IT Employment

Would you want to know your co-workers' salaries?

Some private-sector firms are practicing full disclosure on company financials--including salary info.

I just happened across a piece called Psst...This is what your co-worker is paid, that talks about a small but growing number of private-sector firms that are letting employees in on closely held company secrets including company financials, staff performance reviews, and even individual pay.

In the piece, Kimi Mongello, the office manager at SumAll, a company founded on an all-disclosure principle, says that having the figures in the open "alleviates co-workers' curiosity and anxiety."

To that sentence I would add, "...and replaces them with shock and fury." Look, it may just be that my experience is unique, that I've always just happened worked in places where some employee inevitably has an issue with the quality of another employee's work.  But I don't think so.

Unless you operate from a strictly commission standpoint, employee reviews and subsequent salaries are going to be somewhat subjective. The employee one manager sees as wonderful and super productive, could be the same person co-workers see as all-show-and-no-action. To find out that a co-worker you don't have much respect for makes as much, or more, money than you do could be devastating to your morale.

Of course, full disclosure on salaries would be a good way to eliminate salary discrepancies based on gender but I don't think many companies who practice such goofiness would be the ones to offer full disclosure. (Unless you're like one the VP at one company I once worked for who cluelessly advised me to give a male employee a bigger performance-based raise than a female employee because she was married and wasn't responsible for supporting a whole family.)

What's your take on this?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

170 comments
DFO_REXX
DFO_REXX

How else can one decide whether one is getting paid enough? Knowing what an individual coworker makes can build bad blood; when people see something different they frequently interpret it in as negative a light as possible. OTOH, publishing selected salaries may be an incentive to some. Showing how much the top performers make versus the mid-level performers in the same position and salary band provides incentive to improve one's performance.

ambientNRG
ambientNRG

At the very least, companies should have pay banding, where a person's pay is related to their responsibilities and how well they discharge them. If sensible pay bands are in place then the step to full disclosure would be a simple and painless step. Full disclosure fails in companies where roles and responsibilities are not well defined and popularity with management seems to define salary more so than actual productivity. I would even go so far as to say that popularity with peers should be a more important criteria for determining an employee's salary.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I always keep salary info very private, in fact many companies I've been with have a specific policy where salaries are not to be discussed among employees. I was shocked to find out one of the girls at where I work now knows how much I am paid. I find that it always creates dissension and rumour mills. I don't CARE what anyone else is paid, as long as I am paid what I feel I am worth for a role. Generally, because of the type of work and skill set I bring to a company, I am one of the highest paid anyway, besides the company president anyway. People get PO'd when they find out I seemingly work fewer hours and yet often double their income, especially management that's been there a while. What they don't realize is that I bring a strong skill set and a lot of experience, so my start wage is generally a lot higher. I always negotiate a salary based on my proposal to the company, instead of filling a role for a recruiter with a predetermined scale for it. I'd never accept what a company proposes as pay, ALWAYS ask for more, no matter the role or the employer. They will usually meet you in the middle anyway.

bus66vw
bus66vw

I worked at a job in a lab that lasted 19 years. Pay levels were not discussed and were not known among the employees mostly because the company was always looking for bargain priced employees. I was the most senior lab tech by the time the whole lab was out sourced to over seas. I wanted to be the first out the door but I was the only fully qualified tech so the company retained my services to the last day( would you walk a way from double your pay when you were already set for early retirement?). The grind with me is that because I stayed I found out that a lot of the employees were over paid for their skill and education levels. Being popular was more important then being able to do the job. If the information had been a matter of public record many of the problems due to employees not being qualified to do their jobs would have never occurred. Plus, tracing job discrimination and pay issues relating to equal pay for equal work would have doable. I checked out the companies current hiring practices and you can't even get an interview for my old job without having a degree in the actual field. By the way the out sourcing did not work and many of the company's operations have now returned to the shores of my country.

Bowiem
Bowiem

Where disclosure does not hurt, it needs to be open and I don't see how a person knowing my level of income would hurt me unless a) I leave beyond my means or b) I leave like I have no income.

bpipkin
bpipkin

People are far too concerned with whats going on with the other guy. If you use that information to motivate you, then good for you, if you sit and stew about how so-and-so makes more than you, and shouldn't, then you should either figure out how to get where you want to be, or go somewhere else. I think companies should be transparent with salaries of CEOs so that people (share holders, employees, customers) can get a window into the company and its culture. Maybe seeing that others are doing better than you will inspire you to produce better work, be a little friendlier, wear a shorter skirt ;)

BigIve
BigIve

Most of the conversation on this thread seems to be US based so wanted to add a further view. I work in the UK for a US based company. There is a strict no-talking-about salary policy that borders on dogma. Firstly it is against the law to not allow someone to find out their co-workers salaries. "The Equality Act 2010 provides that an employer cannot prevent their employees from making a ‘relevant pay disclosure’ to anyone, and cannot prevent employees from seeking such a disclosure from a colleague, including a former colleague. A relevant pay disclosure is one that is made (or sought) for the purpose of finding out whether or to what extent there is unlawful pay discrimination. It is not limited to discrimination on grounds of sex. The Code of Practice on Equal Pay between women and men provides further information about the law (see paras 103 – 110)." So I can request information of my colleagues salary - as long as the conversation is about discrimination.

alienpirate
alienpirate

I found out what a fellow worker was earning (we were all told by the Bullying boss we were on the same salary) - I dam soon turned and burned - when I discovered the bullying boss was paying salary on personality, not technical and practical ability.. two years later he was claiming what I was the hardest worker he'd ever employed - Salary disclosure is a double edged sword..

adslparts
adslparts

In today's IT market. I'm lucky to have a job.

sholcombe
sholcombe

Need to read Managing Without Managers by Ricardo Semler in Oct Harvard Business Review Sept-Oct 1989. Brazalian company employees set their salaries, job titles, and did not do expense reports (another great waste of time).

sperry532
sperry532

The reveal/hide scale is so wide, it's amazing. I've worked in jobs where everyone knew what everyone else got, and not just in the military. It was pretty much a 'meh. So what' situation. I've also worked for companies where even the mere mention of what you made to another employee was a firing offense. I didn't work at those companies very long. They almost all underpaid all but a very few 'special' employees and managers. My favorite places found a middle ground; You may tell anyone you want what you are paid. You may NOT tell anyone else what SOMEONE ELSE is paid without their expressed permission. That seemed to work out pretty well.

eoschlotz
eoschlotz

My company uses pay bands, but they are fairly broad and overlapping. So just knowing a pay band only gives bounds. You could find the median pay rate for the band, but that does not predict any individual's salary. But I agree with Tony's reaction. I don't want to know. It's a human weakness that I might be tempted to envy those making more (especially when it seems unjustified) and superior to those who make less. Either way, it doesn't seem productive or something that would enhance teamwork.

schmidtd
schmidtd

I have always supported this idea. Frankly hiding salaries has always seemed more like a way to keep salaries down than help anyone be more productive. Mostly is just helps HR and management avoid constantly having to justify to Sam why Joe makes more, with the added benefit of being able to underpay people who don’t know better. However a good HR and Management team WILL justify to Sam and in a very strait forward way. How is it possible for Sam to change his work behaviors and become more valuable to the company unless he understands what kinds of things the company values? If you think Joe is doing A, B and C that is more valuable to the company, you should tell that to Sam. If Sam can’t take it, you probably need a new employee. Related to this is the practice of concealing sales figures in stores. It is very strange to me how often these figures are hidden as opposed to front and center in management communication. In theory everyone there is to sell more stuff and make the store more profitable, every action they take is more or less only in support of this goal from the companies point of view. So without real numbers and clear feedback how can you even know if you have been successful?

robert.a.hatcher
robert.a.hatcher

i work in a very diverse environment with wide range of different levels of experience, backgrounds and education. Some people are civil service and the rest are permanent contractors. I think it is best that these numbers are not disclosed as it can tend to bring out envy, jealousy and bitterness between these people. It's an ego thing and it shouldn't happen, but it does.

LeSpot
LeSpot

I'm discouraged enough already.

jengels
jengels

nothing good comes from that.

mclbd
mclbd

I absolutley agree that there should be full disclosure. That is the only way I can know if I am being treated fairly by my company. I know the work I do. I can see the work my peers and superiors do - I'm fair minded enough to make concessions for the nuances of our respective jobs. I recall bonus day at a firm I worked at early in my career. The people at my level were excited as we noticed the senior managers high fiving and toasting (scotch!) in their offices. When word came down later in the day that there were no bonuses for us due to "a loss late in the year" you can bet that morale took a hit. Maybe those happy senior managers were really just drowning their sorrow, but many of us were at new firms within a few months. To take it a step further, I would also like to know salaries at similar companies and have the average salary included in job postings. "Salary DOE" gives me no clue what type of pay scale to expect. One of the online job boards is starting to include salary info and Its very helpful. Lastly, its the best way to maximize earnings. If I'm not being treated fairly, for whatever reason, I want to move on. Aren't we supposed to "do whats best for our families?" (to steal a phrase from professional athletes). I don't think many companies want to be known as the lowest payer in their industry.

lhimelfarb
lhimelfarb

Disclosure may work well in some environments and poorly in others. During our new-hire process we ask that salaries and benefits are not disscussed for at least the first 90 days. After that, we prefer that salaries not be the main topic, but prefer instead on encouraging everyone to interact with the person responsible for their package. Gag orders on this issue are not possible... but good sense tells us that disscussing these things usually results in animosity towards co-workers and management which is not good for anyone.

RocRizzo
RocRizzo

As a Public Servant, the salaries of our entire organization are published to the local newspapers' web sites annually. It's a matter of public record. This provides everyone with sort of a baseline, to see whether or not they are making what the rest of the world is making in a particular position. Generally, public service positions are typically lower than commercial salaries around here, but not everyone works for just the money. A long time back, I worked for a cooperative. Not only did everyone know what each other made, we all had a say in everyone's salary. It was a much more democratic system than any that I have ever worked in. Even though the money wasn't the best, I am kind of sorry I had left. Everyone had a voice on what went on in the co-op. I can't recommend this as a great business model enough.

jimrhenow
jimrhenow

I worked for a large Computer equipment company and was required to go to a training center out of state on a regular basis. There were other techs in the classes from all over the country. They used to bring our paychecks into the classrooms and pass them out. The young new-hire sitting next to me looked over at my check and gasped. "That's all you make?" I had at the time about 30 years with the company and he had about 1 year. He showed me his check and it was $12,00 less than mine, yes, twelve dollars. I was the one who should have been incensed, but actually he said, "If that's all I am going to make in 30 years, I'm going to look for another job when I get home". We were always promised raises "next year" or given 1%. When it was brought up in a meeting, we were told, "We don't have the money and times are tough." but we found out that the Chairman regularly received salary and bonus of $16,000,000.00 (16 million dollars) a year. Attempts at getting a union failed because everyone was scared. As it turned out they were right to be afraid. Word leaked that I was responsible for the discontent (but it wasn't just me), so I was given the dirtiest most physical jobs. I lasted another 3 years. I was finally able to retire early after 39 years and my replacement was fired for collecting a paycheck without going to work. He had another job at the same time. It took company security 2 years to catch him by putting a hidden GPS unit in his van. I think sharing payroll info is a good thing because it could help to keep the companies honest. I started working for a company that considered it's self a "Family", but it eventually became "just like everyone else".

tech
tech

Overall I think it is better out in the open. Even when it is hidden, people find out and then are angry, resentful... and it can lead to apathy or even sabotage. When salary and reviews are in the open, they can be questioned and, if needed, corrected. It makes it a lot harder to play favorites. Salary discrepancies aren't just based on gender. I have been told, more than once in a review that my work is excellent, my work ethic is outstanding... no negatives, but in the end no raise, when confronted the answer was "You don't have kids, so you don't need the money. John Doe is divorced and has 4 kids."

vitec
vitec

Equal Pay for Equal Work, should mean just that. I use to work in the Heavy Machining industry, Drilling & milling Boiler plates for Ships. the company I worked for was forest to hire a number of women, to get government contracts, the women had to be payed equal to what the men were being payed. this started out ok with us but after a while the women would say they could not move the boiler plates and needed help. men being men we would help! but then our production would fall off and we would get yelled at. so all of the men banded together and told the women if they needed help they had to ask there supervisor's. this resulted to some of them being moved to lighter jobs& retaining the higher pay of the heavy machining workers & pissing off those people that had worked in the lite machining areas until they forest the women to quit! These Steel Worker's "Equal pay meant Equal Work, not go get the Higher Pay and the move to the easier and Take the Higher Pay With You" Women that wont the equal pay, need to do Equal Work! Men do not get pregnant then take time off to have a child, then expect to come back like they never left in the first place, this time off should not be counted as time served.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Why do they get PO'd at others. The rules of the game are clear. If some one gets "more" than you for "less", they are winning. There's no rule that they mustn't, there's not even a rule that they shouldn't. The only person to get PO'd at, is yourself for not doing as well. If they didn't know the rules before they entered the game, it's no surprise that they lost.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

@Bowiem 
Ha! I had a boss whose income _I_  knew, but he kept it secret for his wife. he always seemed to have plenty of pocket money!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

boss gave me a pay cut. Apparently my fish belly white short hairy legs were not something they wanted to see more of. The lawyer said I would have won the discrimination suit, if I hadn't have worn an even shorter one to the court case. Note to self, deal with bikini line.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Define and prove discrimination. Because you are the "wrong" gender, sexual orientation, religion,colour, age, okay no-argument. But where do you stop. Hair colour? Competence, musical tastes.. I've been discriminated against for not believing what management say....

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's the main basis for reward. Believing it happens any other way is naive, trying to make out that it does is mendacious.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

You make your own luck, e.g. don't call on a busted flush...

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Why HR or a manager would have to justify what they pay someone else, I just don't know. If someone came to me and asked why does Joe make more than me? I'd say get the **ck back to work and ask me when you are worth as much as Joe. The audacity of even asking is beyond me. Why can't people be responsible for making their own deals and accepting it? You signed a contract, you negotiated a role and salary. If it isn't good enough for you, some years down the road, do it again or do it with another employer.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

How sad. Your only measure if your employer is treating you 'fairly' is if you are all paid equally? Is this your first job? Life ain't fair, why should employment be? If you did twice as much as someone else, though in the same role, and if you brought a better skill set to the table, even if mostly unused, would you expect some other guy in your department who just learned his trade to earn the same as you? Is that fair?

tech
tech

Animosity is always a result of inequities, or at least perceived inequities, in pay when taken in context with what people do. It's only when someone finds out that Jane got a 35% raise and a 65% review while I got a 2% raise and a 98% review that there is a problem. (and there should be a problem because at that point you are no longer being paid based on performance or ability).

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I'm okay with self interest, but at least be honest about it.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

LOL, it wasn't my fault, I just sell the solutions.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

is used to pay off union reps with bogus promotions so they can BS you in to believing seniority = longevity.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

Who's business is it what my salary is? I am hired for a skillset I bring to the company, my experience and value can be greater or less than others, even when in the same role. As for not having kids, tell the cheap baystard that you can' t AFFORD to have kids and don't want to end up in the same boat as John, because he was a deadbeat that couldn't afford to support his wife and kids. The relationship between an employee and employer is private, as far as contract, allowances, salary, benefits etc. Employers select teams based on unique and individual benefits that they offer the company. In my case, employers always have a set rate as a base for new hires, I NEVER take it. I always negotiate something more to my liking. Often I reduce other income opportunities in the company in order to increase base but that's MY ability and if the employer accepts it and I get a better deal than you, well then YOU should have done a better job when YOU negotiated YOUR package. I actually can' t believe you see it that way. Many companies don't even let employees discuss salary, if they do and end up disgruntled, they are warned and then fired if it happens again. Strike your own deal, don't expect to receive the benefits of someone else's negotiating skills. In short, it's none of you 'kin business if I managed to strike a better deal than you when I was hired. If you find out and don't like it, deal with it or find a different job!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

In the EU, maternity leave is now shareable. So the father can take time off while the missus goes back to work. So they swapped nine months of waddling, aching breast, feeling like you've just crapped out a medcine ball and doing all the house work, for nine months of waddling, aching breast, feeling like you've just crapped out a medcine ball and then being treated like crap by you for a buck fifty an hour Equality, be careful what you wish for...

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

@Tony Hopkinson In light of what you say, Tony, the Parable of the Talents comes to mind.
(Don't ask me chapter & verse, i'm not that sharp)

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

You beat me to it, took the words right out of my mouth. :D

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Mummy little Billy has a DS , and you won't let me have one. Waaaaaahhh! It's really irritating.

tech
tech

"I actually can' t believe you see it that way. Many companies don't even let employees discuss salary, if they do and end up disgruntled, they are warned and then fired if it happens again. " ... it would be illegal to prevent me from discussing my salary with co-workers (off the clock). Secondly, one of the main reasons for posting salaries is to prevent abuses where as a supervisor I say, "Hey, my buddy Joe needs a job, and I have an opening. Oh and look I can give him a higher start salary if I screw over Jim who has worked here for 10 years." Never mind that Joe has no experience, and can't do the job. That happens ALL THE TIME in businesses where they try to prevent salary rates from being open. Then they can't understand why Jim would be upset. If you are as good as you say you are you shouldn't mind your co-workers knowing what you make. What's wrong, you afraid they won't do your work for you if they find out they are doing 3/4 of your work for 1/3 the pay? Employees only end up disgruntled when it is obvious that pay is not based on performance. Almost without fail I have seen people say: "I wouldn't do your job if they paid me twice what they are paying you." They aren't upset that I make more than them, they understand why, because I put in a lot more WORK AND I have a large SKILL SET. That is easily seen when all is open. I have nothing to hide, I will tell anyone I work with how much I make. I do a good job and I don't need to hide my salary or my skill set. I get paid well and I do an excellent job, and I NEVER ask a co-worker to do what I am supposed to do.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

While I don't believe I have a "right" to know what you earn. I believe even more I don't have a "right" to earn what you earn without your skills and experience mix and role. Even if we had the same role, I wouldn't believe that, because there's no way we could possibly have the same skills and experience mix. So to say I deserve as much as you for what you do, is to say to say the reverse is also true. That takes all my meagre ability and the enormous effort I've put into honing it and throws it directly in the bin. If you stepped into my role and still did better than me, that's simply proof that I'm not as good as I think I am, not that you are not as good as they think you are.... The latter is a cop out, it's I don't like this game, I'm taking my ball home. It's waaaah, it's not fair.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I think I'm gonna head over this summer and see if I can get knocked up! In France they even provide a baby sitter and maid while a woman is home pregnant and after she delivers. Then the husband gets time off AFTER she's delivered the baby (about 6 months, I think) so they can build a strong family bond. I like poutine too !

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

some of them are and will. Age a discrimation that knows no boundaries... Wasn't really my point though the guidleines are dliberately ambiguous because they were invented by a bunch of lawyers, who saw yet another opportunity to leech off absolutely everybody. We need more laws like we need an extra hole in our arses.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

And not just in this case but in similar instances everywhere, a sense of ENTITLEMENT. People have the nerve to feel like they deserve, are owed or due things. That's what kills our welfare programs, that's what starts wars .gangs etc. Nobody is ENTITLED to ANYTHING, EVER! Nobody OWES you squat!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

It's this fair thing. The people who pay us believe it's fair to pay us as little as possible. Walk in and say I'm not being paid a fair wage, and they's look at you sideways and say, Yes you are. Point out those who are paid more, they'll point out those who are paid less. If they are vaguely competent you'll walk out agreeing with them. If they are good you could end up with a pay cut! Go in and say I want to be paid more, how do we make this happen, negotiate from strength. Asking for fairness is negotiating from a position of weakness. Don't do it.

tech
tech

"f it is company policy not to discuss company contracts, then no matter where you are, on or off the clock, it is enforceable. " The vast majority don't sign a contract. They are 'at will workers'. Regardless, the courts seem to have mixed feelings on the subject, and often award cash settlements for such things (I know two people that got rather large awards for this type of case). "The reason I'm employed is because nobody else here can do my job," Wanna bet on that? Even if they don't have someone on staff I am quite certain there are hundreds who could do your job (and I don't even know what it is) and probably do it better and for less. "If you feel you are worth more, go and GET more, don't just expect it, go and GET IT for yourself." Ah, and there is the rub, if there is no disclosure about pay, then it is hard to know if you are being fairly compensated, or to even raise the point. Your fear is much like that of the pharaohs and religious leaders of years past. You try to keep those are 'beneath you' from learning to read lest they rise up in protest. Oh, and I didn't want anything. Just telling it like it is. I have nothing to hide. You on the other hand, apparently, do.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

".. it would be illegal to prevent me from discussing my salary with co-workers " That all depends, if it is company policy not to discuss company contracts, then no matter where you are, on or off the clock, it is enforceable. Freedom of speech has nothing to do with it and does not apply in such cases. Read your constitutional rights a little closer, the freedom of speech relates to government restricting your speech, not private companies. It's no different than discussing pricing, private company policies etc. with a competitor, doesn't matter where or when you do it, if the company policy restricts it, you can't discuss it. "If you are as good as you say you are you shouldn't mind your co-workers knowing what you make. What's wrong, you afraid they won't do your work for you if they find out they are doing 3/4 of your work for 1/3 the pay?" The reason I'm employed is because nobody else here can do my job, if so I wouldn't be bringing value to my employer. That said, nobody even does 1% of my workload. My salary is absolutely NONE of their business either. I don't CARE whet they make, I don't WANT to know what they make, it is completely irrelevant in every way. "Employees only end up disgruntled when it is obvious that pay is not based on performance." This is the luxury of not having forced labour. If you don't like the deal you've struck, if you don't like the pay you receive for the amount of work you put in, find a different job. It's YOUR decision to work for YOUR pay scale. If you feel you are worth more, go and GET more, don't just expect it, go and GET IT for yourself. "I have nothing to hide, I will tell anyone I work with how much I make" Congratulations. Not sure quite what you were expecting there, perhaps a cake and candles but a congrats is all I can offer. Well done, good for you, atta boy!!! ?

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

the huge drop in income, so it would have to be much more.

aidemzo_adanac
aidemzo_adanac

I'd work beside you any day......if they paid me the same as you, or more. LOL :D

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

To dodge the taxes that pay for this largesse. :p

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