You Should Know How Much Everyone is Paid

Salary transparency can radically change a company for good—if it’s managed properly

Andy Chan
Andy Chan
Jan 17 · 4 min read

You’re working overtime for five consecutive days, staying past 10 pm at the office every day, deep in the trenches. You swear your eyes are going to melt for the number of hours you spend staring at the laptop. As you look at the second hand travel around the clock, you start to wonder if you’re actually paid enough to do this.

The reality is, you’re not alone: only 19% of employees are comfortable with their salary, according to a 2018 Indeed survey. Though one can agree that salary isn’t everything to a job, for most, it’s what determines how satisfied they are of their jobs.

On average, the higher your income, the more likely you are to be satisfied with your job, according to the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workplace Happiness Index. With a higher salary, you’re also less likely to quit—finding meaning in your job much easier too.

However, it’s very human to think about your salary after being in the job for a while. When your responsibilities start piling up—beyond your job scope even—and you start giving things up just to complete work, you might go: “Am I even paid enough to do this?”

Yet, not many people can know whether they are truly being paid enough. How would you go about with knowing it? Perhaps, you could set aside your co-worker relationships and broach on this sensitive topic. Maybe you could bring the issue up to your human resources.

In today’s era of workplace wellness, salary transparency is gradually becoming less of a radical idea. What used to be refused outrightly by HR professionals is now being examined closely by social scientists, researchers, and consultants.

The results are clear: it’s an insane idea, but it could radically transform a company for good.


It’s National Jealousy Day in Finland, where the country publishes precise pay and tax details for all workers. Dubbed an “annual orgy of financial voyeurism” by Finnish news broadcaster Yle Uutiset, every penny you make is searchable online or discoverable just by making a phone call.

They’re not alone: Sweden and Norway do the same thing too.

Countries adopting salary transparency to such an extreme extent is a clear indicator that it has many positive outcomes. Besides aiming to build trust and transparency, it can help reveal persistent gender wage gaps in society.

In the private sector, companies like Whole Foods, SumAll, and Buffer are already adopting salary transparency policies.

Salary transparency is picking up in popularity as employees want more information about their current and next jobs. With platforms like Payscale and Glassdoor, employees also have a platform to do background checks on companies that they are in or might be joining in the future.

Today, HR professionals are increasingly championing this movement for transparency. LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2019 report showed that 27% of HR professionals share salary ranges, with 22% likely to start.

That signals a move towards building trust. Without information, you would not be able to plan your salary and chart the growth.

Knowing about your salary can close gaps you might not know existed. Gender, ethnicity, and disability are all factors in increasing the pay gap. In America, white women in the U.S. on average earn 79% of what white men make, according to a report from the American Association of University Women.

If you’re black, Native American or Hispanic, you will earn even lower than white women.

Without knowing about everyone else’s pay ranges or grades, you may not compare the right things with others. You are also less likely to seek their help: a study in the Journal of Business and Psychology showed that we are more likely to find someone for help if we knew their pay grade.

Information about your colleagues' pay ranges and help to level the playing field: you might discover that you were paid unfairly. Knowing about everyone else’s salary creates a financial benchmark that you can check against your job responsibilities.

That way, you can make your conclusions about whether you can get that pay raise. Besides internal benchmarks, you can also get an average market rate to help you understand your position.


Many professionals are still on the fence about pay transparency. Researchers have suggested that it might cause people to become envious of others, which results in overall employee disengagement. You might also realize that you’re not paid enough and thus, lower your work performance accordingly.

Without knowing whether you’re fairly paid, you might end up working more than what’s paid for, which is counterproductive. Rather than just work harder to get pay raises, it is much better to be a little thick-skinned to ask “When am I going to get one?”

Like this article? We deliver even more value on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday every week on our H+B Digest.

The Human Business

We’re all about the humans in the business. We publish authoritative articles on leadership, management and business.

Andy Chan

Written by

Andy Chan

Founder of Human+Business & the H+B Digest | Leadership Consultant | Content Marketer & Writer | Ex-Startup Co-Founder

The Human Business

We’re all about the humans in the business. We publish authoritative articles on leadership, management and business.

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