pension information in my state are public information and there is a think tank that has created a database including payroll and pension information – which means that I can look-up any public employee/pensioner in my state and find out how much they earned for the past ten years or so. Prior to the internet, you could still tell how much a job paid by looking at the test announcements as they were very detailed in terms of pay. So government employees at those entities have the ability to discuss pay regardless of whether the NLRA covers them. And when the information is that public , there isn’t any upside to the employer prohibiting it it’s completely unenforceable.

  11. Chc34*

    At my last job I found out they hired someone at a lower level than me with no experience for the same salary I was making when I’d been there for five years. I had already put in my notice and had no leverage, but a couple other people in the same position I was were able to use that information and negotiate significant raises for themselves. Then I wrote my salary on a whiteboard outside my door so everyone who walked by could see it. I had quite a few people stopping in to tell me they now realized they were underpaid compared to my salary, and I know some of them were able to get raises as well. So, yes, not talking about your salaries benefits nobody except the employer, and no, management will oftentimes not pay you fairly unless you fight for them to.

  12. learnedthehardway*

    It’s possible that the salary band information is strategic info that your company doesn’t want shared with competitors. That IS a good reason for not widely sharing what the bands are.

    Another reason for not sharing the bands is if the company has designated certain functions or roles as mission critical – ie. without the people in these roles, the company cannot function. This might not necessarily be based on pure seniority. eg. It could be that VPs of engineering are pretty interchangeable, but you cannot function without your primary design engineers, so those people might be paid disproportionately highly, because it is very hard to replace them with someone as specialized in your particular product area.

    That information isn’t necessarily something you want to share with the entire workforce – eg. people at similar levels of experience in finance might wonder why they’re not considered as valuable, whereas in reality, while they have the same level of expertise and the same amount of experience in their own field, they’re simply not in mission critical roles or irreplaceable.

    1. Nicotene*

      I think most managers would say, the problem is that all employees tend to think they’re rockstars who should be at the top of the bands, so then you have people who were previously happy with their pay now feeling that they’re underpaid because their role includes a 20K increase at the upper end. So you have to explain to everyone that they’re not actually the Ace Rimmer of Accounting that they think they are. This is the same rationale I’ve heard for not listing salary ranges in job ads; everyone will think they should get the top number.

      1. Extra-Anon-Manager*

        I don’t think you’re wrong about that thought process that managers have- but letting an employee think they’re a rockstar just to keep them content and quiet is such a disservice to both the employee and company. A good manager should be willing to have that unpleasant conversation and say “OK, here’s what’s separating you from the top of the salary band, here’s where there’s room for improvement.” An employee who wants it bad enough will work to be good enough- and I’d rather pay more for a good employee than a little less for a mediocre one.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Ha! Yes, this is true. Several years ago, I managed a team with a project hours requirement, and I had to have multiple meetings (and then they went to HR) with someone who’d missed their hours by a substantial amount and gotten very mixed work quality reviews who was up in arms that one of his coworkers (who’d exceeded hours and gotten very positive quality reviews) got a better raise and bonus than they did. Obviously, I couldn’t share the personal info about the worker, but I could at least say that the factors considered were hours, quality, etc., and that, to get a better comp package next year, they’d need to meet or exceed their hours and improve their quality by doing X, Y, and Z things. Were they satisfied with this explanation? No, of course not.

        The range for one position at my org is $70-115K where the low end is least experienced or lowest performing and the high end is most experienced AND highest performing with a dash of hard-to-find, specialized skills. The low end does think they deserve to be at the high end and should not have to formulate a professional development plan to build the requisite skills with their manager nor execute said plan. I have one who literally refuses to do professional development until I promote them to a title they’re not qualified for or increase their salary above qualification (which would also throw parity off for others in the band and create a domino problem).

        And I work somewhere that had good, up-to-date job descriptions, can explain salary differences, and is happy to work with people to get to the next level.

        1. MechE*

          “obviously, I couldn’t share the personal info about the worker”

          I mean…why not? None of that is personal information, it is all professional performance information. “You receive less than your peers because they outperform you in A, B, and C. Coworker X hit these KPIs, you did not.”

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Because we do consider individual performance evaluation data confidential, and HR would consider it very poor judgment. We compare the employee’s performance to their job descriptions and KPIs, not to other employees. His comp was lower because he didn’t hit the marks. It’s none of his business that his coworker did… fine that SHE shared that info but not okay for me to disclose.

        2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          The way you handled that employee sounds like good management (which should really be baseline, but I digress):

          The employee had a complaint about their salary, you laid out what uou needed to see for them to achieve the salary they wanted, and (this is key) you are holding everyone to the same standard.

      3. Kiko*

        The potential slippery slope there is that at a certain point in a salary/raise negotiation, it has less to do with your skill level, and more to do with your ability to ‘play the game’ — which of course, underserves women and people of color.

        This actually happened to me recently with a job I accepted. I was one of four people brought in for the same role. I thought I negotiated well, but apparently not as well as the other 3 white men did. My recruiter called me when I accepted by job offer and let me know she was bumping me up 15k (!) so I was at the same rate as the men.

      4. Badasslady*

        This response is so interesting to me. Because not all employees think they are rockstars. In fact, most employees of color I know struggle with imposter syndrome, despite having PhDs and years of experience. I think this response misses something so crucial about how identities influence a sense of worth and work ethics

        1. singlemaltgirl*

          but i think there are plenty of people (particularly white men ime) who do think they are rockstars and deserve the high band even when they have zero experience and make shit up as they go along. i’m not arguing against pay bands being made available internally. but as to the psychology of this stuff – there are people who absolutely feel entitled and see a range and think they automatically deserve the top end just by virtue that they think they should. this is when good performance mgmt and well trained managers help set expectations and can explain this stuff. but you’re always going to have entitled people in the world. and most of them will not be BIPoC or women identifying. just sayin’…

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            This. I’d estimate that 85% of the salary complaints I get are from white guys, and 0% are from top performers. We have unusually good HR – they stay on top of market salary for our positions and do discrimination testing, so comp is not based on confidence or negotiating prowess – so these are pretty straightforward to deal with, but the demographic trends on complaints have been very consistent over my career.

            You make a very good point about the importance of having a good performance system and well-trained managers. This is the expectation at my organization, and it starts with having up-to-date and well-written job descriptions, conveying from Day 1 what performance requirements are, having regular check-ins for feedback (from both sides), and coaching/mentoring. HR puts on a really good training on performance management, the annual assessment process, and provides feedback to managers. It makes my life a lot easier, and it makes expectation clear for everyone.

        2. kiki*

          It is! I definitely have met people who incorrectly assumed they were rockstars, but most people I’ve worked closely with have had an accurate or deflated sense of their performance (perhaps because as a woman of color, most of the colleagues I am closest too are also women and/or people of color). It strikes me as a management issue – if you have employees waltzing around not realizing that they’re mediocre performers, yeah, they could probably stand to be more self-aware but their manager should also be telling them what needs improvement and how they’re doing.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            Heck, I’ve worked with people who management thought were rockstar, and… Just weren’t. But they were generally at the top of whatever the salary band was. (We had them, but we just knew them by a numbering system & had no idea exactly how that corresponded to actual pay.)

            1. MassMatt*

              Yes, there are multiple types of employees where the assessment and reality are very different. There are people with a sense of entitlement or delusion that think they are great when they aren’t, people who upper management thinks are great but aren’t, people who are great (or at least, above average) but think they are not great. And finally people that are good but in the doghouse with management. I’ve worked with plenty of the first, a couple of the second, and a few of the third. Last category is often a variation on the first, but sometimes happens due to politics, etc.

              It seems the best solution to all these problems is evaluation, bonuses, raises, etc based on accomplishments, targets hit, work quality, etc.

        3. TechWorker*

          I’m sure this is right on average but I’ve had the issue where an above average employee got really angry that their friend (even more above average) got a bigger (not by much) bonus. It was like ‘why didn’t you tell me I was doing badly’ and the honest answer was ‘you’re not, but your colleague is doing better’. It caused a lot of stress over the equivalent of less than $300.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Somehow, the entire US public employer sector manages to function with salaries, bands, job grades/ranks, and locality adjustments being easily found by anyone with access to Google. Managers manage, individual contributors contribute and, for the most part, public systems function as intended. Private sector defense of salary secrecy is nonsense.

    3. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’m confused about how knowing the salary bands could benefit competitors. Do you just mean that if the competitor knows how much this company pays their level 2 rice sculptors, they’ll pay their own level 2 rice sculptors more in order to keep them? Because that seems like it would actually be a good thing for employees.

      Am I missing something here? I’ve only ever worked for government employees where the salary bands (and in some cases the actual individual employee salaries) are always public, so the reasons for keeping them a secret are really confusing to me.

      1. Smithy*

        I will also say on the flip side of this….if you know that Company A pays their level 2 rice sculptors $30 an hour and Company B pays their level 2 rice sculptors $20 an hour – the market has a way of leveling out. People may try to get jobs at Company B when they’re newer in the field and then start applying for Company A rice sculptor jobs after a year or 2. Or start applying for level 2 rice sculptor jobs at Company A but level 3 rice sculptor jobs at Company B.

        In my field there are places we know at the very high end, the middle and the bottom of salary. All three of those options have pluses and minuses depending where you are in your career. Some are known as golden handcuff nightmares, others are places where the money is a joke but you’ll get some massive title bumps and prestige and can then move on for a payday. The idea that any of this information is some kind of industry secret is a major side eye from me.

    4. Urbanchic*

      Just want to flag this comment. We have just gone through a similar exercise at my (much smaller) organization. We have a geographically disbursed work force, so those living in high cost areas are making higher wages than those living in smaller markets (that’s clearly noted in their offer letters). The other challenge is that depending on your department, your job title may make more, or have a different market position, than a peer on a different team. So a Director in Department A has one range and is targeted to the 75th percentile, while a Director in Department B has a second range and is targeted at the 50th percentile. This is based on the fact that Directors in Department A are harder to recruit and retain and perform a more business-essential function. Needless to say, our ranges are public, but there was a period of adjustment required. We were not dealing with gender or racial disparities in pay though.

  13. Kate*

    I’m in HR in a smallish (125 EE, roughly) company and we publicize our salary bands- without titles attached. So anyone can see what the pay range for their personal grade is, and the next one up, but not necessarily any one else’s unless they know what grade the position is. Grade levels aren’t kept particularly confidential though- we include them on internal job postings, and all same-titled jobs have the same grade level.

  14. CommanderBanana*

    Yeah, this is crap, as is the entire culture of secrecy around salaries in the U.S. It benefits no one but employers.

  15. Nadias*

    My company’s salary bands are on our internal website, broken out by min. mid and max and then you can look up every position and see what band it falls in. Really nice and helpful.

  16. HungryLawyer*

    How ironic that the company would conduct an analysis (probably claiming it would “increase transparency”) and then try to hide a key result of the analysis. Refusing to share data from an audit with employees is the Biggest Red Flag that that audit revealed inequities!

  17. Extra-Anon-Manager*

    I was just about to write my own letter around salary bands! Our company announced them in Spring of 2020 (so some delays were to be expected). Over this spring and summer things started to develop. I was able to see some info on the bands and don’t think HR realized it- nothing sneaky, I’m just fairly sure they didn’t realize how visible their numbers were. Since I’ve been able to see what’s going on, the following has happened:

    – “final” market-rate, research-based bands were set
    – company panicked after realizing over 75% of employees were below the MINIMUM end of their band
    – “accurate” bands were set that were all miraculously 15-20% lower than the first bands
    – HR issued a statement to managers that the bands are “guidelines” and there’s no reason that an employee can’t be above or below the band
    – We were told the “logistics” of bands were being finalized
    – Our internal personnell system now lists the salary bands when you start a hiring process- but you’re actually only allowed to offer the salary that was being paid for the positon at the time bands were announced.
    – Managers were told that bringing everyone into the bands would be too expensive and to pick which half (!) of your department would get the ~20% raises to enter the bands, and which half had to wait a year for that
    – Some high-importance departments are allowed to offer new external hires a salary band rate, but internal transfers for those positions are being offered ~20% less because the bands are currently a RECRUITING tool not a RETENTION tool.
    – Managers are still not supposed to announce what the bands are, what band anyone is in, or when we might start bringing people up to them.

    So in conclusion, OP, don’t feel like a lone wolf on this one- it’s my experience that the process of creating salary bands puts a lot of uncomfortable information into plain sight, and companies have no idea how to handle any of it correctly.

    1. ABBBBK*

      Solution: Salary bands that are as wide as Texas. I work at a huge company and we have posted salary bands for each grade level for high, medium and low “markets” which i’m guessing are a combination of COL, difficulty recruiting for a particular role in a particular place, etc. Anyway, the middle career bands are about $70K wide.

      1. MassMatt*

        I had an employer like this. At a meeting for people interested in a new team being formed (so, all internal) all we could find out about salary was “grade 12”. I made several calls to HR, who at first insisted “we don’t use pay grades” and then “pay grades vary from department to department” and finally that grade 12 meant anything from $20,000 to $60,000. Not very useful. You might as well just wave your arms and shrug.

      2. FreakInTheExcelSheets*

        Exactly. A lot of how helpful salary bands are is how well they’re designed. The bands at my current role are numeric rather than titles, which helps a bit where you could have a senior manager and a junior director be the same band but then for anyone who doesn’t regularly work with this information, they don’t know that the band has to encompass ALL the managers, rather than their specific role. There’s a difference between Joe as the Teapot Lid Design Manager who oversees 3 designers and Jill as the corporate/regional finance manager with 50 employees. Also, it depends on how your company uses the bands. Some, for example, just see them as general guidelines. Others have them set up so the starting rate for a role is in the bottom 10-20% of the band and rockstars are at the top 10%. But that really only works if you’re in a relatively specialized company that doesn’t have huge differentiations between departments so all managers should be at roughly the same pay OR you have different band structures altogether for different areas (say IT vs retail) to account for the variance.

    2. Librarian of SHIELD*

      This whole list is a mess.

      The bit that especially jumped out at me was the part where they want to give the raise to half the people now and half next year. Why not stage it so that everyone gets half the raise this year and another raise next year?

      1. Extra-Anon-Manager*

        That would be a good idea, yes. The stated reasoning is some combination of “there’s no point in moving someone halfway” and “once we give someone a 10% raise we don’t give them another one just a year later” (and yes I know how ridiculously dogmatic that second one is, since it wouldn’t be two consecutive 10% raises but rather a 20% raise spread out over 2 years).

      2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The bit that especially jumped out at me was the part where they want to give the raise to half the people now and half next year. Why not stage it so that everyone gets half the raise this year and another raise next year?

        The problem I can see with that is if you’re poor at communication and don’t explain what’s going on, in year 3 people get upset that there isn’t a 3rd 10% raise coming. Whereas if half get 20% now and the other half get 20% next year and communication is poor, everyone just sees it as a one time thing.

    3. Irish girl*

      WOW… how do you pick which half to give a 20% raise 2? Why not just split the difference for 2 years to get everyone up? And i did write a letter about pay band last week. I would be so pissed as an internal transfer to not be in the band and find out the external hire was.

    4. MassMatt*

      “the bands are currently a RECRUITING tool not a RETENTION tool”

      So, how has retention been? If people are this poorly paid across the board is turnover high? How widely known is all this awful stuff?

      1. Extra-Anon-Manager*

        We’re fairly well known in our industry for paying terribly, and turnover is historically high and got even worse over the last few years (in one year I think we had something like 30% turnover, with some departments having >100% turnover. More departures in a year than there were total positions, with multiple people lasting less than 1 year).

        New managment team is slowly improving things. Salary bands were announced as a recruiting and retention tool combined, but the “retention” part hasn’t been activated yet.

      1. Extra-Anon-Manager*

        I only pointed out the highlights. It’s messier up close, let me tell you.

        For example- when I was supposed to pick half my team, they expected me to choose myself as part of the first half. HR and upper management expected me to say “I, the manager, get a raise now. You, half of the department, do not.” I can at least sleep at night knowing I declined that one- I don’t get the bump until everyone under me does.

  18. Autumn*

    I’m a nurse, the union I am part of has a very clear formula. It’s based on the contract with the hospital someone is employed by. The only discretion management has is what step they bring you on at. You advance a step for every 2000 hours. They also occasionally publish names and total hour counts for seniority, which doesn’t account for what step you started at. It’s also not shared across hospitals. That was the part that delighted me when I came onboard my currant gig. I expected to be stepped at the level I was, or maybe 2 steps up from my hour count at my last union position, where I had been part time. Instead I was stepped in at the # of years I had been a nurse. Nice pay bump. I’m per diem too, so my step won’t move much.

    These formulas seem very fair and transparent. It’s one huge benefit of being unionized.

  19. LCH*

    can’t think of any good reason not to share internally. an organization I worked for (large arts non-profit) undertook the same analysis and updated its salary bands, which included adjusting people’s titles and salaries (no one was reduced if they happened to be paid higher than the new bands stated, only raised when necessary). it was all transparent, but maybe because we were a non-profit?

    1. A Person*

      I suspect it’s more to do with your org having smart management, made of people who respect lower-level workers.

      1. Green Beans*

        Honestly, my boss was like that and she didn’t share because “it’s not common practice.”

        I think if HR had advocated with her and pointed out equity issues, she would have gotten on board, but they didn’t. She didn’t naturally see the issues and was just going by what she had always seen. But she was responsive when people pointed out issues she missed.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Nah, I don’t think it’s a non-profit/for profit divide. Or, at least, I have a counter example from a small non-profit where they said making salary bands available would be too much work (during a discussion about our commitment to equity, for extra points).

      That said, between you and me that’s a sample size of…two. Just enough to draw a line, not nearly enough to draw any conclusions


  20. B*

    I work in higher education in the UK, and while many things about our hiring are needlessly restrictive, our salary bands are very public snd clear. Everyone knows what grade their job is, what salary each point within the grade is, and everyone goes up a point each year until you get to the top of the grade. It’s very much about the role and not about you as a person, which means you’re not going to get a raise for being good at your job, but you do go up a bit each year and you don’t have to ask. I can see that some people wouldn’t like the restrictiveness of this, but I like the stability and predictability, and clarity.

    1. OyHiOh*

      If you watch AAM for awhile, especially in the Friday open work threads, fairly regularly, people will come in with questions about transitioning from US private to public sector jobs. In general, our local/state/federal government jobs are pretty restrictive in the ways that you describe, and that can be frustrating to alarming for people who are used to negotiating for everything they’re worth. On the one hand, such systems do not explicitly reward rock stars, but they do provide stability and predictability which many people do want (unless our government decides to play power games and not fund budgets, as they’re unfortunately wont to do every few years).

  21. LW*

    Thank you Alison! I’m both happy to know that my gut was right and disappointed about how my company has been acting. Honestly, in other ways they are really great and supportive and most of the C Suite seem like they want to do right by their employees. Transparency is a big value for our COO. But the HR team has a lot of strange ideas… especially around salary. Our head of HR seemed taken aback when I negotiated my salary (even though the base pay I was offered was lower than what I had asked for), and they are adamant against putting salary ranges in ads, though they do often offer candidates more than the salary they name as their desired salary, if that’s lower than our range for the position. There are a lot of people fired up about this and I hope that we get some more answers. This answer from Alison will surely help our case!

    1. Extra-Anon-Manager*

      I put this in my own TL;DR comment, but I think that seeing all the awkward facts laid out in black and white as part of the band-setting process makes management panic and start acting frantically, which makes even generally good management do dumb stuff.

  22. clapping rat*

    Generally I do think this information should be published and the main reason for a company not doing it is to cover something up. But, practically speaking, I can see individuals misdirecting those feelings and taking it out on coworkers. I’m thinking examples of someone making an error and others saying things like “she’s getting paid $XXX-YYY and can’t even do that right?!” or people getting ruffled over someone’s contribution to a going away gift because they think they should be able to afford more.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Government service jobs have public pay bands and, in my experience working in that environment, it didn’t cause those kinds of problems

      1. Emi*

        I’m in government and I have definitely gone and pettily looked up people’s salaries if I think they’re unreasonably complaining about money haha. But I’ve never heard people griping about pay and performance like clapping rat is talking about.

      2. Joielle*

        Same here. I think it also helps that in my agency, at least, the classifications are very transparent and well-defined – so, all the level 1 widget makers are in the same pay band, and after you have 3 years of experience you can apply to be a level 2 widget maker, and so on. So we all know basically where we stand in relation to others, and it’s clear why people are at the level they are. It mostly has to do with seniority and also performance ratings, to an extent.

        I guess I might be mad if someone incompetent kept getting promoted to the next level just because they had been around a long time, but that hasn’t happened in my small agency, at least not since I’ve been here. And that can happen at any company whether or not you know exactly how much everyone makes.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          In our unionized university, where all salaries are public and transparent, I have seen very similar things to what Clapping Rat describes. Some people in the same classification band will be unhappy with the amount of money others make, compared to the perceived amount of work they and the others do (which may not be the actual outputs involved), and will display that unhappiness in a variety of ways. Personalities differ …

          In all systems, there are trade-offs. People in my place trade consistent salary increases by step and the lesser possibility of discriminatory compensation, for no possibility of “merit” increases and no ability to negotiate personal salary at any time – the only changes result from union negotiations.

    2. Nanani*

      Yeah nah.
      What other people think you can afford is not your problem, and none of their business since even when you know with absolute certainty what someone’s salary is, you can never know their expenses. Debt? Medical bills? Caregiver costs? You don’t know and it again, none of your business.

    3. Astor*

      It does happen, but in my experience it’s usually a symptom of some other trouble and so it doesn’t really generate *more* complaints. I’ve worked in the same university with the same salary bands in multiple departments, and only one of them had this weird division based on people’s salary grades. And that’s the one department that has a million other issues. At the rest of the departments I’ve worked you usually do know salary grades, but it’s mostly just treated like part of your job title in that it’s useful for figuring out expectations and responsibilities.

      On the flip side of your examples, I’ve also seen people doing the “wait, your salary band is the red band? That’s not right, you do x, y, and z. Here’s the information for how to get your job regraded.” Or a “wait, their salary band is the blue band? Oh, no wonder they haven’t done x yet, they have to go through extra steps to do it! Now I feel bad for thinking they were just incompetent.”

  23. bluephone*

    “Their specious reasoning was a) very few companies do that (not a good answer!!) and b) that the reasoning behind specific salaries and bands is “too complex” and involves “many factors,” and that employees should trust management to be paying them correctly (!).”

    LOL, sure fam. I was going to say that if large, decentralized employers like the University of Pennsylvania can put (pretty general) pay grades on their website (various bands for exempt vs non-exempt, IT vs. non-IT, etc) then the “too complex” and “many factors” arguments are crap.
    But it looks like Penn just posts the actual salary range in the job ad itself now which is even easier.

    Like, keep telling yourself whatever you want, LW’s company, but no one’s going to believe it or respect you for it.

  24. SunnyGirl*

    1995: “I would like a raise based on my good performance.”
    “Sorry, no, you’re already at the top of your pay band.”

    Which was posted nowhere. Unavailable. Invisible. And it was bull.

    Someone with a similar role was making 25K compared to my 22K…because she was the owner’s daughter. She had zero office experience. At least she worked hard and learned quickly, I can give her credit for that.

    I’m enjoying the fact that at my unionized workplace, I know exactly what anyone makes from top to bottom. It’s published yearly and sent out by email.

    1. Fabulous*

      A few jobs back I was hired on at $30k, got a raise to $34k once I became certified, and then two years later when I asked for a raise to $36k in order to be more in line with the market, it was denied. Meanwhile, I was preparing some documents with my coworkers salaries listed, and they were getting $54k (office manager, which, ok) and $42k (new hire with same job as me, but male).

  25. Salad Daisy*

    I was shocked to learn that one of my coworkers, who did exactly the same job as I did, made almost $20K less than I did. Then they were given a $10K raise and were thrilled, but still did not make what I was making. I never told them what I made. Transparent salary bands would help eliminate this.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      I wish you had told them how much you made. The internet is littered with stories of people getting significant pay increases once a coworker let them know how much they could be making. It’s a powerful and empowering piece of information for them, and costs you nothing. You could have helped eliminate (or reduce, if it was based in part on performance) that particular disparity.

  26. BRR*

    “Employees should trust management to be paying them correctly” is a correct statement. But the issue isn’t employees not currently trusting management. It’s management not paying people correctly. This isn’t a chicken or the egg situation. Instead of asking employees to blindly trust management, give them a reason and evidence to trust management.

    1. Qwerty*

      The reason that I trust my current company to pay me correctly is because they just did a market evaluation and adjusted a ton of people’s base salary to make sure there was equality within title bands. It was purposely timed to be separate from when people get raises/promotions to make sure that merit increases still get given at review time, and they promised to keep doing this every 1-2 yrs to make sure long term employees don’t fall behind.

  27. katkat*

    I’m very bad at talking about money. But lately ive been lucky to meet people on my field who have been very vocal about it. It’s very refreshing and I am trying to learn that habit.

  28. Fabulous*

    I hate this about my current company. They’re great in other ways, but there is absolutely no transparency when it comes to pay brackets, even when my manager is the one requesting the information from HR.

    I only just found that I was paid below the bracket (assuming it’s the same for all roles of my level) due to a job posting for a similar role to mine (same title, different department and function) that had the range listed, since it’s now required for roles that can be performed in certain states to have the range on the posting. Thankfully my most recent annual merit increase finally brought me into the bracket, but dang if it still doesn’t sting a little that because they’d been underpaying me for so long (by miscategorizing my job duties in a lower pay bracket) that they felt that they didn’t need to adjust my income accordingly when I finally got my title bump last year.

  29. StealthMode*

    I work at a ~1,100 person private company in the Denver Metro area and they rolled out public (internal) salary bands in ’20 or ’21 (before I started). The bands are 100% available internally, you can just go to folder and look up your Job family and career band, check out your career level, and see the salary band. They are clear that the band is the minimum and that is the band that is posted on all job descriptions. It is possible that someone could be in the same role and making more based on tenure.

    That is the first place I’ve worked with this level of transparency and it has been great. It has helped set expectations and also help with pay disparities within teams. This also helps level the playing field for underrepresented individuals.

  30. Charlotte Lucas*

    Heck, I’ve worked with people who management thought were rockstar, and… Just weren’t. But they were generally at the top of whatever the salary band was. (We had them, but we just knew them by a numbering system & had no idea exactly how that corresponded to actual pay.)

  31. An American(ish) Werewolf in London*

    Buffer dot com (I know that links get stuck in spam) publish ALL their salaries. They’re based (apparently – I don’t work for them and never have) based on the software industry and the 50th percentile of San Francisco market data, along with location and level and experience. I have zero idea if this works, but you can literally see the salary of everyone from the CEO on down. I like this approach – one we absolutely don’t have where I work.

    buffer . com forward slash salaries, if you want to have a look.

  32. Recruited Recruiter*

    Hopefully eventually the entire US will have an equivalent to the Colorado EPEWA, which requires all jobs to have a good faith estimate of the pay range on all job postings. *Most* companies just use their wage band for the position. My company has made a matrix for wages and years of experience for new employees, and a tenure/performance rating raise schedule for internal. It does make recruiting slightly stiffer, but since everyone else has to comply too, it really doesn’t change anyone’s competitiveness.

  33. anon lurker appa*

    10% of US workers are unionized, so about 14.6 million have salary bands that are (generally) clearly laid out.

    14.6 million people have clear and shared salary bands. Its not super common but its not rare.

    I’ve worked in two government positions under two different unions. I appreciate that things are (again, generally) clearly laid out. You need to do X to move from Basket Weaver 1 to Basket Weaver 2. Basket Weaver 1 makes $X to $Y, and that range is divided clearly into Z number of steps, and you move up a step each year.

    I think people can learn a lot by reading a union contract. Or at least sections of one, if its really long. My old union contract was like 25 pages, and my new one is hundreds of pages.

    1. anon lurker appa*

      One caveat if you actually go reading union contracts. The things that distinguish between basket weaver 1 and basket weaver 2 are listed in position descriptions, and I haven’t seen those written into the contract, and are less accessible by google.

      1. doreen*

        The position descriptions aren’t in the contract – but depending in the contract and the position , the steps to go from Basket Weaver 1 to Basket Waver 2 may be. For example, in one of my former jobs going from BW1 to BW2 involved taking a written test, scoring highly enough to be reachable for an interview and then being selected – that wasn’t in the contract. But it was in the contract that if you were hired as a trainee ( Basket Weaver Trainee 1 ), you would automatically advance to BW trainee 2 after a year of satisfactory work and to Basket Weaver 1 after another year.

  34. AdAgencyChick*

    I was once asked by a boss’s boss to tell an indirect report of mine whom we were counteroffering to keep their new salary confidential because said new salary would be close to what their direct manager was making, and my boss’s boss wanted them to keep this secret so that the direct manager wouldn’t ALSO try to get more money.

    I told my boss’s boss it was illegal to tell them they had to keep the salary confidential. Grandboss was very surprised and called in HR for reinforcements. HR backed me up (hey, I learned it was illegal from AAM!), but then suggested that I tell the counteroffered employee that they should avoid discussing their new salary because talking about salary can make people uncomfortable.

    Oh really? Make WHO uncomfortable, exactly? I did not say that to the employee.

  35. people person*

    I do a lot of personnel work at my org and would like to push for our pay bands to be public internally. The one challenge I see is that they do require explanation about how they work, what factors go into determining a specific number within the band, etc. rather than just published with no context. That’s easy enough to do, but I think it’s something that prevents organizations from sharing this info. You’d have a flood of questions and complaints if you just put it all out there rather than including context.

    For example, some of our pay bands easily have a $40k spread between the min and max; almost nobody in our department is near the max of their grades because that would mean they’ve been in that same role, with no promotion, for like 20 years. That simply doesn’t happen for most people because they get promoted at some point, putting them in the lower or mid part of another pay grade. So internal equity comes into play too–technically just because you COULD be in pay grade at $100k doesn’t mean we’d ever do that, because it’s more than some people two levels above you make. We rarely utilize our full range of our grades and I think many places are similar. But you just have to explain that to people and I’ve had great responses when I do.

    1. LizardOfOdds*

      The spread is part of what makes this hard, I think – especially in large organizations. I worked in one company where the spread between lower third and upper third was $100K or more depending on where the role fell in the job architecture, and even within the same job category there could be 70%+ overlap between bands. So, someone could be in the upper third at L5 and making more money than someone in the lower third at L6. That’s where things get really tricky to explain, even hypothetically.

  36. Tasha*

    I had a hard time at my last employer learning what my salary range was, let alone that of other job grades.

  37. LW*

    Letter writer here. Thanks everyone for your insight and support! And a huge thank you to Alison for answering my letter and your insight. I have been reading the site for 10 years? More? Who knows, what does time mean? And it is an incredible resource that I share with everyone I can. We’ll share this answer with TPTB and I’ll send an update when there is one!

  38. A Wall*

    I worked for a company that made the pay bands (and the actual distribution of employees within them) available to everyone, but you had to submit an official request to HR for them to be sent to you. That always struck me as shady, but I could never think of a way that could actually be used to mess with people other than keeping an eye on who’s looking at salary info.

    It may be that I was just inclined to be distrustful because, years into my job there when I requested the pay band info as part of my research in asking for a promotion, I discovered that I had been explicitly lied to when I was hired. When I was negotiating my salary, the hiring manager told me they had a hard upper limit of $X because company policy was that new hires could not be brought on at a rate higher than any existing employees in the same role. He explained that $X was the highest amount that anyone in my role at the company was being paid, so it was the most I could be offered. It was on the low end of reasonable so I accepted it. Years later when I got that pay band info from HR, I discovered that I was actually in the bottom 25% of the actual pay distribution for my role.

    As a bonus bit of bullshit, company policy was also that if you got promoted into a new pay band, you had to stay at the same place in the distribution in that band as you were in your previous one. So I did get the promotion, but stayed in the bottom 25%. That was despite having excellent performance reviews and being such a standout among others in my role that a number of the clients we served clamored for me to work with them over everyone else. Finding that out was a large part of the reason I left that job, I didn’t stay for very long after that. My salary tripled when I left.

  39. Sans Serif*

    We have salary bands but they’re so wide they’re meaningless. Like I think mine is 70,000 – 130,000. Ok, I guess I can see where I’m at within the band, but still … huge band.

  40. J*

    My employer just finished going through an pay equity review and I am not certain if we are going to release the new salary bands. But I ended up with a HUGE (20%) raise! I knew I was underpaid and told my boss when this started that I hoped my salary would be revisited as part of it. I wasn’t expecting that big of a bump, though.

    So I hope that even if your company doesn’t release these salary bands that there are still positive outcomes for you and/or others at your organization.

    1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      Because unlike OP, your company doesn’t suck. They went into it to see what they would find. OP’s company did it to prove everything was fine, they are fair and reasonable. When the facts didn’t match the expectation, they shit canned it and lied.
      “You can’t understand nuance.”
      Yeah, there is lots of nuance in a number range.
      10001, 1002, 1003, strawberry light, 1004, 1005, baby whispers”
      Yeah. It’s freaking poetry.

  41. Former Employee*

    After reading some of the comments, I can understand why companies are reluctant to disclose salaries.

    Some people seem to think that because you want to live in NY that’s your choice, so you should be paid the same as someone doing the same job who is located in a midsize city in the Midwest.

    I’m sure that people living in NY will jump at the chance to make what someone doing the same job in Dubuque is making! The employer will either not be able to get anyone to work for them in NY or they will get the level of talent that is commensurate with the level of pay, meaning that they will get people no one else in NY will hire for the equivalent position.

    1. HelenofWhat*

      Location is usually disclosed as a factor when sharing salary bands. Most of these comments are talking about coworkers with the same job, working in the same location having pay disparities.
      Employees in Des Moines generally understand that NY is more expensive so if you need an employee specifically located in NY, you pay more. If the job can be done anywhere you should probably be paying something in the middle. As long as you can show the math that the particular location differential makes sense, it’s not that controversial.

  42. Greg*

    In the lat 90 early 00 I worked as a programmer. During raise time my manager had the salary ranges he showed us

    For x level it was from a to b.
    For y level it was c to d.

    Everyone saw this

  43. Ktv123*

    Allison. You have incredible tact and skill in calling people out thoughtfully. I appreciate this column so very much. I truly believe it has helped me be much more successful over the past few years.

  44. JJ*

    my company publishes the salary bands for jobs with a pay under $200k, but not over that. and there are a lot of people that make more than $200k, but I’d guess the majority fall under that

  45. Orange You Glad*

    My company publishes all salary bands by geographic region and job grade. I can look up any salary band anywhere in the country right now. I do not know what job grades different people/positions have, only my own. The salary bands show low end, middle, and high end for each job grade. It doesn’t account for any additional compensation or accommodations others may have negotiated for.

  46. Cass*

    “The reasoning behind specific salaries is too complex and involves many factors” means “we don’t use objective criteria to set salaries and we don’t want to bother explaining to someone why they fall in a particular spot within a pay band because we might not have compelling reasons to offer.”

    As a Compensation Analyst by trade I just wanted to echo this comment. Transparency actually makes my job a lot easier.

  47. tex*

    My company just released salary bands a few weeks ago, and that’s the biggest transparency move we’ve ever had. The bands are still VERY wide, but now we can see the salary range for all the positions, and what the bands are for different regions in the event we decided to move.

  48. MCMonkeyBean*

    I really like a lot of things about working for my current company. I came here straight out of grad school, briefly left to see what else was out there, and pretty much right away came back.

    The one thing I think they are really terrible at is pay transparency. Not only is there no salary information listed when applying externally (which led to me being very underpaid when I started and had no sense of what I should ask for), but I also once got a small raise with an internal transfer and they still would not tell me anything at all about the salary bands. It was very frustrating.

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