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Why Are We So Reluctant to Talk About Our Salaries?


Hey, do you mind if we ask you a question? How much money do you make? If you’re like most people, you won’t answer — at least, not in person, and not without the promise of anonymity. But why are we so disinclined to tell others how much we earn?

Some people think the root of our reluctance is good manners — or at least, the desire to smooth social interactions.

“I think it comes down to jealousy,” entrepreneur Paula Jagemann told the Frederick News Post. “People are inherently jealous of those who have, or conceptually may have, more than someone else.”

Not speaking up, in other words, helps us avoid hurting other people’s feelings, while making sure that we don’t wind up with an inferiority complex.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

On the other hand, there are those who say that not being transparent about our salaries makes it easier for companies to engage in discriminatory practices. A recent article in Salon, for example, tells the story of a female sales rep who discovered that she was making $12,000 less than a male sales rep with similar experience. She only found out because the male sales rep in question was her husband.

As an added wrinkle, some companies have policies prohibiting salary discussion. (Never mind the dubious legality of the practice.)

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Do you think people should talk about their salaries? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.


(Photo Credit: casperam/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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