The Pros And Cons Of Discussing Salaries At Work
Actors from the hit series The Crown recently made headlines for income disparity between the two lead characters. Let’s face it – no one should make more than the Queen, but that’s just what happened when it came to light that star Claire Foy was earning less for her role as Queen Elizabeth than Matt Smith, who plays Prince Philip.
That situation was resolved, however, it’s just one of the high profile stories that continue to shed light on the gender pay gap. It also begs the question: should we talk salaries at work? The answer isn’t clear-cut, and it comes down to more than just gender – though it’s a weighty consideration.
Promotes pay equity. Discussing salaries at work has long been seen as taboo, but having open conversations can help boost pay equity. In other words, the more open and transparent salaries become, the more accountable organizations are to providing pay equity between male and female colleagues. Organizations like Buffer have made news for making employee compensation completely available online to the public, and perhaps other companies should follow suit.
Enables you to assess your market potential. It can be challenging to understand what you’re worth on the market, and discussing your salary with those in your field can help bridge that knowledge gap. One way to do this without sounding completely invasive is by asking someone who is in a similar role as yours what you might expect the range to be for a position within his or her firm. In doing so, you’ll get a sense of whether you make a fair amount or whether you should start looking elsewhere.
Gives you the confidence to ask for a raise. If you have an understanding that colleagues in similar roles (especially within the same firm) make more than you do for the same work, it could give you the confidence you need to ask for a raise. That being said, citing that others make more than you do likely won’t bode well with your employer and might, in fact, deter them from giving you the raise you want. Instead, start building a case for your increase by highlighting all of your accomplishments over the past year.
Creates animosity. Sharing salary information within a workplace can generate animosity if colleagues find out they make less than their peer. As such, it’s important to think twice before sharing salary information and perhaps only share with trusted friends and colleagues if you’re in a work environment where that information is not already transparent.
Leads to unfair comparisons. You might think it’s unfair that your colleague makes $10,000 more than you, but you also might not be considering certain aspects of their experience that appealed to your employer and made him or her a more appealing hire. For instance, do you know your colleague’s educational background? All of his or her previous work experiences and the associated skills developed? If not, then there’s no way of comparing your value.
Creates a distraction. When employees know one another’s salaries, it could lead to workplace distractions and detract from the tasks at hand. For instance, if a new project comes up, are roles being given based on merit in the workplace or pay grades? Viewing your colleagues as dollar signs instead of fellow employees might not be the best way to encourage productivity and camaraderie.
There are indeed valid cases both for and against workplace salary disclosure, and it’s clear that the decision comes down to the employer and the culture that they want to create. The one thing to keep in mind, however, is that once that transparency is created, it’s not easy to remove – for both the employers and employees who choose to disclose.