It seems to be taboo in today’s work culture to talk about what you make to your fellow coworkers.
Companies actively discourage you from talking about base salary, benefits, and perks, while salary numbers are kept close to the chest for HR. For years this has been the norm.
However recently younger people entering the workforce are discovering just how toxic and unhelpful this policy really is to them.
A twitter post recently went viral when a woman shared that she discovered a coworker with the same background and qualifications was making $10k more each year, urging others to talk about their own salaries with coworkers.
Why Companies Don’t Want You To Talk About It
If you share your salary information with those around you it is possible you will discover a few highly over or underpaid employees at the company.
This happens for a multitude of reasons, including shady business practices, discrimination, HR oversight, or a candidate that simply undervalues their own self-worth and lowballs themselves.
In a perfect world, there would be no issues with discussing salary because we all would be paid roughly equally based on our time with a company, experience, and education.
But even though it is 2019 pay inequality based on gender, race and religion still happens. Keeping your mouth closed about your salary helps your company hide that.
So How Do You Change It?
Despite what some HR people might lead to you believe, talking about your salary in the private sector is absolutely legal. More importantly, it is actually illegal for employers in the private sector to prevent you from talking about it.
If your company has a gag order on compensation talk, there is a good chance they cannot enforce that without opening themselves up to a big legal liability.
However, going up to a coworker you barely know and saying “So, what do you make in a year?” can be an awkward conversation. Most aren’t prepared for that kind of discussion, and the majority of the workplace still see it as taboo.
If you want to start the conversation about salary with a coworker, it is best to be open and honest about it. Tell them your thoughts on how sharing information can benefit you both and change the culture, and that you are more than willing to go first.
Don’t make it about the person, or the quality of work they put out because that is going to seem like an attack. Instead, make it laid back and focused on the hard numbers.
Don’t shame them, or their work, and you both could benefit from the knowledge!