what are the ethics around asking an employee not to talk about her raise?

A reader writes:

I have an employee, we’ll call her Mariah, who worked at our company in a different department for over a year before she applied for an opening in my department. She was stellar in her original role, so I was thrilled to take her.

When the transfer was final and she showed up on my payroll, I was shocked to see that her pay rate was more than almost every single one of my 12 staff, all of whom had 5-9 years more experience and significantly more responsibilities. Her original role was entry-level, and my department does higher level work so I was really surprised and upset to see the pay disparity between the departments. I reached out to Mariah’s old manager and was told that Mariah was so great that at some point she had an offer elsewhere, and my company was willing to fight for her and offered her the top of that department’s pay scale for her to stay, and she did. Turns out, my department’s payscale was very similar despite the difference in the job descriptions.

Upon transfer, Mariah immediately told everyone in my department her pay rate which understandably caused CHAOS. I had already started arguing for an updated payscale for my department before I found out Mariah had spilled the beans and then I tried to expedite it as much as possible. The news of Mariah’s rate caused her to be very unpopular with the rest of the team. They should have been mad at me or my grandboss or the owners, not Mariah, but that’s not how that tends to work. It was peak drama for a while.

I got the new payscale approved! And with it rolled out, I feel pretty good about where everyone is on the scale. Everyone was satisfied with their raises — some were big enough that they were genuinely shocked! People cried. Mariah is pretty great, but I’m lucky to have an amazing team and so she’s truly performing only around the middle of the pack. Mariah slid into the middle of the payscale where I think she belongs.

The issue is now Mariah has taken on a small new responsibility and asked for an increase now that it’s been 90+ days of successfully doing it. The responsibility is small enough that I could convince myself that it either warrants a raise or that it’s reasonably part of the job description and not actually an additional task, but I did argue for a pay increase and did get it approved.

Now that it’s time to sit down and tell Mariah the good news, I find myself hesitant to actually give her the increase, because I do not want to deal with the consequences if she shares the news again. It’s absolutely legal for her to share her payrate! And I don’t think it’s fair to Mariah that I’m not eager to give her the news. I guess I’m just asking if it’s reasonable for me to feel this way or if I need to just get over it. Is there any way to talk to Mariah when I give her the increase that sort of tells her, “Listen, you can totally legally share this information, but I’m not sure why you’d want to since it makes everyone resent you.” Or is there nothing to say?

As a general rule, you shouldn’t give pay raises that you couldn’t justify to another member of your team if they asked about it. That doesn’t mean they’d have to love it — you can’t control other people’s feelings — but you want to be able to provide a logical and consistent case for any given person’s pay relative to anyone else’s.

To be be clear, the reason for that isn’t because other people should have a ton of say over what their coworkers earn. It’s because if you can’t provide that logical and consistent explanation, something is messed up with your salaries (and with how you award raises) — completely aside from how anyone feels about it.

So … is Mariah’s new salary logical for her role and her level of performance? If so, great. If not, there’s a bigger issue beyond the scope of your letter.

Either way, don’t try to manage what Mariah does or doesn’t share with coworkers. Even if you’re careful to note her legal right to share the information (a right she has under the National Labor Relations Act, assuming she’s not a manager), there’s too much chance that it will land as you pressuring her not to (because, well, you would be). And if coworkers hear “Jane told me not to tell you this,” that’s likely to increase any concerns that salaries aren’t being handled fairly (or that Mariah in particular is being favored in some shady way that you don’t want others to know about).

About whether Mariah should have learned from the drama last time: on one hand, last time it caused chaos and ill will toward her. From a purely practical standpoint, she probably should want to avoid that again. On the other hand, sharing salary information is a key way workers increase their collective power — and if Mariah happens to care about that (as opposed to just, like, bragging or stirring stuff up), it would actually be a fairly selfless act to share her pay info, since she’d be knowingly accepting potential consequences to herself in order to increase her coworkers’ knowledge and bargaining power. Either way, though, you’re safest staying out of it.

{ 226 comments… read them below }

  1. L-squared*

    I agree that its best to stay out of this.

    But I will say, and I’ve said this on here before, this is situation is exactly why I’m personally hesitant to share my salary. Because people often take it out on the wrong person. So many people expect someone, like Mariah, to be the pariah (sorry, I know it rhymed) in order for the greater good. And maybe she is willing to. But I’m not. And no one should be expected to.

    The raise sounds fair to me. She had additional duties added on, is doing them well, and probably deserves a raise for it. The fact that you are basically arguing that it could be considered “other duties as assigned” is pretty bad. You sound like a reasonable person who is looking to avoid drama. But you can’t tell her to not discuss it. If she chooses to bring more chaos among the group, that is on her.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We don’t know enough to say it’s pretty bad. The LW says it’s small. In many jobs it’s normal for duties to crop up that are indeed squarely in your purview that don’t warrant changing your salary. We don’t know how significant the new thing is.

      1. witch*

        Right, OP seems actually really fair. She just caught off guard by the pay disparity between an entry level person in another department getting paid more than her more tenured team. She had already been in the process of asking for a salary adjustment for her entire department.

      2. Anonys*

        Also, it sounds like Mariah is still pretty new in OP’s team/department. If she’s only been there 6-9 months, her taking on a small additional task as she is mastering her core tasks and likely getting more efficient at them sounds like it might still be within the normal and expected development of being in a new role for less than a year.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I agree that timeline seems really normal and personally I’ve never been payed by the task and would not expect a raise because one specific new thing was added to my plate. We shuffle tasks around all the time! Without knowing more about what specifically the new task is the idea of asking for a raise for it really surprised me, but if OP thought it was not necessarily and unreasonable ask and it got approved then it must make at least some sense. But that doesn’t automatically mean *not* giving a raise for it would have been unreasonable. OP seems like they really tried to think honestly about what was fair!

      3. L-squared*

        I suppose. But the fact that “it could be argued either way” leads me to believe that, had it not been Mariah who initiated the chaos at first, that it wouldn’t be being argued as to not give the raise.

        1. Anonys*

          But maybe Mariah is just quite confident about advocating for raises and her asking is the only thing that triggered OP to even consider if the small thing could even possibly be an argument for a raise? And most others on the team wouldn’t have asked.

          What i mean is – if other people haven’t gotten or aren’t usually getting raises for taking on additional small responsibilities of similar magnitude (because they are not proactively asking), OP needs to make sure they implement a fair system by which they themselves regularly review responsibilities and salaries so that raises are based on performance and not just “who asked for them”.

          If such additional responsibilities are routinely added to people’s plates, I think OP does need to consider if its in the budget/will get approval to uniformly give raises for small additional responsibilities to all colleagues who take them on.

          If I hear, “Mariah got a raise for taking on the monthly x report which takes about 2 hours a week to compile” and i have taken on a similarly sized additional responsibility recently without getting a raise – Ill be pissed (at OP).

          1. Anonys*

            I think OP needs to examine where their sense comes from that the other employees will again resent Mariah for this raise. Do they just generally resent her now and will never be happy for her? Do they still consider her overpaid within the new pay scale? OR will they be mad because “wow we never get raises for stuff like they, I can’t believe she does”?

            In the last case, still wrong to direct the anger at Mariah, but not unreasonable to be upset.

            1. bamcheeks*

              LW needs to take ownership of that reaction, but not in the direction that she’s currently doing it! If there’s likely to be any resentment of Mariah taking on new responsibilities, advocating for herself and securing a raise, then the answer is to make sure that everyone in the department knows they can do that too— or even better, to make sure they don’t have to because LW is already out seeking that raise for them.

              What worries me is that LW waited until Mariah came and asked for a raise. Over the long-term, unless LW starts being more proactive about supporting her team to get that kind of raise, they’ll end up falling behind again.

              1. Gisella*

                Confused at your words because OP/LW was already fighting for raises for their entire team before taking on Mariah… so it seems OP has been proactive in giving people raises when they feel so

                1. Yorick*

                  OP was inspired to start fighting for the pay scale adjustment because Mariah’s salary was so high. So OP was already working on it when her current staff found out and were upset.

              2. nodramalama*

                I don’t really see why this is LW’s fault when they JUST managed to succeed in getting across the board raises for their team.

            2. Despachito*

              If I understood it well, however, Mariah spilling the beans resulted in everyone getting a substantial raise – shouldn’t her coworkers love her instead of hating her for that?

              1. LL*

                No – it sounds like OP was already advocating for the team to get a raise because they found out when Mariah was hired on to their team that OP’s team was being underpaid compared to other departments. After Mariah arrived on the team, she told everyone her pay, and people were upset because of the disparity. OP put pressure on whomever to expedite the process for the rest of the team to get a raise, and succeeded. The team got the raises because OP saw the disparity and pushed for raises for everyone, it’s not because Mariah “spilled the beans.” It sounds liked they viewed Mariah’s spilling the beans as bragging.

        2. Kes*

          I mean, on the flip side, “it could be argued either way” leads me to believe that while OP can see Mariah’s argument, it isn’t necessarily something that OP would have naturally considered as meriting a raise. In which case, I think it’s fair for OP to consider if they are being swayed too much by Mariah’s argument, because this is now likely going to set a precedent for people asking for a raise every time they take on more. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it is likely it will lead to more chaos and hard feelings when new duties aren’t enough to justify a raise.

          1. Sharpie*

            That’s how I understood it, too. There’s also the fact that everyone else in the department just received substantial raises, so that HR/payroll might well not consider a pay rise for Mariah to be in budget for this department.

      4. Need to get out!*

        I must admit that I’m a little jealous. I’ve had a LOT of duties added to my job (I work in healthcare and while I’m currently getting “market rate”, market rate for my job is also a lot lower than it should be for this job. I work a lot of hours and have other colleagues that do the same job, but get 2-3x times the pay.) in the last couple of years, including duties that were specifically listed as NOT being required for this job (which was one of the perks of actually agreeing to take this job). I know that people do get raises when they get additional duties assigned. I have NOT seen that happen in my field. The only redeeming factor about the work I do is that, while it often draining both emotionally and physically, it also is fulfilling because I get to help people and it feels like something I am meant to do. However, I am definitely looking at other places for a job (for this and many other reasons – my employer has gone from bad to… terrible? Employee retention/turnover is also bad and is getting worse.

        1. Arglebarglor*

          THIS. I too work in healthcare, I provide medical care and direct a small clinic in a larger clinic system and I have colleagues who do the exact same thing and make like 1.5x what I make. We have all the same problems you describe above re: turnover/retention/morale.

    2. Vin Packer*

      Is it really chaos, though? Or is it a pretty predictable result of underpaying people?

      The workplace was underpaying a department. The department found out. The department was angry. This strikes me as a pretty logical train of events.

      In that sense, Mariah’s sharing of her salary did exactly what it was supposed to do — it gave the workers context they needed to use their collective power. Sure, the person who wrote in was already trying to get the pay changed, but the uproar “expedited” the process, which is exactly what it should have done.

      I see no chaos here.

      1. Berin*

        I can see how OP may have experienced it as chaos though. She was already advocating for a new payscale, but her tenured team experienced a great deal of angst and resentment and directed it toward a new hire to their department rather than up the chain as it should have been directed. Trying to manage the fallout of that, and ensuring that Mariah isn’t being punished or ostracized as a result, sounds like it would be chaotic.

        I can also understand why OP may be feeling a little hesitant at this point; I think that’s a very human response now that things in her department have settled down again. I agree with Alison and you though that Mariah did nothing wrong, and I commend OP for recognizing that her hesitant reaction is probably not justified by anything that Mariah has done.

        1. AxolotlRose*

          I would like to know if Mariah’s coworkers thanked her. She shared her salary which was a transparent gesture that she didn’t have to do. The team proceeded to treat her poorly as a result, but they rallied to the OP and the new payscale got approved. I’m inclined to think that the dust-up caused by Mariah sharing her pay was instrumental in turning the cogs of the payscale and approval processes a bit faster. OP stated some people even cried at the news of their raise. SO did the team simply get mad at Mariah, and then go about their way once they got what they wanted?? how does this promote any kind of honesty or goodwill to this team? How is it Mariah’s fault for looking after themselves and then trying to be transparent with her new team? Qhy the heck the the OP not mention if they at least TRIED to redirect theor teams frustration to the correct source which is management, NOT Mariah? I think OP is asking the wrong question, they SHOULD be asking Allison for techniques/scripts on how to better manage their employees mis-guided frustrations, and to be more professional to their colleagues. If I were Mariah I would be looking for a new company or team with a better attitude.

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            I suspect you are correct and there was no apologies directed Mariah’s way.

            You make a really good point – has OP addressed that part adequately? Probably not if her concern is Mariah would get ire directed at her again.

            I think you’re right. OP is asking the wrong questions.

      2. subaru outback driver*

        There was no real chaos because it all ended well. This could have gotten really bad for the LW had the other folks not gotten the raises.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          If it ended badly, that would because LW’s company decided to continue underpay their entire department (even after the issue had been raised and that department learned they were underpaid). That’s the kind of business decision that has natural consequences for a company.

          Yes, having one’s entire department leave for better jobs would suck for LW, but I think it would also make them wonder if they wanted to continue to work at a company that undervalued her department that much.

        2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          I don’t think we have enough information to say that there was no real chaos. Things ended well, and LW didn’t say that a lot of people left over it so one assumes they didn’t, but there could still have been a substantial amount of chaos in the interim. And depending on whether the takeaway was “I was being underpaid and my boss was trying to fix it” or “I was being underpaid and it would’ve stayed that way unless I made a fuss,” it could well have damaged relationships between team and management (as well as team and Mariah). Just because people were very happy with their raises doesn’t mean that there wasn’t real chaos prior to that point.

      3. L-squared*

        You don’t see the fact that they took their anger out on Mariah as chaos?

        Hell, even OP calls it Chaos, and she witnessed it.

      4. Daisy*

        Yeah, I’m betting that if the employees in the department hadn’t found out what Mariah was making the across the board raises wouldn’t have been as big or come as fast.
        Companies who underpay whole departments do this as an economic/upper management strategy.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          Well, the OP found out before the employees did and she went to bad right away. Unless I read something wrong? Sounds like OP wasn’t aware either, just the higher ups. Which is a whole other letter/issue.

      5. Uranus Wars*

        The workplace was underpaying a department. The department found out. The department was angry. This strikes me as a pretty logical train of events.

        Yes, but they were mad at Mariah. Which is not the right person to be mad at! I agree it got them the increase, which it sounds like OP immediately started fighting for when she found out. But misplacing the anger again is going to cause department drama and not necessarily another raise for everyone if they didn’t all have a change in duties.

    3. SpaceySteph*

      I’d like to believe that LW chose “Mariah” on purpose because it sounds like “pariah.”

    4. Boof*

      Eventually everyone got some significant pay raises because of it, though so I hope they are now similarly giving her kudos… (no I know it doesn’t always work like that, but by rights they should now be thanking her haha)

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Seriously. “Sorry we irrationally resented you earlier, here’s a cake to thank you for the enormous raises you got us!”

    5. Orv*

      As someone who has mostly worked in the public sector, where salaries are a matter of public record…this all sounds utterly broken.

      1. WisconsinPublicSector*

        Every time I read this site I think, “That’s outrageous, I should go share my salary info or start a union!” Then I remember that I’ve moved to the public sector where everyone can look up my salary based on my tenure and we already have a union.

        (Technically they passed a law that we can’t have a union, so we just have a voluntary group that we pay dues to and that negotiates on our behalf. It totally isn’t a union wink wink.)

        1. Jaydee*

          Totally not a union! It’s just a united network (of employees) interested in organized negotiations. Completely different!

        2. Anon for this one*

          I’m bummed that I knew what state you were in by your comment even before I saw your screenname. (We’re in the same boat.)

    6. Pam Adams*

      I think the LW should be looking out for the other employees. Did anyone else take on new duties? Are they also getting increases?

      It sounds like Mariah is very willing to advocate for herself, but you should be an advocate for all your employees.

    7. Lucia Pacciola*

      “If she chooses to bring more chaos among the group, that is on her.”

      I agree that it’s her freedom to choose chaos, but managing people is a job for a reason. An employee on the team who chooses chaos is something a manager needs to manage in some way. It’s not something a manager can just dismiss as “not my circus, not my monkey.” The team actually is the manager’s circus, and the team members actually are the manager’s monkeys to manage.

  2. Busy Middle Manager*

    I would love to see the #s so I could make a precise verdict.

    I’m not a fan of anyone asking for a raise for a new responsibility while knowing they are paid well. Maybe it depends on the job but I work on the operations side of a complicated business and half of my job is software development stuff and my job is constantly changing, so is my boss’, so is my team’s. You get to a point where there is always a new responsibility, many don’t make the company money directly, so you can’t just ask for more money each time, or we’d all make a million dollars per year. At the same time, many responsibilities quietly go away or become smaller or get automated away. Do you take back the money then? Of course not.

    At a certain point in your career, “ability to handle new responsibilities as they arise” is baked into your salary

    1. Dinwar*

      Depends on the responsibility. Not all responsibilities are the same.

      For example, if I’m expected to lead another field team, that’s just the job; adding one more isn’t something I can ask for a raise over. On the other hand, if I’m expected to make sure staff are billable, handle questions related to their career development, and the like, that IS worth asking for a raise over–I’m no longer doing the job I’m currently doing, but rather doing another well-defined role in the company.

      Timing also matters. If I delegate one task to you that’s technically supposed to be mine, that’s not worth asking for a raise over–I’m probably slow-rolling training you in my position. Once we get to the 75% range, THEN ask for the raise. Not only are you on firmer ground, but you have a proven track record in this role now and you probably have me advocating for you. It’s one thing to say “I have these new responsibilities, I need more money”; it’s a whole other thing to say “I’ve been working my way into this role, and want to be paid accordingly. Here’s a list of people who have agreed I’m a good fit for this role.”

    2. Professional Cat Lady*

      +1, I feel this way every time I see/hear people talking about expecting additional pay for training new employees.

    3. Orange You Glad*

      This was my take as well. I also have a role that is forever getting new responsibilities lumped on while others may fall off or we design to handle them more efficiently. I wouldn’t want to set a precedent of entertaining a small raise every time someone took on a new responsibility. In my mind that is part of the job and an overall goal of the positions I manage.
      I do regularly evaluate everyone’s workload and progress and consider that when we are doing annual reviews which are tied to merit raises, bonuses, and promotions. Also if any job duty becomes too much for someone to handle, I will redistribute the work.

      1. ThatOtherClare*

        The important part about your comment is that for you, other responsibilities fall off or are redesigned. So while your role may change, the amount of work you do isn’t going up.

        The letter describes this as “an additional task”, not a shift in responsibilities. If she’s just doing more work overall, she’s providing more labour for her company now, and she is entitled to ask for more money in exchange.

        If it is a task swap like you describe the lines are more blurry, but if it’s just a straight up case of higher workload then it’s pretty clear-cut.

        1. Banana Pyjamas*

          Agreed. The job description for her role should also be adjusted to reflect new requirements.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I want to push back on this because it’s really, really situation-specific (and job-specific) and I don’t want people newer to the work world reading stuff like this and thinking they should ask for a raise whenever they get a new responsibility! There are a ton of jobs and fields where your responsibilities are going to change and evolve and it would look bizarre to expect a raise each time. Some responsibilities are a significant addition to your workload or change to your role/level of contribution, and in those cases it makes sense to revisit salary. Some are not, and in those cases it would often reflect really poorly on the person to assume that should happen.

          1. Yorick*

            Almost everyone’s workload is going to have increased significantly if you compare their workload at starting date to their workload at 6-12 months. That’s because they weren’t expected to take on a full load when they were getting caught up to speed.

    4. Decidedly Me*

      Yup! I would totally be making a million dollars a year if I got even a small raise for any new task I took on. Instead, I make a good wage that’s in line with market rate for my role – new tasks or not.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      If the company were otherwise good about raises and benchmarking, I might agree. From what OP describes, though, this is a company that was significantly underpaying Mariah (based on the fact that they gave her a large raise to keep her), and was also significantly underpaying OP’s entire department (based on the fact that they had to give the entire department raises to level the field).

      If this is indeed a place where they only pay you what you’re worth if you’re halfway out the door or if you demand a raise, I’d be making a case for a raise every single year.

    1. PlainJane*

      That’s what I was thinking. It’s a good argument FOR discussing pay at work. Her colleagues rightly realized that they should be paid more rather than determining that she should be paid less–something they, like OP, might not have realized if Mariah hadn’t been brought in. (Though, as someone working in the public sphere, the idea of just being able to say “I, individually, should be paid more” is very alien. Either everyone gets a raise or no one does in any of the jobs I’ve had as an adult–it’s all about the salary the union negotiates for the job classification.)

    2. bamcheeks*

      Yes, I thought that too. Mariah shared her salary, everyone was angry, and then a few months later they all got significant raises too.

      If nearly everyone has had recent raises, you’ve got a clear and transparent process for reviewing and requesting raises in the future, and Mariah is now a known quantity and colleague, and they still resent Mariah getting another raise— I think you’ve got culture problems that are bigger than Mariah.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yup. Just before my coworker Betty left she shared her salary with me (we had the same title and I had longer tenure at the company) and for a moment I saw red because she was getting paid a *lot* more than me. Like, a *lot* more.
        But even though we were kind of on the outs with each other, I never, ever blamed her, not even in my own head. All of my ire was directed at the higher-ups, who’d been blocking my raises for years (I learned when I asked my direct boss).

        (I eventually got a promotion and some raise, but still not what she was getting.)

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I feel like the manager should be having a few chats with the team members to the effect that their treatment of Mariah was off-base and that she is disappointed that they would behave that way towards someone who hadn’t done them any harm, and who – in fact – bettered their situation due to her sharing her compensation information.

      Perhaps Mariah should learn to have some more discretion – for her own sake – but her team mates really shouldn’t bite the hand that gives them relevant compensation information.

      1. Daisy*

        For sure! Mariah did the department a huge favor. The manager should absolutely let team members know new information came to light and that helped them get raises.

        1. Lea*

          I would even say the focus on Mariah took the focus off op until they could get it corrected which kind of sucks bc it wasn’t her fault.

          I don’t like the implication that Mariah was over paid. She advocated for herself which you have to do in places that don’t do it for you. A lesson

      2. Banana Pyjamas*

        Right LW is trying to manage Mariah (illegally) because it’s easier than addressing the group. The appropriate response is to pull people aside individually as comments are made or inappropriate actions are taken and tell them to cut it out.

        It’s natural that as a role expands, the pay should reflect that. I think going forward LW needs to keep better track of roles that are expanding and proactively address pay accordingly.

    4. Abundant Shrimp*

      For real. She helped them get raises. And honestly anytime I’ve shared my pay, or seen teammates share theirs, it was always in the context of “I am being paid X for Y work, you do Y work too, so you should get X too”. Everyone has been appreciative IME. That this team’s reaction was to get angry at Mariah… makes me not want to work on that team.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I once had a really abusive boss/”startup CEO” who told me, when I refused to do work off the clock for him, that I was lazy, my work was of poor quality, and that I didn’t deserve to be paid twice what my coworker was paid.

        I don’t know what he expected, but I immediately told my coworker that they should ask for more money. Turns out not only were they getting paid half as much, they’d also been working entirely off the clock for the past 3 months. What!!!

        Every employee of that company quit within the month. The guy still lists himself as a CEO on LinkedIn, but I don’t see any evidence that he’s ever produced a product.

  3. sunny days are better*

    It sounds like Mariah’s original department was paying people market value, and the other was not – to the point when everything was adjusted, Mariah’s salary fell in the middle of the range.

    I think that the big problem is that the OP’s department was not being fairly paid for their jobs.
    They mention that they were fighting for a new scale once they found out the payscales for the two departments, but I feel that they should have known sooner how low their scale was.

    If I was one of the employees, I would be rather upset at getting a huge raise only after Mariah upset the apple cart. I would think that they knew they were getting away with under-paying me and were only giving me a raise because of all the chaos of the situation.

    1. Bast*

      I worked at a place like that, and frankly, it remained a point of contention for me until I left. The ONLY time people got real raises were when a bunch of people found out what a new hire was getting, found out it was significantly more than they were making for the exact same position, (and our boss went on and on about “loyalty” despite clearly not showing the same to their long-timers) and a good half of the team threatened to quit. Realizing that they were looking at either forking out a few thousand to be more competitive, or losing half their staff, they grudgingly chose the former. All this succeeded in doing was cementing my view that if they could avoid giving real raises, they would, and that a real merit raise was never going to happen outside of a threatened walk out. I left.

      1. Anon for this*

        I think I’m in a similar situation…boss hates folks saying they have a job or are at work – we are all supposed to be here because we want to make the world a better place. Prior to the current laws talking about pay was supposedly a firing offense, everyone is still very wary. I suspect salaries are at least 20% below median. This is NOT a non-profit.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I’m confused by your reference to “prior to the current laws”. If you’re in the US, the National Labor Relations Act that protects non-management from discussing pay and other conditions of work have been around since 1935.

          1. Some Words*

            Interesting. I’ve always worked (U.S.) for companies that forbade us from talking about salaries, with threats of immediate termination. I naively assumed they wouldn’t be saying such things if it was illegal.

            My current manager “asks” us not to discuss salaries. When I gently questioned this (okay, I mentioned that it might be illegal) he said “I didn’t say nobody could talk about it. I just ASKED them not to”.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Asking someone not to exercise a right is an interesting needle to thread. That’s like asking about religion during a job interview: completely legal as long as you don’t use the information, but if you aren’t going to use it *why ask*.

        2. amoose*

          Prior to the current laws… of 1935? Talking about pay has been a protected act for almost a century. I doubt there’s anyone with institutional knowledge of times before that

      2. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yeah, my current non-profit seems to be doing this. A colleague left in Dec because she discovered that a new employee was hired at the same pay rate as her despite her having nearly 20 years more experience and her being here for four years already (and having had no raises in that time). When she asked for a raise they pretty much fired her, though TPTB billed it as a parting of the ways. I am currently looking for a new job because I realize I am vastly underpaid for what I’m doing and can find better pay elsewhere. When the budget is finalized and they tell us if/what raises we’re getting, I will be miffed if I don’t get a substantial one. But I probably will keep looking for new work either way.

    2. Alice in Spreadsheetland*

      I think actually that neither department had a fair pay scale to start- LW says, “my company was willing to fight for her and offered her the top of that department’s pay scale for to stay, and she did. Turns out, my department’s payscale was very similar despite the difference in the job descriptions.”

      So Mariah was just maxxing out the scale (which was very similar across departments) because despite being a very good employee, previous department only offered her a raise when she threatened to leave- and they gave her the maximum to convince her to stay, but her original salary was presumably then on the low-middle side of the first scale which makes sense for a new employee. But it’s not paying people fairly to only give raises if people have a better offer somewhere else.

      Post-adjustment in LW’s department, Mariah is at the middle of the second scale, so the new middle is the same as the old maximum, and Mariah’s original salary in dept. 1 would be at the very bottom or below the second scale.

      Mariah was being very underpaid by her first department, and it’s a red flag that they only gave her a raise when she threatened to leave. Her transfer then exposed that the pay scale in general is really low, and post-adjustment, she’s in the middle, but first department could still be operating on the original scale as far as we know unless they also did an adjustment. If two departments were both working off an underpaying scale and raises weren’t being given unless people threatened to leave there could be an issue with pay across the whole organization.

      1. Sunny*

        It also sounds like she wasn’t just in the middle of the salary scale in the new department, but also in the middle of the performance scale.

      2. Hannah Lee*

        That was my take as well.
        The other clue that it’s a company wide issue was that LW was surprised to see what Mariah’s rate was after the transfer.

        That makes me think whoever is above LW on the org chart, whoever is managing the company’s compensation strategy overall and would be aware how low the company’s pay is compared to the current market isn’t concerned with proactively adjusting pay rates. They’re only reacting to squeaky wheels (1st Mariah and then LW requesting to adjust the pay of their entire staff .. LW otoh proactively sought the pay adjustments as soon as she learned her department’s pay was low without anyone asking.)

    3. My Useless 2 Cents*

      The OP’s argument that Mariah’s extra responsibilities falling under “other duties as required” is a perfect example of how and why OP’s department fell behind on the pay scale to begin with. IMO, that slow creep of responsibilities is a major problem in today’s job markets and the devaluing of employee contributions as a whole. Giving Mariah a raise for the extra responsibilities is a step in the right direction for keeping pay at market level. Rather than worry about Mariah disclosing her raise, OP needs to be proactive in letting department know she is committed to keeping salaries competitive.

      1. LJ*

        A raise after only 6-9 months in the position sounds like an exceptional circumstance rather than something that should be the norm. I would’ve expected small responsibilities like that to be factored into an annual review

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          While I somewhat agree, I also think a lot of these small responsibilities get forgotten or dismissed as unimportant by the time annual reviews come around. As I said in my first comment, this kind of job creep is very common and a big problem today in devaluing employee contributions to the company. By the time annual reviews come around it is just another part of the job, why would the company increase pay over it? It was enough added responsibility that Mariah asked for a raise, that right there tells me it was either small but very important or small but not-so-easily-done. Either way it deserves to be addressed at the time and factored into pay. Arbitrary time limits benefit the company.

          1. Kt*

            +1. People don’t factor in all the extra work they do. It’s easy at the end of the year to think you just picked up a few things when it reality it was dozens of tasks that added hours.

    4. mreasy*

      If I worked there, I would be upset – but also glad that Mariah had shared the information that gave myself and my colleagues a rallying point, and (I presume) expedited the raises OP was already aiming for. This is why it should be normalized for folks to talk salary! People are weird about money and so there will be weird reactions (like resenting / showing anger toward Mariah), but to me the way things worked when Mariah shared is a feature, not a bug.

  4. MackM*

    “it would actually be a fairly selfless act to share her pay info, since she’d be knowingly accepting potential consequences to herself in order to increase her coworkers’ knowledge and bargaining power.”

    In fact, it sounds like her sharing her salary the first time around did exactly this.

    1. Elle by the sea*

      People very rarely share their salaries as a selfless act of kindness and usually it never ends well. I would never share my salary but have seen people who did and the outcomes were:
      – If the salary shared was higher than theirs, they got enraged and complained to their manager. The manager’s response was almost always along the lines of “it’s none of your business how salaries were calculated and you are not authorised to discuss salaries”.
      – They didn’t complain to the manager but started sabotaging the coworker and eventually pushed them out of the company.
      – If the shared salary was lower than what the coworkers made, the person who shared the salary got enraged.

      1. Nomic*

        “…. you are not authorised to discuss salaries”.

        Um, what? I don’t need authorization to discuss my salary with co-workers.

      2. Jezebella*

        In the US, federal law explicitly permits employees to discuss salary and wages without retribution from management. So “you are not authorized” is in direct violation of that law.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          I am not in the US – although it’s not illegal to discuss salaries, your employer can tell you not to do so.

        2. nodandsmile*

          Meh, I’ve (eventually) benefitted from a colleague sharing their salary, and like this story our department payscale changed as a result of me advocating for a salary increase based on the information shared by colleague.

          Rather than bragging, colleague (who was adjacent rather than in the same team) thought THEY were underpaid and we exchanged salaries on that basis.

          Note: employer was not initially receptive, like the examples you mentioned. However, they eventually came around (it took years, not months). I am still super mad about how the employer managed it, but 180% grateful to the colleague who gave me the information to enable me to advocate for myself. I don’t think WHY the person shared their salary is as relevant as HOW that knowledge helped other people improve their position. Also not in US…

      3. Silver Robin*

        I share my salary all the time with my team and encourage others to do the same. The response has *universally* been “damn, they really do underpay us” (hellloooo non-profits). I have used it to encourage folks on other teams to advocate for themselves because they should *not* be getting paid less than I do, but they are. Again, never had any blowback against me; my team regularly praises me as does my supervisor.

        Not saying that your experiences did not happen or is not likely, just want to provide some reassurance that it does not always go the way you describe.

      4. Llellayena*

        Authorization can mean two different things in this context. The first one companies can’t block: sharing what your salary is and what you, personally, do to get that salary (job duties, seniority, etc). The second is stating what someone ELSE should be making based on your perception of their work and seniority. That is something that a non-management worker could be “not authorized” to discuss because that discussion should be by the employee’s manager and may involve business considerations the non-management employee is not privy to. I do support sharing salaries, but it’s a single data point, not a comprehensive guide to salary structure, for the person asking.

      5. AMH*

        This has not been my experience, which may be a cultural difference as I am in the US. I have shared my salary at multiple jobs and have never had anything except positive outcomes from it, and I now work a municipal job where my salary is public information, along with that of my coworkers. I’m aware that I have been lucky; perhaps you have been similarly unlucky.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          Yup! I worked at a place that starts everyone out as hourly and after a (too long) time converted the ones who stuck around to salaried. I was offered less than I made as an hourly employee at first, but negotiated up. Since we all talked and shared our negotiation letters, we all ended up getting what we asked for.

          Then a barely-a-manager with extraordinary qualifications in our very specific niche found out I was making more than she was and she negotiated up too. (And later, she was one of the best supervisors I’ve ever had.)

          Ohhh, the filthy look the HR manager shot me when she was next in town warms the cockles of my heart to this day!

      6. SpaceySteph*

        I’m trying to figure out what someone could have to gain from sharing their salary info, such that its not a selfless act. I suppose they could be trying to entice others to share theirs in order to gather info, but its not generally a selfISH act to share information you have that others don’t.

        1. Elle by the sea*

          Bragging? Or plain innocence and not considering the consequences? Colleagues can pester you forever to get salary info out of you and you can just give in. I have seen all of these.

          The “you are not authorised to discuss” comments were made in the UK and other European countries. Pushing out others for having a higher salary happened in the US – I used to live there too.

          1. Elle by the sea*

            Also, I never said it was selfish. I have just never seen anyone do that as a selfless act.

            1. Anon for this*

              I didn’t disclose my salary to coworkers, but I did approach my manager about my bottom-10%-nationally salary after years of great reviews, increased responsibilities, and nice annual bonuses. When they basically said “show us the proof” I worked up national and area ranges for all the education and seniority ranges on our team. When they said they didn’t have time to put it in a table I worked up a report. I NEVER said give me X amount, just I was concerned we weren’t where we should be. Last year I (and I think everyone else on the team) got a bigger than normal pay increase (to probably 35%-40% national avg).
              This is the first year ever I haven’t gotten a bonus. My annual review is over a month past due, although that isn’t unusual, the rest of the team have all had their reviews. A very minor but fun part of my job has been moved to someone outside of my department. I’m very afraid I’m on the slow road to being pushed out and I’m old enough finding a new job with even a minimally livable wage will be problematic.

        2. Power Up*

          The only time I’ve encountered it in my workplace is twice someone told their supervisor that she didn’t have to follow anything she said because she made more than her. Time in “service” was the reason, but it didn’t negate the supervisor’s authority.

          It was two different people and two different supervisors.

          1. Anon4This*

            This is why I will never work somewhere your pay is based on years of service versus role, responsibilities, and performance. It should be vanishingly rare for someone to make more than their supervisor. I had a person on my team who made more than I did for several months, but they have a unicorn skill set that maybe 20 other people in the US do and it got fixed in the next eval process.

      7. Anonys*

        Just want to share my perspective as someone who has been the underpaid employee and has found out that fact through several coworkers telling me how much more they were making: I definitely didn’t and don’t have any resentment towards those coworkers (in fact some i now consider friends). I did get angry – at management for lowballing me. But why would I be mad at my coworkers? They negotiated well and they were getting market rate, maybe slightly above in some cases. Good for them. And salary at a company is not a zero sum game.
        I was underpaid due to being in the same team since I was entry level and only getting marginal raises despite being a great performer and taking on high level tasks. It was the old game of “an external hire will be paid more/has more bargaining power than someone who has developed from within the company”.
        I was already going to ask for a raise but knowing how ridiculously much I was underpaid by pushed me to aim high and also to make it clear to my managers that I would leave over this issue. If I had just gone into the salary negotiation with the attitude of “I think i deserve a raise” vs “You are underpaying me and this is bullshit” I don’t think I would have gotten the same result.

        So, please do share your salaries people! It is actually really hard (especially for people newer to the job market) to get a feel for salary, everything is so industry specific (people I know outside of work are in different sectors/have very different roles to me). If noone close to my level/experience had ever spoken to me about their salary I would have had no real accurate sense of pay scales at my company as they are not super transparent.

        I got the sense that people are uncomfortable sharing their exact salary, so when I had the feeling I was underpaid but needed confirmation I also used the tactic of “I am making x amount, can you tell me if you make significantly more than that” or “Can i ask you if you make more than x (my salary plus 15k) amount” and people were usually willing to confirm even if they didn’t want to talk specific numbers.

        Obviously sometimes people do let out their frustrations at the wrong target, as in Mariah’s case. I imagine it might have been because she was knew to the team and significantly less experienced than anyone else? Or maybe also her way of delivery (like if she just announced her salary to the whole team in quite a brazen way, I could see people reacting to that). But I do think in general people can separate their feelings about the salary disparity from the person who kindly shared the info.

        1. Dasein9 (he/him)*

          Yeah, it’s important not to be pushy. I share my salary and let coworkers know I’m not fishing for them to share theirs.

        2. Anon for this*

          Yes, I don’t think sharing salary is selfish. Especially at the companies that don’t encourage sharing it can be risky.
          Because, face it, a smart management can find ways to make work life uncomfortable or find some reason to let you go.

        3. Phlox*

          Yep got a $10k salary correction in a short meeting because of colleague salary information a few years back. Supposedly they had been trying to fix it previously – but sure got speedy once I knew!

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I’ve shared my salary at several workplaces, and it’s never been an issue. In one case I even directly told a coworker that I was making *double* what he was for the same work, and he didn’t get angry at me; it just inspired both of us to leave that terrible company.

  5. Hiring Mgr*

    In my experience, even if you try to tell someone not to discuss things like this, it always gets out anyway. So better off not saying anything at all

    1. Bast*

      I’d go a step further and say that trying to forbid people from discussing things usually ends with it being discussed more.

  6. Honor Harrington*

    Good for Mariah for sharing her salary. Because she did, others got paid what the deserved.
    Good for Mariah for understanding that an increase in responsibilities should be paired with an increase in compensation, and for asking for what she deserved.
    Good for the LW for trying to get Mariah and her teammates paid fairly.

    If the company doesn’t want drama around salaries, they should have fair and equitable pay practices that reflect the work completed.

    1. M*

      “If the company doesn’t want drama around salaries, they should have fair and equitable pay practices that reflect the work completed.”


      And good for Mariah for continuing to advocate for herself.

    2. Sorrischian*

      Mariah is not why the other employees got raises, though? The LW says pretty explicitly that they were already arguing for an updated pay scale, this just made them expedite the process.
      I still think Mariah sharing her salary is fine and good (and it’s really frustrating that her coworkers took their frustration out on her) but let’s give LW credit for what they were already doing!

      1. Roland*

        Well, OP says they were trying to get raises for everyone… But it’s pretty clear that the people above them don’t prioritize pay equality among departments. There’s no way to know for sure but I would bet some real money that having a bunch of employees KNOW that they are underpaid compared to other departments lit a fire under the people with actual authority here, and that if Mariah had been cagey, it would have taken longer or not happened at all. The department was already underpaid before OP stadted trying to change the pay scale; the thing that really changed was the employees suddenly learning about it.

        1. Yeah...*

          I totally see this scenario. Why move quickly when you can move slow? The fact that management was able to move quickly makes me think they were moving slow intentionally.

          Honestly, I am not pleased with the tone of LW’s letter, but don’t know exactly how to articulate what’s wrong….

          1. Bunny Lake Is Found*

            It grates on me that LW took Mariah onto her team and had no idea what Mariah’s salary was and treats that salary as purely due to Mariah threatening to leave and Mariah’s prior team not being as good as the LW’s (so average Mariah looked like a rockstar). LW clearly felt Mariah’s new role was not worth what Mariah was getting–which feels like a symptom of LW allowing her team to become so underpaid. How do you take on a new employee and just assume what their salary is?

            Mariah is again advocating for a higher wage, but LW is reticent to give it to her (and looking for ways not to give an approved raise) to “avoid drama”….and LW does not seem to realize that their own feelings here are LITERALLY going to contribute to the ongoing issue of how their team ended up so underpaid people literally CRIED when they were finally brought up to market value.

      2. Inti*

        The fact that OP was arguing for it doesn’t mean it would have actually happened, though. Without Mariah’s intervention, it could have been ignored, deferred or declined by those above the OP. We don’t know, but certainly if OP deserves credit for trying, so too does Mariah.

        1. Daisy*

          100% this. The slow walk to nowhere was the direction those salary increases were going before Mariah shared.

      3. Alice*

        Maybe — *maybe* — the company would have gotten around to giving raises eventually.
        Would they have done it as quickly? Obviously not — OP says that the chaos caused the approval to be expedited.
        Would they have brought the department up to the range that they did, without the extra pressure from widespread knowledge of Mariah’s rate? I doubt it.

        I wish I had ever worked somewhere where I could trust that one department manager arguing for an updated pay scale would actually get results.

        And for the record, I’m happy to give LW credit for what they were already doing. That is good. I just think that, without Mariah sharing information, LW’s efforts probably wouldn’t have worked as well or as fast as they did.

      4. Anonys*

        To me it reads that OP started advocating for an updated payscale BEFORE Mariah shared her salary with the team but AFTER finding out Mariah’s salary themselves through her being on the payroll and through that realizing another departments pay scale was the same despite OP’s department doing higher level work. Before this, OP might not even have been really aware that their whole department was underpaid within the company.

        So indirectly, initiating the change in payscale is still due to Mariah joining the team. Also, OP says that after Mariah “spilled the beans” they amped it up and expedited, and getting their raises even a month early is still a plus to the employees.

      5. MigraineMonth*

        It’s not 100% clear, but I think OP didn’t realize their department was underpaid and start advocating for raises until they saw Mariah’s salary. So while I give OP credit for noticing at that point and trying to fix it, the fact is that OP’s department had been significantly underpaid (probably for a while).

        OP, the best way to head off this kind of chaos in the future is to make sure the employees in your department are getting regular raises, not just when they ask for one or when they’re halfway out the door. (I realize this can be challenging if the company culture is to underpay as long as possible and then deal with chaos when people learn they’ve been underpaid.)

        For example, you’ve just gotten this small raise approved for Mariah; is there anyone else in the department who also deserves a raise but who didn’t ask for it?

    1. Bri*

      What if you are getting paid significantly less than other people in your workplace? I often feel like people don’t want to share their salaries because of the fallout of their coworkers feeling slighted—but how do you know that’s the outcome unless you’ve benefited from other people sharing their salary with you?

      1. Phony Genius*

        Maybe you’d agree with changing the law so that the employer be required to periodically provide all employees with a listing of all employees’ salaries? Why suggest this responsibility belongs on the employee who won’t share, rather than management?

        1. Roland*

          Not who you replied to but why either/or? I am a huge proponent of salary personally, and also share with friends in my field and and trusted colleagues and online aggregators because I don’t have the power to pass legislation but I have the power to empower individuals, at least. And by sharing first, the other person often shares back which empowers me in return.

        2. Bri*

          I certainly do think companies should publish their salaries/operate with pay scales/etc. (Though if there are disparities, would receiving a list of everyone’s salaries cause less dissent than individuals talking about them?)

          In the meantime, I don’t think it’s solely on the individual employee to share their salaries if they don’t want to, but let’s say you’re in a workplace where no one has said anything about their salary. Does the calculus you make change if you have a hunch that you are better or worse compensated than your coworkers? Maybe all the folks in OP’s office felt fine about their compensation until they learned about Mariah’s. Would having conversations amongst themselves sooner led to them getting raises sooner? I once shared my salary because I thought I was underpaid and it turns out I was middle of the pack—the sole POC on our level was the one getting the short shrift and we only learned because we had the conversation.

        3. Anon4This*

          I would hate this. I am a deeply private person with a job so niche it is borderline unique. My salary is higher because I do multiple jobs, two of which are highly specialized. People are not rational (see Mariah’s peers as exhibit A), and my job is hard enough without the misdirected anger of my coworkers – who, in the real world, do not immediately drop their resentment when presented with a rationale for pay differences.

          If I wanted my financial information published, I’d work for the government. (Which I would never do because their lockstep grade/step pay is based on butt-in-seat years over performance. Same ≠ fair.)

      2. L-squared*

        I think its about what you know of people.

        At my last job, there was one person I was close with. he had been there longer, but I lived in a higher COL area, so to me, it seemed like we probably should have been making a similar amount. A year prior, he mentioned he negotiated a raise. I then negotiated one later and told him. But I knew him enough to know that he wouldn’t react badly if I was making more.

        There are some people who will take it out on you, as we saw in this letter. I’m not going to openly share it. Doesn’t mean there is no one I’d share it with.

    2. MigraineMonth*

      How would you feel about sharing in a less personal way? One of my past employers had a spreadsheet where you could enter location, role, level, tenure, demographics and salary.

      It was all completely optional, but it let other employees quickly gauge how they were being paid according to the average for their role/level (and also keep an eye on how the self-reported numbers stacked up against the officially reported DEI numbers).

  7. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    You’re treading dangerous ground, legally speaking, by even “softening” the request in the way you described. Like you said, she probably doesn’t want to revisit the drama that happened before, so you just need to trust her judgment and don’t say anything.

  8. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    “I got the new payscale approved! And with it rolled out, I feel pretty good about where everyone is on the scale. Everyone was satisfied with their raises — some were big enough that they were genuinely shocked! People cried.”

    This sounds an awful lot like a positive outcome to me. LW, are you really sure that this is a scenario you want to avoid? I’m sure it was extremely stressful dealing with the immediate aftermath when Mariah shared her salary, but you ended up with employees that now feel much more valued than they did before. The *real* cause of the drama was the serious problem with the payscale, and Mariah’s sharing her salary was what enabled you to fix it!

    Sometimes short-term conflict is exactly what you need to make everyone happier in the long term.

    1. CB212*

      Right, but now that everything’s in balance, after 90 days Mariah is about to surge higher in the pay scale again – and LW doesn’t want a second round of “M is comparatively overpaid / everyone else resents her” when there’s no chance of getting the entire department a pay bump alongside. So this time, it might not be short-term conflict. It could be a year of ‘we JUST got a salary match and then SHE got a raise!’, and that’s not a fun prospect for LW.

      1. Bast*

        I’d say the amount of the raise matters too. Is it a significant increase, or a COLA level raise? If someone is taking on some minor, extra responsibilities and handed an extra $.25/hour (or its equivalent) I think people are significantly less agitated than say, getting a $5/hour raise. This would also depend on the responsibilities themselves — I do believe some things merit higher raises or bonuses simply because no one wants to do them.

      2. Beth*

        Yeah, it might not be fun for LW! But there are multiple solutions here that aren’t pressuring Mariah to keep quiet about her salary:

        – Look at what everyone else is doing and make sure their salary reflects the full scope of that work. Hopefully that happened during the salary adjustment, but if it didn’t (say, if the entire department got brought up to a certain level, but Sarah has been going above and beyond for years and still only got brought up to the same average level as everyone else), take active steps to make it happen.

        – Stand behind the raise Mariah got. If everything is working right in this system, then she genuinely did take on more work that genuinely does bring more value, and her raise is warranted. Actively encourage the rest of the team to follow the same steps–take on additional duties, perform it well for a few months, ask for a raise to reflect the new workload. OP making sure their team knows that this is on the table, and knows the process for getting it, might actually help increase transparency and raise morale.

        – It’s kind of late for this, but if the new duties Mariah took on were genuinely minimal enough to not warrant a raise–if the expectation on the team is that people will take on this type of work as part of their standard duties–OP should have communicated that instead of granting a raise. If OP granted a salary increase for Mariah where they wouldn’t for others, then yeah, the fallout might not be fun for OP; that would be legitimately frustrating and upsetting for their team. I’m hoping that’s not what’s happened here, though.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        If Mariah is being overpaid in comparison to her coworkers, that means something has gotten broken in the system of receiving raises. If Mariah deserves the raise, give it to her. If she doesn’t, don’t.

        If other employees deserve a raise, give it to them whether or not they ask for one. Waiting for an employee to make a case for a raise or get a job elsewhere before paying them fairly is what caused the initial problem!

  9. SarcasticFringehead*

    I’m guessing that you didn’t share with your team that you started looking at pay increases after you learned about Mariah’s salary but before she shared it with everyone. That was almost certainly the right choice, but as far as your employees (including Mariah) are concerned, the timeline is: Mariah shares her salary, everyone advocates for more pay (with a lot of unnecessary drama), and then they get raises. If Mariah feels that sharing salaries is the ethical thing to do, that kind of proves her point.

    I know it caused a bunch of stress for you, but if you could justify raises ranging from “good” to “shockingly good,” it sounds like your team was pretty underpaid to begin with.

    1. Scottish teapot*

      I was about to say the same. If the budget was there then the staff have clearly been underpaid.

  10. Beth*

    You need to get over this one, OP. Hopefully the work you put in to advocate for your team and get that pay adjustment built some trust, and your team will now come to you first if they have concerns about their pay–you’ve got that in your favor, at least.

    But the fact that it got so unbalanced in the first place does make me think your organization isn’t great about this, and your team has reason to be watchful for pay inequity. Do others on your team ask for raises when they take on additional duties? Do they know that they can? It sounds like Mariah is particularly good at advocating for herself–it’s great that you’re rewarding her work, but as a manager, it’s your job to make sure this kind of thing is equitable on your team, including among people who aren’t so proactive about asking. If there are consequences to Mariah discussing her raise, the solution is for you to make sure you’re doing that, not to ask Mariah to stay quiet.

  11. Observer*

    From a purely practical standpoint, she probably should want to avoid that again. On the other hand, sharing salary information is a key way workers increase their collective power — and if Mariah happens to care about that (as opposed to just, like, bragging or stirring stuff up), it would actually be a fairly selfless act to share her pay info, since she’d be knowingly accepting potential consequences to herself in order to increase her coworkers’ knowledge and bargaining power

    This is absolutely true. And the thing is that it’s quite possible that she would see the chaos and outcome in your department as supporting the need for openness around pay. Because it sounds to me like the fact that people knew about her pay and the chaos it caused was part of the pressure that got the whole scale shifted upward.

  12. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    Had something like this happen when we got a transfer on to the team. Only the rest of us did not get a raise because our manager was not as good as the LW. A year later company was acquired and those of us laid off were all the lower paid people. The new hire got to stay on because she knew how to schmooze.

    I think the LW’s situation ended the best way possible. But I also think she probably got lucky she could get those other team members raises.

  13. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Honestly, my key takeaway here is that this is a great reason to work with the HR department on developing clear salary bands that everyone has access to and knows where they fall depending on their job role. You might still have people grousing about stuff within a band, but you’d avoid situations like the one you initially found yourself in, where you actually didn’t have any idea how much she’d been making on her old team before you hired her. Salary bands usually have clear guidelines about how and when raises happen, which would help with the decision on whether or not to give her another increase.

  14. mango chiffon*

    How horrible that those staff members were going underpaid for who knows how long…

    Maybe a general question for folks, my organization’s HR department does salary benchmarking every three years for every position on staff, and adjust salaries accordingly. Is it common for a department head to have to argue for salary increase just to make them comparable to other departments in the same organization?

    1. Engineer*

      I would say it’s more common than anyone would like but that’s not a sign of it being a good thing. Lots of bad businesses out there, willing to do whatever it takes to save a buck in the short term.

      1. mango chiffon*

        That’s…upsetting. I’m glad to be at an org that has tried to make pay transparency and fairness more of a thing, but it’s sad this is not more commonplace.

        1. TechWorker*

          Our company does benchmarking, has pay bands… and then doesn’t provide the budget to pay in the right place within those bands. It’s a bit of a joke tbh…

          I have benefited from a colleague sharing salary info (I knew I was underpaid I found out by about how much). Tbh knowing my managers view of his performance, I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the least well paid of all of us at that grade so I suspect I’m still near the bottom… it was still a huge salary bump tho so I’m not complaining!

    2. Generic Name*

      I know my current manager advocated for a sizable raise for an employee who transferred to our department. Apparently her salary was below market rate for the industry and her experience level. I don’t know how our department compares to other departments in the company, though.

  15. Scottish teapot*

    Mariah Has clearly been very successful advocating for herself. But it shouldn’t matter her length of service. Either she’s “stellar” and deserves the raises she has or she’s “middle”. She can’t be both. Her ability clearly outweighs how long she’s been with the company. So it’s up to management to explain to staff that performance is more important. Kudos to Mariah for negotiating wage raises and also linking responsibility to higher pay. Maybe she’ll encourage others in her team to do the same.

    1. Fikly*

      This. Utter nonsense around your salary/wages being tied to length of time at the company, and it utterly overruling what you do and how well is exactly why people have to leave a company to be paid fairly, and why everyone is outraged when new hires keep coming in at a hire compensation than they are being paid, and have to wait years to come close to.

    2. Bast*

      I think this is a situation where both things can be true. Mariah may have truly been stellar in her old department because it perhaps wasn’t the best department as LW mentioned. In a department surrounded by company slackers, even an average person will stand out as their “rockstar” as she would outshine those around her. Coming into a really good team, perhaps Mariah is only average compared to them. Or, perhaps Mariah”s old manager had different values and standards than LW, and Mariah excelled in certain areas that Old Manager preferred, but not New Manager. Or perhaps Mariah is just different. Sometimes when you have a really close team that has been together for awhile and someone new comes in, it upsets the balance a little bit. Maybe they don’t run quite the same way as the rest of your team does, and there’s a bit of adjusting that needs to be done by both parties because the dynamic was upset. I don’t necessarily this has to be an either/or situation, but rather, a matter of perspective. Of course, I’m not throwing out the idea that Mariah might only just be average (see first scenario) just that other things are also possible.

      In principle, I would also disagree that length of service doesn’t matter. I’d expect more of someone who has been there 5 years vs. 5 weeks.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Or even, it’s a different role. Her first role was entry level, and she rocked the heck out of it. Then she moves up–and she’s still good, but it’s her first year in this role. She hasn’t achieved rock star status yet.

    3. Elle by the sea*

      You can be a stellar performer and still in the middle if everyone on the team is fantastic. I am lucky enough to be part of such a team. But when it comes to performance calibration, you still have to establish a range – and yes, if everyone is great, there are people who are even greater and some other great people will fall in the middle.

  16. CTA*

    My thoughts are Mariah won’t say anything about her raise considering what happened the last time she talked about pay and even though the circumstances are different.

    I remember when I once casually talked about pay. It was pretty low stakes since it was a part-time job, but it paid a little more than minimum wage. I made a comment about the job “not being bad for $12.20 and hour.” OMG one of my male co-workers John got worked up because he was only paid $12 an hour. I don’t think he was joking. I mention his gender because I am a woman. It irked me that he as a man was complaining about “unfairness” over 20 cents when women have been historically paid less for the same labor. To clarify, I had started at less than $12 (I think $11.75?) a six months prior. The $12.20 was a result of the annual cost of living increase added to my current wage at the time. My co-worker started working after the new hourly rate ($12) had been established. He had only been working 3-4 weeks. I had co-workers who had been working there longer than me, and I’m sure they were probably making a few cents more than me but I’m sure it wasn’t a big enough disparity to be unfair. That taught me to never talk about pay again (at least with men).

    1. Gust of wind*

      So how I read it you are earning your starting rate+COL raise. And the COL is supposed to be like an adjustment for inflation, it’s meant to keep the salary at least effectively the same (I am not from the US, if I misunderstand this you are welcome to explain it to me). And new hires are starting at starting rate+less than COL, so effectively they lowered their starting rate? Or is this not a general starting rate? And an individual one depending on experience before beeing hired and you just got a higher starting rate because your better qualified or negotiated better?
      Underpaying women is definitely a huge problem. Underpaying people by not adjusting reasonably for inflation is a huge problem, and than underpaying women even more exacerbate the problem for women.

      1. Gust of wind*

        I think my point is, if you’re outearning your male colleague, because the starting rate is individualised that’s great and congrats, but if they are generally lowering the starting salary by not giving the whole inflation adjustments, then they possibly do this more often, possibly with promotions to, effectively lowering the salary for every new “generation” of hires and “promoted people”.

        1. doreen*

          It could also be because of raises after a specified time – for example you start at $11.75 and after 6 months you get a raise to $12 and then a month after that there’s a cost of living raise that increase your pay to $12.20 and the starting pay to $12. I’ve had a few jobs are basically like this where everyone started at the current starting pay ( which went up with each cost of living raise) and then got additional raises as time passed (maybe after 90 days or 6 months or a year or maybe every year as you went up a step in the pay grade. ) There were two things these jobs had in common the first was no merit raises, just the ones that came with the passage of time and cost of living raises. The second was there would come a point- (maybe after 1 year , maybe after 7 ) where everyone in that job would have the same pay.

          1. Gust of wind*

            so it would be starting rate(11.75)+COL(0,25)=new starting rate 12.0 and starting rate(11.75)+COL(0.25)+time raise(0.2)=12.2 , yeah that way seems better, I just read it as there beeing only the COL raise, but rereading it, it doesn’t explicitly say so, thanks

  17. Leaderofpets*

    I have a question that comes from Alison’s answer.

    I’m a retail manager so I’m not covered to share my salary with anyone? or just not anyone below me? I’m not the store or assistant store manager if that matters, just a department leader.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      The NLRA definition of a supervisor is:

      The term “supervisor” means any individual having authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibly to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action, if in connection with the foregoing the exercise of such authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment.

  18. Mariah?*

    I’m in the same situation but as Mariah. In fact, depending on how many details were changed for anonymity, I may actually *be* Mariah.

    In my case I didn’t personally tell anyone my salary though. I wrongly assumed that everyone else on the team I transferred to was paid market value for the high COL area we live in, but when it came time for annual raises recently someone raised a stink about the pay discrepancy (no idea how they found out as I have not said anything ever about my salary) and as a result to mollify them and close the gap instead of paying them more I’m getting no annual pay raise, not even a COL adjustment, so I am effectively getting a pay cut for reasons entirely out of my control and completely non performance related. It’s great for morale I tell ya. What’s the point of being a high performer if all it got me was less compensation in the end?

    1. Shoes*

      This is unfortunate, but no the fault of your co-workers. It is the fault of management that not giving you a raise was determined to be solution to the disparity.

      I am sincerely sorry you are receiving a pay cut.

  19. bamcheeks*

    LW, it’s great that you advocated for higher pay for your team once you find out how underpaid they were compared to Mariah’s old team, and it’s great that you got a raise for Mariah. But I feel like you took the wrong message from this! The team was significantly underpaid on your watch: that was the source of the drama, not Mariah sharing her salary. Your takeaway from this should be, “what do I need to in the future to make sure my team is never underpaid again”, whether that’s pushing positively for salary reviews, benchmarking salaries against job postings at other companies, having frank conversations with managers of other departments and so on.

    Presumably this situation came about because you trusted that the organisation would look after your team: now you know you need to be much more proactive about this. Don’t put this on Mariah!

    1. bamcheeks*

      (In fact I think you’ve slightly got it into your head that “Mariah is the problem, Mariah needs to not X”, and you need to firmly tilt in the other direction: “Mariah, I know your salary caused some consternation when you first came into this department. I hope the broader review has made everyone much happier and you don’t have any more problems, but please come and tell me immediately if you have any more issues, and I’ll shit that right down.” You seem to be regarding this as a Mariah problem, but if people are treating Mariah badly because she advocated for herself and got a raise, that’s a YOUR TEAM problem and as a manager you should be addressing that!)

      1. Alice*

        Was wondering why Alison didn’t cover this in her answer. OP should stay out of telling Mariah what to say or not say about her salary — but OP should do her job of managing the team, including setting expectations about treating colleagues with respect and professionalism.

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Came here looking for this, and surprised I had to scroll this long. I hope the OP stops thinking about preventing Mariah from exercising her legal right to discuss salary and starts asking themselves how they can do better as a manager to advocate for and retain their team.

  20. Phony Genius*

    The way I see this, from Mariah’s standpoint, there is little practical difference between being told by her boss not to talk about her pay and having her coworkers mad at her for doing so, which is likely to have a chilling effect on her when she decides whether or not to do so again.

    Put differently, if the law protects an employee’s right to discuss their salary with their coworkers, there is an implied right not to be mistreated by her coworkers for doing so. If she wanted to take legal action for how her coworkers treated her, I could see it winning. (Yes, if she’s happy now, she probably won’t want to.)

    But definitely, even if the coworkers all got raises, they needed to be instructed that their actions toward Mariah were unacceptable and cannot be repeated. Even if the new pay scale had not been approved, Mariah should not have had to sit there and take it.

    1. Union Rep*

      Boy I wish you were right! The law here is picky and includes an intent element. OP’s company could maybe be liable under a different section of the NLRA if the coworkers got mad and the company didn’t do anything to stop it because management was upset at Mariah for discussing salaries/wanted other employees to see the example and keep quiet. Unfortunately, you generally have to prove a specific retaliatory motive in that kind of case. It’s extremely difficult and companies get away with it probably 9/10 times if not more. What OP is thinking of saying to Mariah is a much more straightforward violation.

    2. Observer*

      Put differently, if the law protects an employee’s right to discuss their salary with their coworkers, there is an implied right not to be mistreated by her coworkers for doing so. If she wanted to take legal action for how her coworkers treated her, I could see it winning,

      Not in a million years. For one thing, there is no such “implied” right. The only right is the one lair out in the law- and that is the right to discuss pay without interference from one’s employer. The employer has absolutely *no* obligation to prevent others from acting like idiots.

    3. annonie*

      Could we please have people who are not lawyers stop guessing at what they think employment law should be? This is flat out wrong.

  21. Starbuck*

    Good for Mariah and for the rest of the team. LW, I wouldn’t worry – Mariah now knows how people react to her sharing pay info, so she’s got the information she needs to make a decision about disclosing that works for her. Why do you think you need to tell her anything? To protect her? Or yourself?

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      This is such a great question! If LW is concerned that the justification can’t be defended then that should be the sign that maybe this increase isn’t equitable.

  22. Pyanfar*

    The water is already under a bridge, but, for the future, you may want to determine for yourself (or maybe your company already has expectations around this) how much time between a new responsibility and the ability to get a raise for that addition and make it explicit when you assign the new responsibility (or that the new responsibility isn’t eligible). Putting the employee in the role of asking for more money is going to disadvantage people who, for whatever reason, don’t or won’t ask, just leading to more pay inequity down the road. (I’m not a big fan of “we only give raises once a year”, but I can totally understand why companies make those kinds of policies!)

  23. Small Brown Burro*

    The whole department should be thanking Mariah for sharing her salary – her doing so led to them all getting raises. Yes, I know OP did the paperwork, but only after seeing how under paid her team was.

    It’s wild to me that people who get a big pay bump because someone else spoke up would hold it against them.

  24. zebra*

    Even after all these pay scales have been revised, if Mariah is the only one who is consistently getting increases for herself, whether or not she pushes for them, that’s a problem for everyone! If relatively small changes in job duties merit increases, then you should be proactively reviewing everyone’s job descriptions regularly and giving those increases, not just waiting for each individual employee to fight for them. Mariah sharing that she got an increase for a change in duties should not cause any resentment among the rest of the team because everyone else should be getting those increases too. The problem here isn’t Mariah’s honesty, it’s that salaries aren’t maintained in an equitable way in the first place.

    Mariah is excellent at advocating for herself, and she’s also savvy and generous enough to know that she can be a rising tide to lift all boats instead of just self-serving. I’m sure people were resentful of her at first, but they also all benefited from her honesty in the end, so I’d say things worked out pretty great for everyone. Take the opportunity now to *keep* things going great by not just relying on individual employees to ask for increases on an ad hoc basis.

  25. anonymous anteater*

    I have a related question about “her legal right to share the information (a right she has under the National Labor Relations Act, assuming she’s not a manager)”. What makes someone a manager? If I supervised one report, but the position goes unfilled for some time, am I still a manager while I technically don’t manage anyone? Does it go by job title?

    1. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I’m not a lawyer, but my thoughts would be that you would be defined as a supervisor when you have some ownership of another employee’s work relationship to the company (disciplinary actions, hiring, firing, transferring, promoting, authority to make changes to employee work concerns). So for your purposes, you may not have any immediate direct reports but are still acting in one or more of those capacities, you could be considered a supervisor.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      I don’t practice in this area, but I know from the news that it’s a fact specific analysis. The example is whatever Starbucks calls the senior person on each shift. I think they can assign duties that shift, but don’t set pay or hours and don’t have hiring or firing authority. They also can’t assign training, so what they can assign is limited to duties they mostly share with their “reports.” So they were not “managers.”

      There may be some job titles and duties that automatically qualify as management. My employers have always told me that all lawyers are managers, even where we don’t supervise anyone.

      1. Union Rep*

        I am not a lawyer, but your employers may have been incorrect. Lawyers are “professional employees” under the NLRA (sec. 2 (12) a-b) and can’t be in the same union as non-professional employees unless the professionals vote to be in the same union (sec. 9 (b)). But lawyers can in principle unionize! All the units I’m aware of are public defenders (so technically covered by state public employee laws and not the NLRA, but the relevant sections mirror the NLRA) or at non-profits, but that’s for practical reasons, not legal reasons.

        1) Law firms know how to get away with retaliating for organizing.
        2) If you’re in-house and not at a firm, there often aren’t enough lawyers to have meaningful bargaining power, even if they all voted to unionize.
        3) Lawyers may have personnel power over admins and count as supervisors that way.
        4) The legal profession already has a guild structure that keeps the price of legal services high and private-sector salaries generally satisfactory.
        5) Lawyer brain.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      The direct text from the NLRA to define a supervisor is:

      The term “supervisor” means any individual having authority, in the interest of the employer, to hire, transfer, suspend, lay off, recall, promote, discharge, assign, reward, or discipline other employees, or responsibly to direct them, or to adjust their grievances, or effectively to recommend such action, if in connection with the foregoing the exercise of such authority is not of a merely routine or clerical nature, but requires the use of independent judgment.

      To me that says if you have the authority to hire someone (even though no one reports to you at the moment), you would be considered a supervisor and therefore not covered by the NLRA. I’m not a lawyer, so my interpretation could be wrong.

      1. Union Rep*

        Hiring/firing and discipline authority are usually weighted more heavily than basic task assignment. Two contrasting examples:

        1) I work with academic advisors at both the “Associate” and “Senior” levels. The Seniors coordinate the Associates’ schedules, but don’t have hiring authority or disciplinary power and don’t conduct performance reviews. The Seniors and Associates are both eligible for membership in the same union. (Much like the Starbucks example above.)
        2) I also work with faculty. Academic department chairs keep doing their normal faculty job while they’re chair. However, while chair, they also make initial hiring recommendations for full-time faculty, have hiring authority over adjunct faculty, conduct performance reviews, and can initiate the discipline process. Even though they remain peers with faculty in many ways (and the position usually rotates around), department chairs cannot be part of the faculty union while they are chair.

  26. Czhorat*

    The fact that everyone’s salaries were increased after Mariah shared hers illustrates exactly why she should – and why you shouldn’t push back against it.

    It’s getting better with changes in laws regarding job postings, but for the longest time there was NO way to judge salaries. New job postings would say “salary dependent on experience”. Recruiters would ask you what you wanted to make. Peers wouldn’t tell you what they make. How are you to have ANY idea if you’re being paid a fair market rate?

  27. CommanderBanana*

    Salary opacity harms workers and benefits companies that want to underpay employees. It sucks that your employees took it out on Mariah, but it REALLY sucks that your employer was underpaying your department (and presumably would have continued to do so if your department hadn’t found out that they were being underpaid!).

    They should have been mad at me or my grandboss or the owners. Yes, they should have. Framing people finding out they were being grossly underpaid as “peak drama” is really dismissive. If your organization wants to keep your “amazing team,” stop underpaying them.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      And honestly, I’d be delighted if managers stopped referring to people being upset about things about which it is valid to be upset as “drama.” It makes you sound like you don’t take their concerns seriously or you consider them frivolous. Being underpaid is a pretty big deal.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Blarg, hit enter too soon.

          If LW’s department was upset with the company, that would be a logical result of discovering they were underpaid. Being upset with someone who was not responsible for their being underpaid (Mariah) *is* dramatic because…it wasn’t her fault!

      1. Anon4This*

        From experience, people can be justifiably upset AND create unnecessary drama. Raising issues and concern (individually or as a group)? No problem. Starting rumors and encouraging unprofessional behavior to “protest”? No, thank you.

  28. Higher Ed*

    It sounds like this company needs clearer guidelines on what qualifies for a raise or placement in a pay range.

  29. Fleur-de-Lis*

    In your shoes, I’d develop a script for email that is very short and sweet and says something about the rate of pay increase broken down hourly/monthly/whatever it is you’re using, the date it’s effective, and leave it there. Then use the same script for every pay increase for everyone going forward. It’s a single message and doesn’t have lots of discussion or rules-lawyering behind it, you don’t have to get pulled into a back-and-forth discussion about how much, was it enough, etc. etc.

  30. Chriama*

    Mariah sounds chaotic good. Like, she threw the entire department into chaos but brought to light a pretty big inequality. Even if it was something you were quietly working on, it’s possible that it would have taken much longer — or even been entirely rejected — if the department hadn’t been imploding at the same time. She sounds like someone who advocates aggressively for herself and then shares that information with others, hoping they’ll use it to advocate on their own behalf. That’s quite a risky position to be in and I commend her for it.

    On the other hand, just because she negotiates aggressively doesn’t mean you need to accept it. You’re torn between whether this new responsibility is enough to justify a pay bump. Have other people gotten a bump for taking this on in the past? Does it represent a material change in her duties/seniority, and a clear path to advancement that is open to other people as well? Also, who proposed that she take on this new responsibility and was a pay increase discussed? Because you don’t want to end up in a position where she is basically building her own path to advancement and you’re just along for the ride. You need to think about your department as a whole, and not let the squeaky wheel take all your attention. Mariah might be a superstar, but if that’s out of sync with your organization it’s possible that the best outcome for you and her is that she leaves for an organization that’s a better fit.

    Please note that I’m not advocating for or against Mariah. My hope is that you, OP, take more ownership of your responsibility as a manager, knowing that Mariah could be a real catalyst (for good or ill) and planning for that in advance.

  31. Tundra dweller*

    See this is why I’m glad I’m in a union job. You get the salary the union negotiated. No managers discretion; all performers get the same. No worries that someone is just favored by a manager. Rare for a white collar job I realize.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      ++ me too.
      Unions are the norm in Germany and many other EU countries, including for white collar jobs. Not being male or white, it was great not having to negotiate to get the same pay as coworkers on the same level.

      1. Gust of wind*

        But isn’t it very industry specific if you generally paid union wage or more? Like in Austria it’s illegal to pay someone less than written in the “Kollektivvertrag”. And some industries are generally paying Kollektivvertrag-pay and not more, but other industries are generally paying more than “Kollektivvertrag”. Like the “Kammer” in my industry advises to keep paying more than Kollektivvertrag as it’s industry standard. This makes salary-negotiations very much part of my industry, although we do have Kollektivverträge. Although I do value the negotiations of our union because they do negotiate the base pay and standard for inflation adjustment, and they did very well this year with the inflation adjustment this year! And I didn’t have to individually negotiate that, which is good cause I am very bad at salary negotiations. And so is my also female friend working in our male dominated industry, so I get your point. Is this different in Germany? Are you generally paid “Kollektivvertrag”-salary or is it also industry-specific?

        1. WS*

          Same in Australia – you can’t pay less than the award rate, but you can pay more for whatever non-discriminatory reason you like.

  32. Union Rep*

    a) OP, if I caught wind of a supervisor at one of my worksites making a comment like the one you’re asking Alison about, I’d have unfair labor practice paperwork filed that week. “Teeeechnically I can’t tell you not to talk about your working conditions with your colleagues, but only bad things will happen if you do,” coming from a manager who has power over an employee, is a threat. I get that you don’t want to think about it that way, but that’s what it is. It’s a violation of the NLRA, and it can be pursued by an individual employee with or without a union and with or without a lawyer.

    b) The reason you don’t see your advice as threatening is that you haven’t fully taken ownership of your own decisions here. You correctly point out that your team was wrong to be upset at Mariah for revealing the pay disparity. But you didn’t correct them! You literally say they should be mad at you and upper management – which is true – but you apparently let them be mad at Mariah anyway. If you’d directly said to the team, “I get you’re upset about your pay, but it’s management’s fault, not Mariah’s – in fact, her transfer made the disparity more obvious and we’re expediting the review – don’t take your dissatisfaction out on her,” then you wouldn’t need to consider warning her about blowback from her coworkers now. Would that conversation have been really uncomfortable? Yes! Even well-intentioned managers like you hate having it (which is part of why employees have to force even the nicest companies to the bargaining table, but I digress). But that’s the conversation you should have had before, and if you’d had it then you wouldn’t need to go looking for an illegal escape from having it now.

    1. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      Agreed. If my manager said this to me, I’d feel low key threatened. It has an underlying silent “or else” feel to me, but thats considering my manager. some sort of retaliation could be expected in response to not acquiescing to her request.

      Im not a fan of passive aggressive threats, which is what that comment feels like. I call.that out by asking for clarification on the comment in a very direct way, which passive aggressive people hate. Then this OP would probably have realized how far their foot is in their mouth, because a not-subtle nudge to not discuss it is indeed shady as hell.

      The company got called out on underpaying, and had to fix it.

      “peak drama” This comment says to me OP is severely out if touch.

      Mariah may not have been the hero anyone wanted, but the hero they deserved.

  33. Red Wheel Barrow*

    I’m so glad the LW wrote in. It sounds as if they’re a good person who cares about the well-being of the people on their team and goes to bat for them. And it also sounds as if the discomfort of the situation with Mariah and her angry colleagues was in danger of pushing them towards acting wrongly (pressuring Mariah not to share her salary information). I hope they got this reply in time to act on it, or made the right choice on their own!

  34. Nobody*

    Mariah sounds kind of awesome. This woman became good at her job, looked afield for other offers and managed to get a big pay bump out of it, shared her salary with her coworkers (let’s normalize this!!!), succeeded in her new job duties, and was bold enough to ask for a raise.

  35. Whoa Nelly*

    True, her sharing her salary is what expedited others getting a raise as well. It’s one thing to share that info – if asked. Normally people don’t ask, so it’s odd that she’s bringing it up herself, which sounds like bragging, and would create uneasiness among the team. I think 3 months is a short time to give another raise. I don’t doubt that in due time, she’ll be telling LW that she’s going elsewhere unless her salary is matched. She’s a good worker, and enterprising, but also a bit cutthroat. That’s how I see it.

    1. Observer*

      She’s a good worker, and enterprising, but also a bit cutthroat.

      That’s a pretty harsh take on someone who is simply trying to make sure that she’s getting fairly paid.

      The really important question is why is anything you described a problem? If she is good enough that she can find a job that pays her better why should she NOT take that job? What exactly has the company done for her that she owes it to the to forgo a higher salary?

  36. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Honestly, based on your letter, I don’t think you should have advocated for her to have a bump. It sounds like the task is a reasonable extension of duties, and one that – I would venture to guess – as you get more experience on the team/with the work is somewhat of an expectation.

    I think it is great that this shone light on your team being underpaid in comparison to another team, and that it got raises for everyone. (To those saying it happened “on your watch,” I don’t think that’s fair, as you were unaware that a role with less responsibility was at an equivalent salary band, and once you were made aware you acted swiftly.) But I think the current circumstance is something different. Either she’s getting a promotion or she isn’t, and it sounds like from your letter, she isn’t.

  37. J!*

    I don’t know, it sounds like Mariah sharing her salary last time is finally what got her coworkers the raise, which is the whole point of it being illegal to punish people for sharing what they make. People should have been mad that they were paid less for doing the same or more work. The workplace SHOULD be uncomfortable for managers when pay decisions are not transparent and
    It sucks that Mariah was caught in the middle of that misplaced ire, but it is absolutely not your place to tell her not to share her raise.

  38. Some Internet Rando*

    Let Mariah decide if she wants to share or not.

    And don’t resent her because she is good a negotiating her pay…. the first time she threatened to leave and got a raise. Now her job duties changed and she asked for a raise again. You seem to resent that she advocates for herself… there is nothing wrong with that. The problem isn’t her asking/negotiating… I agree with Alison that if you don’t want to give her the raise or cant justify it, then don’t. But if you do agree to give her the raise then don’t hold it against her that she asked. Especially since you are rewarding the request.

  39. Lizzianna*

    I know it created chaos the last time, but also, what happened is kind of why pay transparency is important. OP sounds like a reasonable manager who was already pushing to deal with pay transparency, but I’d be willing to be OP is in the minority, and it doesn’t sound like Mariah knew that things were already in the work when she shared her salary.

    Employees knowing how much their peers make helps them advocate for themselves. Managers shouldn’t just be giving raises to people who are good at advocating for raises. There are too many structural inequities that make certain classes more or less successful when asking for a raise in what feels like a vacuum.

  40. OMG It's 2024*

    I 100% support salary transparency. People can and SHOULD talk about pay, within similar roles and seniority (by which I mean if I tell someone with 10 years less experience than I have, who doesn’t have the higher level degree and certification I have what I’m making, that doesn’t make sense, if it will make him think he should earn the same, when he clearly shouldn’t). However, it’s one thing to talk about it and it’s another waltz into a new role and … announce it? It sounds like Mariah KNEW she was making more than everyone else and … it rubs me the wrong way that she immediately told everyone “Hey I make $K, how about you?” or whatever. Hopefully, she’s realized that was a mistake and won’t do it again, but sadly, I don’t think there’s a way to say, “It’s best if you don’t ANNOUNCE THIS TO THE WORLD” w/o her hearing “please don’t create more CHAOS and drama around this so keep yer trap shut.” But I agree with Alison that if her new little piece of work is worth a raise, then nobody should be butthurt about it. If you think they WILL be, well then maybe think about if you’re giving her the raise cuz she’s earned it, or because you fear her leaving or just… in general fear her.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      We don’t know the context in which she told folks. She could have been asked by her new team.

      1. OMG It's 2024*

        Well the OP says, “Upon transfer, Mariah immediately told everyone in my department her pay rate”.

        Which pretty much sounds like she just … told everyone. Maybe not as blunt as, “Hi, I’m Mariah and I make $100K a year. Nice to meet you,” or whatever, but that phrasing does NOT sound like it was part of a larger group question/conversation. I think the OP would’ve said, “some of the people knowing she came from another department with a similar payband, inquired about her rate,” or somehow indicated she was not just offering this information up for no reason, and not she “immediatey told everyone.”

  41. kanada*

    You cannot cannot CANNOT do this. Even if you’re phrasing it as a “suggestion” rather than a directive, the NLRB is clear that policies that “chill” discussion of wages are just as illegal as policies that flat-out prohibit it.

    In fact, you /especially/ cannot do it since you admitted you were already considering not giving her the increase because she might share her salary information with her coworkers. That’s textbook retaliation; it doesn’t matter that your concern is for the social consequences for the rest of your team rather than for keeping everyone’s wages low. If Mariah somehow finds out you were considering denying her a pay raise on this basis, then on top of violating the law in this instance, you’re going to leave yourself open to accusations of retaliation any time you deny her a pay raise in the future.

    1. Union Rep*

      Ooh yeah, I was so hung up on the threat that it didn’t immediately occur to me to frame withholding the second raise as retaliation for the first time Mariah had shared her salary. That would absolutely go in the unfair labor practice filing also! There’s a good enough prima facie case for it on the bare facts that the employer would have a hard time muddying the water about whether there was retaliatory intent. And there’d be a much better chance for financial penalties since you can put a dollar value on the harm.

      OP, don’t go there. All Mariah has to do is call up the NLRB or her state labor board and they’ll bring the charge for her. Even if the company gets out of it, you’ll be on HR and legal’s shit list for a long time for the time and money you cost the company. Give her the raise you admit she earned and stop letting the rest of the team blame her for your decisions.

  42. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

    thank you for succinctly articulating this!!!!!

    I honestly wish Mariah would complain. if OP thought Mariah and/or the office aftermath were “peak drama” then she has no idea what a legal complant would do… I really hope the OP can see the error of her ways and agree Mariah truly does hold all.the cards here and start acting more professional.

    Tjis remimds me of the letter from the boss who preferred millenial workers and going to the brewery with workers over lunch and was pikachu shocked when the non-drinker non-millenial worker quit and was very honest in the exit interview that eventually Boss got put on a pip and lost her job over it but just failed to see what the problem was.

  43. Anony37738*

    From personal experience, I have seen where a manager will specifically tell an employee not to share the raise with anyone on the team bc not everyone got the same percentage. If she shares it, then you now know that she cannot keep things to herself and next time when she is up for a raise, don’t give it to her.

    1. Union Rep*

      Both of the practices you describe are unethical everywhere and illegal at almost all US employers. Not that you care if you’re suggesting them. I hope those managers eventually got what they deserved, but my guess is they got away with it.

    2. Observer*

      This advice is, as noted, totally illegal in the US.

      But also, why? Why is her salary a secret that she needs to keep? Why is sharing her salary a sign of lack of discretion? The fact that her boss wants to keep their own employees from knowing that they could earn more is not something that any employee has a moral, ethical or “duty of loyalty” need to consider.

    3. Meyers and Briggs were not real doctors*

      yea thats classic retaliation. I’d like to understand why you would retaliate just for an employee doing something totally legal? Serious question.

  44. Zarniwoop*

    “The news of Mariah’s rate caused her to be very unpopular with the rest of the team.

    Everyone was satisfied with their raises — some were big enough that they were genuinely shocked! People cried.”

    I hope Mariah went around saying “You’re welcome.”

  45. Matth3w2*

    My organization has been doing “pay equity assessments” over the past 4 years or so, and as a result my salary has grown by leaps and bounds, to a level I never imagined I would hit in this role at this organization. I am genuinely worried to discuss this with people because I am convinced that there is something weird about my pay rate, even though the changes were supposed to have been all about “equity.”

  46. Glen*

    Should LW be doing more to manage her other reports’ behaviour? Mariah did them a favour but this letter makes it sound like she’s concerned that people will respond poorly again rather than being aware that Mariah’s decision to share her salary was a big part of correcting their pay. They should be able to put two and two together for themselves, I know, but it still seems a concern to me that they may have the wrong end of the stick.

  47. Tiger Snake*

    I have a firm personal belief that a company or manager that asks me to not discuss my salary is Not Being A Good Company, and that people feeling confident to talk about their salaries is a healthy workplace. Its why I so like the public service model where all salaries are literally public knowledge.

    What strikes me about this letter is that – this is a perfect example of the problems not talking about money causes. BECAUSE Mariah was open about her salary, the other staff AND OP now know their department got shafted. Rightly or wrongly, OP never thought to look at it before; if the departments had been talking wages previously, OP would have already had an idea of the payscale difference. Any pay increase will only affect the future, so nothing can change the fact their staff have been disadvantaged by the silence.

    If we don’t talk about it, its Mariah is favoured. If the argument is ‘if they talk about it then Mariah is resented’, then that tells me others don’t know how or IF they get pay rises and don’t feel confident in bringing it to OP – at a time where they’re already going to feel a little bit like OP and the company don’t have their best interests at heart. And that’s a problem, but it’s a problem in OP’s remit to fix by being open and honest about what they agree a pay rise would be applicable. That puts all the balls in their staff’s hands and empowers them to argue their case as well.

  48. Jo-El*

    I just don’t talk about what I make to anyone at any time. I might be doing the exact same job as 5 other people but there are a literal thousand small details a manager has to take into account that dictates what people make: who consistently stays 20 minutes late to finish jobs vs leaving at 4 on the dot every day, who is better with customers, who knows more about excel and can use it to work faster, who makes the least number of daily mistakes, and so on. No employee takes this into account when they hear someone makes more than them and more so, they don’t WANT to take it into account.

  49. clifford*

    This is somewhere the question of whether you should vs. whether you have a legal right to or not needs to asked. There are a thousand reasons employee A could make more than employee B with similar qualifications. Should we also publicize the results of their annual reviews and force managers to make all raises and bonuses employee-facing? A measure of someone’s productivity and worth to their employer is not a black box function of experience + education.

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