Feature

Employment: Talking about your salary

It’s time we got comfortable with discussing our paychecks.

It’s time we got comfortable with discussing our paychecks, said Jen Doll in TheAtlantic.com. Doing so is a “long-held taboo of office life,” but we should be bucking that social norm, because knowledge is power—“and so are salaries.” Being open about what we earn might upset the folks in human resources, but who cares? “If we all knew each other’s salaries, we would be in better, more informed bargaining positions,” and any wage discrimination would be immediately apparent. That may be one reason why employers don’t like it when people “stop being ‘polite’ and start real-talking about pay.” They worry it will breed resentment among employees and deluge bosses with demands for raises. In fact, being open about pay benefits workers, allowing them to realistically negotiate for the pay they deserve.

The taboo is fading already, said Lauren Weber and Rachel Emma Silverman in The Wall Street Journal. Millennials, in particular, are turning the tide on salary secrecy. “Accustomed to documenting their lives in real time on social media forums like Facebook and Twitter, they are bringing their embrace of self-disclosure into the office with them.” Salaries for government employees are often a matter of public record, and some websites—such as Glassdoor.com—allow employees to anonymously post their salaries as a guide for job hunters. Companies “cannot outright bar rank-and-file employees from disclosing their pay internally or externally,” no matter what sternly worded employee handbooks say. But there are some tips to follow when broaching the topic with a trusted co-worker. Don’t bring it up to brag, don’t betray a colleague’s confidence in salary negotiations, and prepare for disappointment if your colleague makes more than you do. Remember, too, that “compensation is an inexact science” that factors in labor-market conditions and budgets as well as individual employees’ performance.

And maybe call your representative, said Tanya Hernández in The New York Times. The Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced in Congress in January, would abolish employers’ ability “to punish employees who share their salary information with one another.” A few states—including California, Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan—already prohibit this, but a legal mandate for wage transparency would “empower the legal system to ferret out wage discrimination.” And despite what companies might think, salary transparency can benefit management as well. Many firms have found that it actually “dispels employees’ anxieties and fosters trust and productivity.” So much for that taboo.

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