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Should You Share Your Salary With Your Co-workers?

Topics: Negotiation

Salary transparency is hot right now. More companies are revealing what workers make, in the hopes that it will increase trust, improve productivity, even minimize the gender pay gap. But that doesn’t meant that sharing salaries is totally without peril for employees.


(Photo Credit: ToGa Wanderings/Flickr)

Fast Company recently spoke with Tim Low, vice president of PayScale, to get his take on salary transparency and its potential downsides for workers. Among the possible pitfalls:

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1. What is seen, cannot be unseen.

Low cautions companies against adopting an “all or nothing” approach, where salaries are either a jealously guarded secret or totally on display.

For workers, this caveat extends to your private policy about telling your co-workers what you make. While you have the legal right to discuss your salary with your colleagues, it might not be in your best interest to do so.

Remember that once you tell Joe in Accounting that you make more money than he does, you can’t take it back. If the revelation fosters resentment, it could impact your own happiness at work.

2. You might wind up feeling bad about yourself and your employer.

There are a lot of reasons why you might make less than a colleague. You might have less experience, or fewer specialized skills. Maybe everything else is equal, but you didn’t negotiate your salary — or worse, tried to, but received a big fat no in response, either because you were negotiating with a different hiring manager or at a different time in the company’s history — or because your company culture is biased and discriminates based on sex, gender, age, race, or any one of a number of unfair factors.

The first thing to do if you decide to share salaries and find out something that displeases you is to arm yourself with information. PayScale’s Salary Calculator can help you estimate what you should be making, given your experience, skills, and abilities.

3. You might wind up punished in subtle ways for violating unspoken rules about the culture.

Even if your boss can’t terminate you for telling your co-workers what you make, you could lose his good will for doing something that “just isn’t done” at the company. He might not be able to complain about your disclosure on your annual review, but he can interpret your other successes and failures in a less positive light than he would have ordinarily.

Bottom line, if you’re going to share, be discreet. Absent a Norma Rae type situation where your basic human rights are at stake, printing up signs is probably not the way to go. Decide whether it seems like you’d have more to gain from sharing than staying silent, and then convey that information in a calm, professional manner.

Just be ready to hear something you might not want to hear.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you think salary transparency is good or bad for workers? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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Great article! There are definitely some downsides to salary transparency, but we think that it’s something that businesses should consider adopting. As for the third point, if salary transparency becomes a part of the corporate culture, there shouldn’t be any backlash for discussing salaries. After all, if everyone can see them, it means they encourage discussion. You might be interested in a blog post I wrote called “The Pros and Cons of Salary Transparency”. You can find it here:

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