When I wrote my post on why secret salaries are a baaaaaad idea I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into. On most other posts I’ve written, 3 out of 4 commenters agree – in this case 3 out 4 thought that open salaries are a really baaaaaaaad idea. How many a’s are there in baaaad anyway?
Interestingly, the comments from people who have tried open salaries are overwhelmingly in favor of the idea – many cite great benefits. I still think open salaries are a great idea for employees, businesses and the bottom line.
I’ve summed up the major arguments from the comments against secret salaries and my arguments against these arguments below, not so much because I want the last word (well, that too :o) but mostly because most of the arguments are really good arguments, many of which I hadn’t thought about before.
No one will adopt it / it can’t be done
The short counter-argument: Some companies have done it. In some cases it’s failed, in some cases it’s worked incredibly well.
Employees would demand more, People won’t demand a reasonable salary, employees overestimate their value
Experiences from companies that have open salaries, including my own, don’t support this. People are very reasonable about it and perfectly capable of realizing that some people get paid more than others.
If I’m good at bargaining and therefore get a higher salary, I deserve more because as a good bargainer I’m valuable to the company
Great! Then make bargaining skills one of the things that count in determining salaries. That way it’s out in the open and not something that counts in some cases and not in others.
People will start complaining
No, people are already complaining, because in many cases they already know who’s making what. Making salaries open means managers will discover that people complain. That’s a good thing because it brings the complaints out into the open where they can be dealt with.
It’s impossible/difficult to set fair wages and difficult to define how salaries are set
Well this is true whether salaries are open or secret. Making them open makes it easier to set fair salaries, because you know what other similare employees are getting.
The company wants to pay as little as possible / Companies can’t pay more
As I wrote in the post, no company has an interest in paying as little as they can get away with. Companies have an interest in making salaries as fair as possible, not as low as possible. And because making salaries more fair can lead to people being happier at work and therefore to increased productivity and quality, it’s actually good for the bottom line.
Your salary is not connected to your co-workers’
That’s actually true. But you perception of how fair your salary is is totally connected to your co-workers’ salaries.
Employees hired during a drought
What do you do if there’s a sudden drought of qualified employees in the job market and you need to hire employees at signifcantly higher wages than existing similar employees?
Embarassment if a person’s salary drops
Well that’s true: If a person’s salary drops it will be taken as an indication that that person is now less valuable to the company. But what’s the alternative? Keep on paying that employee a salary that’s now unfairly high, merely to avoid embarassing an employee? That’s doing everybody, including the employee, a disservice.
The world is unfair
Sometimes. Does this mean we shouldn’t work towards making it more fair?
Salary is a personal matter
I have a lot of sympathy for this argument because in today’s society salary is quite a taboo. It’s not up there with sexual practices, but close. But why is that? Does it need to be?
Difficult to explain why Johnson gets more, You have to explain/defend every raise, Results in a new line of bs from HR
Is it really that difficult to explain why person A gets more than person B? Shouldn’t a good leader be able to easily and succinctly justify her choices?