Sharing your salary with coworkers

I just watched “Adam Ruins Everything” (highly recommend btw) and he had an episode encouraging employees to be open about their salary with one another, in order to keep employers fair with compensation. Does anyone do this? Is this a crazy idea or does it actually have practical merit?

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At a company that I worked at some of my colleagues and I disclosed how much we were earning to each other but we were told afterward that we shouldn’t talk about it as people were using it to justify pay rises to keep them in line with their equals. Needless to say nobody received a pay rise because of this. I think it entirely depends on the company and the thoughts of the management as to whether it’s worthwhile disclosing salaries.

I’ve never had a problem sharing how much I was earning but I’ve never had any dealing with a company who has shared that opinion. I agree that the norm should be reversed.

As an employee, I’ve never shared my salary with anyone besides my wife. Even my close friends really don’t need to know how much I’m earning. I don’t even know how much my brother makes for a living. Perhaps I’m an older generation than the average millennial today, but why should your salary have a bearing on me or vice versa?

As an employer with a team of ~15+ people, our salaries are fairly evenly distributed, but every employee has: Different degrees, different work experience, different attitudes and work ethics, different contributions, and other extenuating factors that determine their salary (are we offering sponsorship, are we offering selective remote work benefits for super-commuters, do some folks have more equity?). You also pay people compensation based on where they are coming from. A super talented person I steal away from a competitor may be able to demand a higher salary based on what they were making. Likewise, I wouldn’t take a new hire and offer them $50K more than they are currently making so that they are even with the person next to them, especially at the offer stage where their overall contributions are unknown.

If one of my team members said “I’m making $XX” and the other said “I’m making $YY, wow you must really be underpaid” it generally removes their ability to calculate all of those variables and creates some level of animosity. I’ve had employees leave and tell me they are making 200% more, only to speak with them a few months later and find out they are now a 1 man team working 18 hour days, so to insist I was under-paying them is a bit un-fair.

I agree with Mike here, but I’m a gen X er.

I had an employee complain to me that another designer got a larger raise a few years back. I took it as an opportunity to explain that the designer in question did high quality work that was thoughtful and error free, always faster than the time I estimated for her, and she was a joy to work with, the rest of the team loved her. That is why she got a bigger raise. I explained that if a bigger raise was desired, follow that blueprint.

Millennial here, and I agree with what Michael and Mike have said as well. If i’m the same role as someone but out performing them, compensation is definitely warranted, and vise versa. I think there’s an obvious issue with wage gap especially among genders and a baseline wage is something needed for discreet positions. I’ll also add that I’ve noticed where I work not so much salary (we don’t talk about it) but vacation time that people have negotiated for, and again I think its warranted in many situations.

All fair points above.
To be honest, I’ve never had a problem with it in previous roles because I felt that I was rewarded accordingly with the effort I put in and the quality of work that I produced so I guess that might have skewed my views.
I wouldn’t ever use someone else’s salary to justify my own anyway, I think it was more out of curiosity.
With hindsight I can see how it could cause issues though.

I have to qualify my statement by saying in all but a couple of cases I’ve been lucky enough to have great bosses who did their best to fight for what their teams deserved. I have tried my best to do the same, not always successfully, but you have to keep trying.

Not clear on the details of performance vs. compensation above, but annual performance reviews often involve peer reviews, whereby team members offer input on collaborators and team members over a given period. It’s supposed to be agnostic of previous life and/or achievements.

If someone bitches about their compensation, they can be reminded that their performance was measured real-time by broader consensus, and not individual managers’ whim.

plus you can always use the core77 salary survey: Design Salary Guide | Coroflot

Also, if you and your friends feel comfortable, then you should talk about it. I have a few friends who work at competing firms and they shared their pay with each other just to compare how different firms compensated people. All three of them had similar levels of experience, and were all very good. In that case I think it was helpful.

I agree with a lot of the points mentioned above. I would never say my reason for a raise is just because Johnny sitting next to me makes more than me. But to see from another POV, here are some counter arguments.

Being in the dark about what coworkers make can reduce your understanding of what you’re worth. Working next to Johnny every day I have atleast some understanding of how much contribution I give compared to him, but I have no clue how that translates into dollars if I don’t know what Johnny makes.

One sided knowledge takes confidence away from the employee to ask for more compensation, and gives more power to the employer.

This also allows things like wage discrimination to persist quietly.

I’ve shared my salary, and vice-versa, during work related conversations amongst a few close friends, but never with co-workers at my current employer.

If I thought I was worth 50k/year then thats what I’d ask for, and if I thought I was worth 100k/year then I’d ask for that. There’s no guarantee that I would receive it, but I think it’s fair to negotiate for compensation based on the value that I add, and not simply based on what the person next to me earns. In saying that, my employers so far have been reasonably fair with compensation, and I haven’t had to negotiate my way out of a minimum wage offer situation.

The sharing-my-wage concept seems like a way to avoid the potentially awkward conversation where you have to tell your boss what your worth and why, or that you want more money and why, and replace it with an blanket everybody else gets paid this much so I should as well statement.

I do however think that anonymous group data reports like the Coroflot salary survey are very useful to use as a baseline given the variations for similar positions in different cities and countries.

I’m a Gen X/Y hybrid (one year more X, other year more Y…)…I feel comparing salaries is a bit old-fashioned, the millenials know they are going to make it big one day anyway right. As long as salaries are fair and nobody is being taken advantage of, it is good to be aware of each other’s circumstances but no need to talk about it in detail. Of course in general we do want to know where the money is going i.e. ‘fiscal organisational transparency’.

the millenials know they are going to make it big one day anyway right

:slight_smile: funny

I only share my salary with my boss, HR, and my family.

I had a pair of designers awhile back who were also close friends and told each other how much they made. Put me in an uncomfortable position when they wanted to go tit-for-tat on salary increases. This was a couple years ago and now I’d probably handle it more like Mike explained above.

There’s a big aerospace engineering company out here that (urban legend goes) posts everyone’s salary on the boss’ door. Including the boss (who is also the founder). They are well-known for being rather unconventional, and skirt the edges of employment laws in other aspects.

I’d never openly share mine with a coworker.
However, I was persuaded to in an odd situation a few years ago with another coworker. Knowing what he made compared to what I made at the time made me respect him quite a bit less, compared to the amount of work we both did.

No good, either way.

I’ve tried to be more open about my salary, even with co-workers. If asked, I will tell, but I don’t volunteer it. The thing is that this information is that keeping it secret ONLY helps the employer. Maybe if the average worker was more open about it, we would have the kind of wage growth that we’ve been lacking. As a side note, I think people in rapidly developing countries do share their salary and that’s one of the drivers to wage growth.

As an aside, Ontario passed the Public Employee Salary Disclosure Act in 1996. This requires that the government of Ontario publish the salary for every provincial position. This includes by name for people who can negotiate their salary. The result has been huge salaries in the public sector there because everyone now does go to their boss and say, “I need more than Mrs. X because …”.

New York publishes the salaries of all state employees, but in my experience (especially with a wife, mother and sister who are all public school teachers) it tended to have the opposite effect. 1 - Public workers are mostly unionized, which means their wages are almost completely gated by long, grueling contract negotiations and tenure, rather than individual contributions or performance. 2 - Tax payers now have ammunition to scold teachers, police and other state workers for being “over paid”.

I don’t think disclosing salary really is an inhibitor to wage growth, I think it’s just capitalism at work. There are just not enough ID jobs, and those in ID jobs face a perpetual influx of high quality new graduate talent that keeps the median costs lower. Combined with more and more offshore designers who can work closer to the factories where stuff is made, the value proposition in a lot of industries is to have a couple of good workers stateside and let the rest fall over into Asia for 1/3rd the price. I think I was paid well as an Industrial Designer, but basically doubled my salary after switching to UX.

So, inspired by this discussion, I traded some salary history with a couple of close friends… now in all 3 cases these were friends I have known for over 15 years, and none of us work together now, though I used to work for one of them, and the other used to work for me. The one that used to work for me I’ve known since design school, so lots of trust. All three of us have worked in house, and as a consultant, and all three of us have worked at the exec design leadership level. Here is what I learned:

  1. I was getting paid at just about the right level (I thought I was paid higher than average, but based on my sample set, either all three of us are outliers, or what we were paid was about normal)

  2. I charge about the right amount for my level of experience.

So, while it may have eliminated a little bit of that “I’m ahead of the game” feeling, it also eliminated that “what if I’m not getting paid enough” feeling which was worth it.

That’s great to hear!