In American author, David Burkus’ 2016 Tedx talk, he made a good case for why you should know exactly how much your coworkers are earning.
“Most of us are uncomfortable with broadcasting our salary,” he said. “We’re not supposed to tell our neighbours and we’re definitely not supposed to tell our office neighbours.”
“If everyone knew what everybody got paid, then all hell would break loose.”
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“But what if secrecy was the reason for strife in the workplace, and what would happen if you removed that secrecy?”
His studies show that total pay transparency (sharing salaries across the workplace) makes for a better workplace for both the employee and for the organisation.
“When people don’t know how their pay compares to their peers, they’re more likely to feel underpaid and maybe even discriminated against,” he says.
Others say asking the boss to match Jim from accounting’s salary is actually detrimental to you, especially if you haven’t done any prior research about wages in your field.
In Australia, pay transparency is only at the top level, but chair of the Australian HR Institute (AHRI), Peter Wilson, says if employees are opting to share their salaries in any company, that’s their prerogative, and it can be a good thing overall.
Here’s what he says.
It can bridge the gender pay gap
The AHRI’s staff surveys show the most common pain point among respondents is their salary, and while he says the “wisdom behind it is a little mixed”, if you’re earning a little less than the rest, talking about salaries with colleagues (more often than not) can lead to a boost in your pay.
Wilson says women find it really valuable to chat about their pay with people in comparable roles, and it often leads to a boost in their pay if they’re earning less than their male peers.
“Talking about pay can be a good way to get rid of pay discrimination, particularly gender pay discrimination,” Wilson said.
And pay transparency doesn’t just retain female workers, according to Forbes, it even attracts them, and makes the pay gap problem self-correcting.
It can lead to a little doom and gloom in the office
If you find out you’re earning less than what you think you should be, and less than what your colleague is earning, Wilson says it “can breed discontent in the workplace”.
Simply put? It’s a punch to the gut to find out your co-worker, who’s often your good friend too, is on $10,000 more than you.
But, Wilson says employees often have different ideas on how they compare to one another, and they have a “fairly inflated opinion of themselves.”
But Forbes says workplaces have combated this by making performance an objective test, and often employers will just need to explain to their disgruntled employees why they make what they make, and how they can improve, which leads to better performance in the longer term.
At the end of the day?
All in all, sharing pay packets is okay, subject to privacy.
“People have the right to ask their colleagues, but their colleagues reserve the right to withhold it.”
And while Wilson says it can put pressure on an employer, that’s not your problem.
“At the end of the day, the employer has to do the right thing by you,” he says.
“People will vote with their feet.”