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1 in 5 American Workers Share Salary Info With Coworkers. Should You?

Topics: Negotiation
Danielle Moler/Flickr

According to a new survey, 20 percent of us talk cash with our colleagues, sharing our salary details with our cubicle neighbors.

The Cashlorette’s survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) and included 1,001 adults living in the continental U.S. The findings showed that younger workers are more likely to share their salary info with coworkers: 30 percent of millennials reported doing so, compared to 19 percent of Gen Xers and 8 percent of baby boomers. They were also more than four times more likely than baby boomers to talk about pay with friends.

The Benefits of Pay Transparency

Knowing more about what your coworkers make can benefit you, professionally. It can also work in your employer’s favor, increasing trust and retention, which is why many companies have adopted policies that support pay transparency.

Some may even go as far as revealing exactly what each employee makes, while others may just share the company’s compensation strategy and practices, helping workers gain a better understanding of what they can do to get a bigger raise.

But, of course, many companies still choose to keep workers in the dark about pay ranges and individual pay. In that case, some experts advise opening up the salary conversation with colleagues on your own.

“It is so important to have conversations around salary so that it’s no longer taboo,” says Vicki Salemi, a career expert for, in an interview with NBC News. “The more you talk about it without thinking that it’s something you shouldn’t be talking about, the more confident you’ll likely be when you approach negotiation conversations. If you’re trained to think money is hush-hush, it will be much more challenging to speak about it openly, calmly and confidently with your boss.”

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The Risks of Going by What You Hear

The idea of talking about your salary with coworkers might seem shocking if you’ve always been private with your financial details. You might even worry that you’ll get in trouble with the boss.

Here’s where it’s important to understand your legal rights.

“According to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employers are prohibited from interfering or restraining employees from taking part in ‘mutual aid or protection,’” writes Dan Kalish, partner and founder of HKM Employment Lawyers, in a Career News post. “In other words, merely discouraging employees from sharing their salaries could be a violation of labor laws.”

Kalish notes that there are some exceptions: “It is important to note that employers may be able to get away with discouraging certain methods of salary sharing by arguing that there is a legitimate and substantial business justification such as security concerns or obstruction of employee productivity.”

The biggest danger in talking about salary with your colleagues may be taking what you hear at face value. While it’s good to know what your coworker is making, that information might be misleading out of context. For example, it’s possible that your teammate has a certification that you lack, or more experience in a certain area. (And, of course, there’s always the chance that they’re stretching the truth.)

The best way to determine how your pay stacks up against the market is to compare your salary against that of thousands of people with your job and experience, not just a few at your office. Take PayScale’s Salary Survey and get a free report with that information in less than 10 minutes.

In short, if you talk to your coworkers about pay, do it to create a greater atmosphere of transparency and to make yourself more comfortable discussing pay. But don’t forget to look at your compensation in the larger context of the market as a whole.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you talk about salary with your colleagues? We want to hear from you. Tell us why (or why not) in the comments, or come talk to us on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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