Why You Should Start Sharing Your Salary Around the Office
The standard policy is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. But is it actually helping anybody but the company?
Every young professional hears the lines eventually. A stern warning of heartfelt advice. Don’t ask people what they make, and be careful who you tell. It’s a taboo to discuss salary with, well, anyone.
“It’s none of their business what you make.”
“You don’t want to make people jealous.”
I’ve heard many reasons why salary shouldn’t be shared, but none explained how keeping the secret actually helps you as an employee. (Spoiler alert) It doesn’t.
Millennials are more likely than their parents to share their salaries with friends, family and coworkers. And we all should. Despite the growing trend, the majority of professionals entering the workforce still feel uneasy about the whole thing. And it’s understandable given that’s all we’ve heard throughout life.
I try to share my salary whenever necessary — so I don’t get labeled a hypocrite — and in hopes it adds some value. When the going rate for your job is public domain, it makes it harder for companies to underpay because you understand the worth you command. Like buying a car, the more research you do, the less a salesman can get over on you.
Trading salaries isn’t so you can storm into a manager’s office demanding you get paid as much as your friend. It’s about learning the market for your job, how you fit into that market, and leveraging the information to get what you deserve. It’s about negotiating for the win-win.
Salary insights are a vital tool in any professional toolkit, but they are just the start. Knowing the why, is just as important as the how much.
The whys are those specialized skills and cross sectional experiences that take a qualified candidate above and beyond the requirements. Not every applicant brings the exact same qualifications. As a professional, actively seeking or not, learning what factors into raising that base salary needs to be understood before starting negotiations.
Websites like Glassdoor have become as essential to the job application process as Linkedin because of the frame of reference they provide. These sites provide the benefit of comfortable sharing, without the worry of social consequences and office politics. And making candid salary discussions common practice in offices adds even more value.
Nevertheless , the perception endures that coworkers will envy or resent you for making more than they do. But, is this how you would react hearing a coworker makes more than you? Or would you prepare your case to ask management for a raise?
Obviously, the executives and managers are the first to warn against sharing this information. What’s surprising are the workers who spread the paranoia. Secrecy most often benefits the company, not the worker. The employee’s lack of information ultimately gets leveraged to get labor for cheap. Seasoned professionals, and recent grads alike are ripe for exploitation when there is no relevant data available to compare.
Now, everyone shouldn’t shout their salary from the rooftops indiscriminately. Consider who you share with, and how you communicate the message.
Unless you are comfortable being asked for loans on a regular basis, the whole world doesn’t need to know how much you earn. Coworkers could get the wrong idea or misunderstand. Sometimes an employee actually does deserve higher pay for the same job because specialized skills make them more qualified.
However, no one sharing their salary with anyone disproportionately benefits the people writing the checks, not those receiving them. And sharing your pay could profit the entire workforce. Like a vaccine and herd immunization, quality information requires mass participation for the full benefits.
Hopefully, opening up about salary can lead to more robust conversations about the qualifications and experiences leveraged to gain additional benefits. Offices should be a place of open conversations about the skills rewarded in the workplace. Leadership should be accountable for upholding the standard of compensation. Ultimately, the individual worker should be in control of their career.