Although salary is one component of an overall compensation
package, it dominates many people’s thinking and self-worth.
Now I am only one person and everyone has his or her own
opinion about salary discussion openness. So, I will pull together
some information on this “hot button” topic. This topic probably
will not easily go away in our competitive, capitalist system.
Lauren Weber co-authored a WSJ article in which she drew
up four recommendations about speaking with co-workers:
- speak only with people you trust
- define and communicate your true motivation
- carefully use this information when speaking with others,
“once the information is out, misplaced feelings and unintended
consequences can and do occur.” [my words]
- be prepared for unexpected findings.
Carlos Portocarrero offered that “life is not fair.”
comparing salaries will only bring tense moments.
Catey Hill wrote a meaningful piece saying there are few times
when she recommends speaking with co-workers–
reciprocal sharing when you are certain you are underpaid,
when you have data to support everyone is underpaid and you
compare it to a benchmark or competitor, or
when someone leaves a comparable position (leaving the firm
It is not just an objective data sharing discussion. I recently
mentored an entrepreneur who shared her earnings with her
employees in a small firm. Upon learning about how much she
cleared, they, to a person, all wanted significant raises. This is
despite the fact they were very well paid and had choices about
how much they had to work and how much income they would
be compensated. Their demands kept escalating, even when
their salary was increased.
Point: We never seem satisfied for long with a pay raise.
Companies may try to establish a policy that it is improper
to share salary information but the NLRA prohibits preventing
the sharing of salary information.
I do believe it is right for someone to be properly compensated
in meeting their objectives. It is hard then in a competitive environment
when research does not lead to profits or problems are not fixed
or some combination of circumstances leads to failure and people
are richly compensated. (It seems to happen all the time for
highly paid individuals, but they probably have legally enforceable
Consider submitting your pay information honestly and truthfully
into professional databases about salary.
Be careful about job titles so that they reflect comparable positions.
Insist that the models reflect current conditions [no older data],
employ accepted statistical methods [understand objective
comparisons require more information that means] and are
transparent [how are outliers identified, does salary include
bonuses, when was the last raise, and many more].
Ask what the shape of the distribution is and sample size.
Ask what the checks for validity and comparison are (mean, median,
When someone asks about salary say you meet the ACS salary
expectation, for example.
As Michele Royalty said in the WSJ comments: “… we all compared
salary, despite all the corporate restrictions and practices. Some
people move on, for pay or other reasons. The most ambitious
make the most money, but they have to work harder, move around,
get additional exposure, etc. Frankly a 20% difference in pay does
not make that much difference. If it does, they can find another job.”