Why Should You Talk About Your Salary With Your Co-workers?

Did you know some companies impose secrecy and deem it illegal to discuss salary with co-workers?  Contrary to popular belief, sharing salary details with your co-worker isn’t illegal. Salary awareness is an essential part of determining one’s value and worth within an organization. However, it can be quite tricky to find out your co-worker’s salary. This is because the pay is usually confidential due to company guidelines, laws, or policies. Ultimately, this sole reason can likely hold back employees from discussing wages, which, we believe, is plausible considering the repercussions one may have to face afterward. Nonetheless, there are still some proven strategic ways that may help you find your co-workers’ salaries without getting into any legal issues.

Even Barrack Obama has said, “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination, and we should not tolerate it.”

Speaking Up About Your Salary Is A Skill To Embrace

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In today’s competitive world, several employees end up accepting a pay much lower than what their co-workers make due to the misconception that discussing or even negotiating wages can stir the pot leading to problems in the workplace.

Besides, employees may also fear ending up getting in trouble for finding how much their co-workers are getting paid despite the warning given not to discuss it.

In a survey conducted, 28% revealed that they didn’t negotiate their salary as they are uncomfortable discussing pay, and 19% said they didn’t want to be perceived as pushy.

For many of us, discussing salary is something outside the comfort zone and can be frightening. However, talking to your co-workers about your salary is a skill that you should learn, embrace, and get comfortable with.

To make it difficult, you’ll find companies telling you it creates a bad work environment. Additionally, they also say that you’ll conclude why someone else is getting paid more without all of the information.

Of course, there are several taboo things not to talk about at your workplace, but discussing salary shouldn’t be one of them.

In actuality, there are many other reasons they don’t want you to discuss your salary. But that’s precisely what we are going to discuss next!

Why Should You Talk About Your Salary With Your Co-workers?

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So, why should you talk about your salary despite your boss being against it?

1. It’s Okay And Perfectly Legal To Talk About Your Salary

You’d be surprised to know that it is legal for employees to discuss wages and salary with their co-workers, and your employer can’t forbid you from doing it.

Unless you have signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement and breached the clauses stating that prohibits salary discussion among co-workers, you won’t land up in any legal formalities.

It is surprising how often companies tell their employees or imply that there are legal implications for discussing how much you make.

Whereas, it is unlawful, according to the New York Times, for employers to make it against the rules to discuss wages due to the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

This is the same act that allows employees to fundamental rights like bargaining their salary and forming unions. In addition, it is not illegal or confidential by law to discuss salary with co-workers.

However, HR’s have to keep employee salaries confidential by law and can’t disclose them to others.

So to ensure you don’t fall into any legal issues, always check if you had signed an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) or salary confidentiality agreement, which would prevent you from discussing this information among your co-workers.

2. Promotes Workplace Equality And Gives The Company A Sense Of Justice

Although discussing employee wages has been viewed as impolite over the years, pay transparency remains the best solution to bridge the wage gap between employees.

If people are sharing their salaries, then it makes it a little difficult for employers to pay someone less just because they think they have the power to do so. Because of this, many employers use the false excuse that discussing salary is confidential by law.

This is done to prevent employees from finding out that less qualified or equally as qualified are paid more than them. Eventually, this inequality will make employers think twice about how they pay the people they hire.

Moreover, it may begin to start with a fair salary from the beginning. If you want to know if the compensation you’re getting is fair, discuss it and try to find your co-worker’s salary.

3. Helps Employees To Advocate Higher Pay or Involve Unions To Address This Issue

Unions are bodies that regulate the workforce by providing advice and support to both employers and employees. Some of the issues that unions monitor, govern, and act upon are:

  • Terms of employment
  • Unemployed workers
  • Working environment
  • Working hours
  • Negotiation
  • Absence – Vacation, Sick leave, Parenting leave, etc.
  • Competence development
  • Conflict and strike
  • Equal treatment

Fortunately, the Equality Act of 2010 states that employees hold the right to discuss salary and wages for collective bargaining or protection.

Doing this prevents everyone from being underpaid and fosters a positive attitude to come together and ask for more pay if needed.

Moreover, a survey of 71,000 employees conducted by PayScale revealed that “open communication” regarding compensation and pay is one of the top predictors determining employees’ satisfaction and intent to leave.

4. You Learn How To Negotiate For A Better Salary

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The reason for feeling such discontent lies in the sheer salary secrecy set by the company.

Another survey from PayScale indicates that only one in five employees believe they are paid fairly at their job. On the other hand, 82% of employees are highly satisfied with their job when informed about their low pay beforehand.

All it does is build open communication between the employee and employer, which ultimately helps retain employees.

Similarly, when you have the means to find out your co-workers’ salary, it enables you to negotiate a better salary.

If you have never negotiated your salary or never negotiated it to your satisfaction, it would be the perfect opportunity for you to learn how to refine your negotiation skills successfully from someone who did it already.

Also, this puts you in the position to stand up and try and negotiate your salary with your employers, which you may have been thinking about doing for a while now. This gives you a great reason to and a lot of times the proper motivation as well.

5. It Makes For A Fair & Happier Work Environment

Contrary to popular belief and what your employers may tell you, an open conversation in the workplace about salary and wages doesn’t usually make for a hostile work environment.

In fact, there is more hostility when people are secretive about their salary compared to when people are just open about their pay. As a result, this may force employers to be a little more honest about how they decide to pay people.

Besides, it would push them to be a little bit fairer about it. Employers being honest with their employees about why they more or less than other employers will help ease people’s minds at work- an essential contributing factor in their performance.

One study published in the Journal of Business and Psychology found that employees are comfortable asking for help when they know what their colleagues make. A part of the reason for such behavior is because employees believe they are being underpaid. Hence they don’t work their best.

Furthermore, salary discussion makes your employers distribute fair pay and helps employees recognize their strengths or weaknesses.

For instance, as to what skills make you the key person in the team and vice versa.

This open communication environment does a lot more good than bad, even though you will see many people claiming how terrible the work environment it is. But, unfortunately, there are times when people get jealous of how much others make.

Nonetheless, this also weeds out people at the company for the wrong reasons and don’t have the right attitude. You’ll quickly be able to point those people out if they start taking out their salary on their co-workers instead of just trying to negotiate their salary.

Tips On How To Handle A Salary Discussion

Now that we have understood the benefits of salary discussion, here are a few tips on how you can approach a co-worker to talk about the same.

1. Transparency Is The Key

Whenever you’re initiating a conversation about salary with your co-worker, it’s imperative to be transparent about your motive. This allows them to know the reason behind your approach while also making them feel comfortable about the salary discussion.

For instance, if you want them to reveal their salary (giving them the words that you won’t disclose their salary to other employees), you need to inform yours too.

You can have the conversation somewhere privately and ensure the benefits you and your co-worker derive from the discussion. You can also ask them to reveal the pay range if they feel uncomfortable sharing the exact pay.

2. Online Research

There are online websites available that allow people to find the range of salaries their coworkers are being paid.

For example, websites like Glassdoor have the salary range from a specific work industry mentioned on their site.

3. Take Help From A Former Colleague

If you see the current employees are uncomfortable talking about salary, you can always reach a former colleague. Chances are you’ll get your answer when you contact someone who worked in the same organization previously.

3 Reasons Not To Discuss Salary: Red Signals To Consider

On the contrary, here are a few reasons and red signals that denote why you shouldn’t discuss salary.

1. Jealous/Toxic Co-Workers

Jealous and toxic co-workers are absolute deal-breakers. They make the whole environment an unhappy place to work at.

Suppose you know a few toxic coworkers; it’s better not to discuss salary with them. Because you never know as they might report about you to the higher officials.

2. Not Every Resource Has The Same Skill Set 

Sometimes, companies prefer to keep their salary confidential because of the skill sets their employees have.

For example, you are maybe getting higher pay because of the extra skills or certification you possess. But, on the other hand, your coworker may not receive the same payment because they don’t have the same skills.

3. Office Politics

If you disclose your salary, coworkers earning less than you might demand the same salary from the official management.

This can throw you in the spotlight and definitely is not the best sense!

Furthermore, this also puts you at the risk of an increment but on a lower level in the future by the employers to avoid income disparities.

Concluding Thoughts,

Many companies have a damaging misconception of discussing salaries. However, there are indeed pros and cons to both sides.

However, if you want to know and make sure that you are being paid fair and what you deserve, talking about it with your co-workers is the way to go.

Discussing your salary does take a level of maturity, and there is a sure way to go about it.

It may not be the most comfortable conversation to have. For many years we were told what a terrible impact this would have on your work environment. It may even seem a little awkward at first.

But we would encourage anyone to know where they fit in their company. Also, find out how much your company values you, and your work for them does fit the bill.

Nevertheless, these kinds of discussions open a dialogue that a lot of employers are against. This would force them to step up and pay more than they previously had to due to ignorance of what was possible.

Remember, to discuss salary with friends and co-workers is perfectly okay and isn’t illegal.

Key Takeaways On Coworkers’ Salary

  • Many companies are secretive about salary and find it illegal to discuss it with co-workers.
  • However, being open about salary is an essential part of determining one’s worth and value in a company.
  • According to the New York Times, it is unlawful for employees to make it against the rules to discuss wages due to the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.
  • Unless you have signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement with the company, it’s perfectly fine to find and discuss a coworker’s salary.
  • Besides, openly talking about salary promotes workplace equality and gives the company a sense of justice.
  • Moreover, a study shows that “open communication” regarding compensation and pay is one of the top predictors determining employees’ satisfaction and intent to leave.
  • In the process, you also learn the art of negotiating a better salary package.
  • Lastly, when employees discuss their wages, it fosters a fair and happier work environment.

Is salary confidential by law?

Salaries are kept confidential because the different employees may receive different salaries as per their skill set. For salary to be confidential, it must be mentioned in the contract.

Is it illegal to talk about salary with coworkers or friends?

No, there are no laws that can prevent you from discussing your salary with others. In fact, companies cannot fire you if they come to notice of salary discussion at the workplace.

Have you ever discussed salary with a co-worker? Do you think it’s okay to find out your co-worker’s salary? What was your experience? What are some pros and cons you can consider for discussing salary? Then, comment your thoughts down below!

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Rikki is a blogger and writer who is all about self-empowerment, positivity, and growth. She loves writing and inspiring people. She has her personal blog and YouTube channel. It's her passion to help people and Rikki loves doing it!