A while back I wrote about keeping salaries secret in the workplace and why I think it’s just a darned silly idea. It’s easily the most controversial post I’ve ever written, with 70% of the (many) commenters disagreeing vehemently. I posted a comment round-up as well.
Now Elana Centor revisits the issue in a post called The Last Frontier: Sharing Your Salary With Co-workers. She also finds that the idea of sharing salary information is not widely accepted.
Talk to most employee consultants and they say talking about salaries with co-workers is a bad idea.
My online search found just one consultant who agrees with me – Alexander Kjerulf who consults on how to be happy at work.
She cites some interesting articles. One horrible, horrible article on USAToday keeps telling us to never discuss our salaries – without ever once mentioning why. Except of course that it’s more convenient for the boss if you don’t.
It also blithely tells the story of an employee who was nearly fired for talking salary – even though US law explicitly says that “employers cannot interfere with, restrain or coerce employees in exercising their rights to discuss their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment for their mutual aid or protection.”
More relevant is a CNN article that tells us to proceed with caution, but at least acknowledges that sharing salary information can be useful.
More tellingly, one commenter tells the story of finding a fax with all her co-workers salaries in it. The result: She is frustrated because she feels she is paid too little relative to her co-workers – but she can’t complain because she can’t admit to knowing their salaries.
I’m still convinced that keeping salaries secret is bad for both employees and businesses. It may seem easier and more convenient here and now, but the net result is an increased focus on compensation.
The question is of course how we break the taboo – it seems that in some workplaces talking about how much money you make is akin to discussing your sexual preferences. Any ideas?