Relationships

Do or Don’t: Talking To Your Coworkers About Salary

parks and rec

I’ll never forget the first time one of my coworkers told me her salary…

It was a totally generous, unprompted move on her part. She knew I was in a mire at work, trying to negotiate a raise and uncertain of how to navigate the situation. We were in the same department and in similar roles, so rather than give me generic advice, she simply told me what she’d asked for and what the company had offered. That information was a HUGE help, and allowed me to go into meetings with the confidence that comes with having actual data to back you up. I couldn’t believe how simple and powerful that conversation was, and ever since then I’ve been wondering: Why aren’t we all talking about our salaries, all the time?

There’s a lot of buzz about the importance of pay transparency these days — and for good reason. Researchers cite numerous benefits of ending “salary secrecy.” On an individual level, it’s one of the best (and only) ways to figure out if you’re being compensated fairly among your peers. This intel makes you better equipped to request a raise, or even scope out new positions. But pay transparency is great for employers, too: Studies show it makes people more motivated and productive, and less likely to quit. It fosters a sense of openness and honesty between employees and employers, boosting morale and increasing job satisfaction. All great stuff, right?!

But…ugh. Who wants to have that conversation?

Perhaps my old co-worker, but she seems to be a unicorn. I spoke with Jen Sincero, the bestselling author of You Are a Badass at Making Money. She quickly affirmed that many people feel awkward about money talk: “I’ve written a book about sex and I’ve written a book about money, and I’ve gotta say, money feels ten times more loaded and more taboo.”

Sincero points out that money can sometimes feel like a symbol of immorality and wrongdoing — even when it’s simply compensation for our work. “We seem to think that if you talk about money, you’re saying someone is better than someone else. And people sometimes mistake the desire for money with greed,” she says. “Money is something that we automatically place judgment on. I don’t know why, but we do.”

Still, Sincero agrees, it’s so important we start having the compensation conversation with each other. But first we need to have a good long talk with ourselves. “Sit down and ask yourself why you want to have this conversation,” she urges. “If you’re trying to gauge if you’re being fairly compensated, and get a feel for how your employer works and what they’re willing to pay, then yes — it’s a good idea to scope around. But there has to be a reason, not just ‘you show me yours, I’ll show you mine.'” Take time to investigate whether you’re going in with any judgment, jealousy or anger, she says: “It doesn’t matter what you’re talking about — if you go in with any weirdness, it’s going to get weird.”

Once you’ve gotten clear on your motivations, then seek out a coworker with whom you have a decent relationship. They don’t have to be your best friend, but they should be able to feel they can trust you to be discreet (they can, right?). The key is to be as transparent and direct as possible. “State your intentions up front, to put them at ease,” says Sincero. “You know, ‘I’m trying to get a raise,’ or ‘I fear that I’m being undercompensated and I’m trying to get a read on what other people are making. Would you be willing to share that with me?’”

That’s it! How easy is that?! Okay, I’m literally sweating just thinking about it. But even if it’s hard, it’s not complicated. Just be straight with people (and it goes without saying, be willing to disclose your own current salary with them, as well). If they’re cool with sharing, great! But if they’d rather not, be gracious. “That’s their right, too,” says Sincero. “Go find someone who is willing to talk.”

Talking about compensation isn’t just good for us as individuals. The more we have salary conversations the easier it is to expose discriminatory pay practices (and the harder it becomes for companies to perpetuate them). We have a long way to go on that front, with significant pay gaps based on gender, race, sexuality, ability and weight. Many economists, sociologists and policy researchers argue that pay transparency is a crucial tool in closing those gaps. That’s why several European countries require large companies to publish pay data, and a handful of U.S. companies have adopted an “open salaries” policy. Dane Atkinson, the CEO of SumAll, said that differences in pay between men and women dissipate when you publish everyone’s salaries. “Salary transparency is the single best protection against gender bias, racial bias or orientation bias,” he added.

Many of us grew up being taught that money talk was off-limits. But then again, think of all the other things that used to be considered scandalous or unspeakable: Gay people living openly, mixed race marriage, women voting! None of those changes would have been possible without people sitting down and talking about it first. To fix a problem, it first has to be identified as a problem. If we think pay inequity is a problem, then maybe it’s time to take a deep breath and sit down for a chat.

So, what do you think about workplace salary talk? Have you done it? Any other tips on not making it weird? I am ALL ears!

P.S. The best career advice, and do you talk with your friends about money?

(Photo from Parks and Recreation.)

  1. Liz says...

    I have somewhat of the opposite problem and would love any advice. I’m 99% sure I make at least $20k more than several of my coworkers, who are also my friends. They have the same title and position, and while I’m technically at the same level (we all report to senior directors), my job function is very different from theirs.

    I respect and admire the fact that they openly share info on their salaries and raises with each other so they can better advocate for themselves. I would wholeheartedly participate if I didn’t feel so incredibly awkward when these conversations come up, because I feel guilty that I make so much more than they do. I don’t want there to be any resentment, especially because we are all good friends outside of work. I have a feeling that eventually one of them is going to ask me directly, since I never volunteer that information.

    Am I doing them a disservice as a coworker and a friend by not sharing how much I’m paid? Or would it even make a difference, as their jobs and salaries are more apples to apples at our organization (while mine is an orange)?

    • Ana Devine says...

      This is a very legit question, Liz. For me, I recommend sharing your salary information with individuals you trust in your workplace. Definitely make sure they’re safe people first; i.e, you haven’t heard your secrets shared with them come out of other people’s mouths, they don’t trash people behind their backs in your hearing, and you don’t get a weird feeling in your stomach when you have to say “no” to them for any reason.

      If they’re safe people, I recommend sharing your salary info. It makes a ton of sense why you’d feel a bit uncomfortable, yet the guilt is misplaced. You didn’t set their salaries, and you didn’t set your salary. And you don’t think you’re better than they are because you do different work, even though it’s easy to project that other people will assume that belief. You’re giving them a gift of additional visibility to how compensation can work at your company.

      It really does make a difference to know how much a company is willing to pay an individual that you see as a peer, even if you provide different work product. And what if you’re actually making the same or less than they are? You won’t know until you take the leap.

  2. Joshua M Murray says...

    Discussing salary shouldn’t be a taboo. Businesses don’t like you to do it because it lets others see how much more they can be paid and how undervalued their work is. Don’t be ashamed if someone makes more or less than you, use it as a point to bring up with your supervisor about how you can reach that stage. Companies would rather pay you what you feel you are worth rather than what you are actually worth so they try to keep everyone’s pay secret.

  3. Claire says...

    I couldn’t agree more. I work in HR, and while it’s not advice I’d necessarily give in my role, in my personal life I would counsel, women especially must ask each other and their male counterparts what they are making. Knowledge is power as is secrecy. Start with asking people you trust, both in and outside of your company, know the market, ask your manager or those above them what the bands for your role and the role above are. Use glass door, and use interviews with other companies to understand bands.

  4. LS says...

    I wish there was more transparency about this stuff. My company has specific clauses in our contract about not speaking about salary, which I took to mean not speaking about salary to those outside of the company but I think they left it purposely vague in order to chastise us/threaten legal action for using coworkers’ salaries as a negotiating tactic. UGH

    • Ana Devine says...

      I’ve found I can get around those corporate attempts at obscuring salary information by how I go about the salary negotiation itself. I use information about coworkers’ salaries to help in negotiation without saying, “my peer makes this much, so it makes sense for you to increase my salary to the same amount”.

      When I know what my colleagues are making, and I know what the going rate for my work in my industry and region, I synthesize the information and bring it up as (massive paraphrase): “Based on industry standards, the substantiated quality of my work, and our desire to make this working relationship sustainable and effective for our company and for me, I’m looking for a $15,000 raise this year.” My employer doesn’t need to know where I got that information, and I feel more confident in my request because of my inside knowledge.

      Honestly, my financial information is my financial information. While I’m not an attorney, it seems to me that the amount of a check that lands in my account every two weeks becomes MY personal information that I can share how I see fit.

      Also, THEE MOST incredible, heart-forward, practical, and human article on how to negotiate compensation is on Goop. It’s an interview with Tara Sophia Mohr and Carrie Gallant. https://goop.com/work/career/how-to-negotiate/

      I used these tools when I surprisingly and successfully negotiated my salary from $80k to $120k. I used them again in a subsequent job offer when I took a lower salary for greater opportunity, and then negotiated salary and bonus increases in the next two years so I’ve truly made up the initial salary dip. It’s revolutionary. I forward this article to all my friends, family members, and colleagues who happen to say the word “raise” or “negotiating” to me.

  5. Tshego B says...

    A few years back I quit my job at a very abusive workplace where I was also over worked and very much underpaid, to the point where I only covered rent. I kept asking for a raise and they made it seem as if it was coming up and it was going to be a lot more money. A few months later I got an envelope on my desk with a letter that said I was due for an annual 10% increase. The boss didnt even have the guts to say it to me in person. So I quit that weekend. ALL of my ex-coworkers are still at the same job, doing the same things so that just tells me that I was the only one being underpaid because I just so happened to be a foreigner. Had everyone been transparent with their salaries it would have made all the difference.

  6. I spent many years as a recruiter, HR consultant and generally being on the other side of the negotiations table – the side that had the information. I hated it. I launched http://www.wewager.co a few months ago. I pair people professionals together who have the same skill set and industry focus to have a salary conversation – open and honest conversation. I’m working on a paid model soon, but it’s still free for the next month. This is what I do every day and it has had a great impact mostly on women and especially on women of color. Talk, talk, talk, ask, ask, ask! That’s the only way.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      This is amazing! Thank you!

  7. Peta trendall says...

    I have a bit of a different take on this. Many years ago I worked as a medical representative for a pharmaceutical company. Each Rep had their own “territory” and clients. The company encouraged initiative and drive and rewarded theirs employees accordingly. I found it immensely satisfying to see my effort and success reflected in my income. I would have found it extremely demotivating if all rep’s were paid the same wage regardless effort or results. The shoe is now on the other foot as I now run my own business. I do not believe it should be a given that all staff in the same role should expect the same wage. All staff are paid the same award wage but each staff member is in control of their earning potential above this wage. For this reason I understand why some companies prefer wage confidentiality.

    • Kelly says...

      While I understand the intent of your comment, I think you’re missing the general idea. In a sales role your efforts and deals and relationships should absolutely affect your commissions. But what if in that medical rep role you found out later that you had a lower commission structure than all of your male peers? That even your **potential** earnings would always be lower than theirs, even if they sold the same amount? That is the type of inequity that we should strive to uncover.

  8. Jenny says...

    This is crazy – I just went through this at work! I found out from a coworker and peer who recently quit that I was making over 20% less than everyone else on my team – and I’m the senior person. All my other peers are also men and have less experience in our field than I do. I was pretty livid. I went straight to my boss, argued my case. I got the raise, but it doesn’t make up for the 2+ years of lost salary. Ladies, we really have to be more open with each other, and we have to more firm in asking for what we deserve! I see it so often – well, I don’t have XYZ experience or so and so works longer hours than me or the benefits are good…No more! Get that salary!

  9. Cynthia Miller says...

    This is SO true! As women we MUST be transparent- and our male allies need to be transparent, too.
    My salary is public record as I work for a public community college- and I check that record at times to know if my salary is equal to others. I FOUGHT for my salary when I first started a faculty position and it took 3 years for them to agree with me. But because I had colleagues who were transparent with me, I KNEW that the HR director was lying to me and I KNEW what I should be getting, so I fought. And then I encouraged other people to fight, too.

  10. Bonnie says...

    I work for a large public university/health system and all salaries of all employees are listed online…from the university president, athletic coaches, law professors who may be making close to a million dollars a year down to the housekeepers and call center clerks. While it can lead to resentment in the case of looking up all your coworkers’ salaries and saying “why does X make that much when she does next to nothing?” it can also really help in negotiating raises. When you know what your coworkers do, earn, years of experience and education level, it obviously gives you plenty of leverage. I was able to get a very satisfying raise by knowing that someone who I was the “lead” of was making 25,000 more than I was. I suspect that others have also been able to use my salary to get a raise for themselves as well. It keep things balanced and fair. I can’t imagine not knowing, really.

    • Bonnie says...

      I also want to add that HR determines our salaries, not our managers. If we want a raise (or even in the case of a new job offer) we can ask our manager, who then (maybe) tries to negotiate with HR. Depending on how much effort your manager puts into it, you may or may not get much of an increase. I know that initial job offers from HR have a very small range…like 3,000 or so. Probably depends on the salary, though.

  11. Nigerian Girl says...

    I once worked for an organisation with a flat pay structure; everyone on each career level earned the same figure. There was complete salary transparency, which helped reduce resentment, envy and backbiting. My current place of work is different. You get what you negotiate for. At the moment, I’ve never discussed my salary with my colleagues because apart from my boss and our HR person, no one else has ever asked me how much I earn. If any of my colleagues-turned-friends should ask me, I’ll be happy to share. I think it’s very important for people – especially women – to talk about money: how much we earn, where we invest our money, the best way to save money, and so on. I’m laying emphasis on women because how can we be asking for equal pay when we don’t even know the figure we’re asking for? Thing is, the forces that don’t want us to rise in the corporate world (and the world at large) are succeeding partly because they know we don’t tell one another how much we earn. They’re cashing in on the fact that money is still a taboo subject for most of us. However, it’s a personal decision to reveal how much you earn. I won’t ask a random colleague how much they earn, and I won’t like it if a random colleague asks me how much I earn. There has to be some degree of familiarity, respect and trust for the question to work. Also, in a country like mine where people are known for never minding their business, you need to set clear boundaries or else your colleagues will also start asking you how much your rent is, how much your clothes are, and when are you getting married by the way?

  12. Emma says...

    In the last few years, I’ve received 4 job offers – each time I tried to negotiate salary and was told no. The first 3 offers didn’t even match my pay at the time, and I’d requested that they match pay since I’d have been bringing experience and skills valued at that amount already (and wasn’t out of line for the work). It was frustrating! I did finally receive a 4th offer which matched and I happily accepted – just started on Monday, in fact! It’s possible that my negotiation skills aren’t strong enough – I tend to the people-pleasing side and had to pump myself up just to ask. Personally, I would love examples of wording to use/how/when to negotiate – I found a lot of articles stating that women should negotiate, but didn’t include specific suggestions.

  13. Yes! I love talking about money. Because well, I love money.
    I recently wrote an article about money transparency in entrepreneurship (https://www.feminest.co/blog/money-money-money-transparency-in-entrepreneurship). I’m launching a series for female business owners to help uncover profit margins, expenses, realistic projections, etc! I was inspired by Refinery 29 Money Diary series which is so good! I’m surprised no one has mentioned it. https://www.refinery29.com/en-us/money-diary

  14. michele says...

    Absolutely talk about salaries. In the interests of transparency, I am an attorney at a nonprofit in NYC. I have seven years experience. I make $80K plus great benefits.

  15. Maelle says...

    This is perfect timing since i just had a poll on IG to ask people what they think my salary was (i’m a primary school teacher). Turned out, people think i earn way more than i actually do, which was quite shocking to me and, i believe, one of the reasons why us teachers are underpaid: most people have a vague idea but actually don’t realize how underpaid we are (at least here in France). So, being more vocal about it and sharing how much money we actually earn could help us get a raise! (wishful thinking, i know).
    I’m super open about my salary and have zero problem discussing it, mostly because the numbers are of public record and easy to track down on the French government official website. It is super interesting to hear others’ perspective on this though!

    • Rhey says...

      As a manager, I get frustrated in pay inequality in my team. I actively work on correcting this, but it takes time. The reason is: on hire, a position has a pay range. Based on the experience you think someone has you make an offer. They negotiate, some better than others. Then that person starts and you learn what they really bring to the table. Now my employees aren’t equal, and it isn’t a reflection of the work they have done for me. I give good employees promotions sooner and do my best to bump them up any time that I can, but it also isn’t fair to the person who negotiated better at the start to bypass or give super low raises when they do good work because they don’t know that my motivation is to align pay with work. If they did share salaries I would have to share this information, including confidential performance conversations. In the end, I have to land on the side of confidentiality.

  16. Nam says...

    I am a Generation X’er and I was recently called out by one of my Millennial friends. She asked: “who helps you negotiate your salary?”
    My snarky, but truthful response: My executive board aka an awesome group of old white guys that I have cultivated from other opportunities.

    Her response: “So that explains why you have always been paid equitably. You have the inside track. What about the rest of us? You are just hoarding that knowledge. “

    She was right! Ladies, we need to stop assuming we all have equal access to information. If you know something, share it. When my young pal was negotiating her salary for a new job, I introduced her to the “Executive Board” and they helped her get $25k more than she was expecting.

    None of my other friends or former colleagues ever called me out, but after asking the “Executive Board” if they could help other women…they enthusiastically and unanimously agreed to offer career guidance. I am still surprised by how many of my mates took them upon their offer.

    I was not trying to be selfish. I just didn’t know that my really smart, hyper educated female friends and colleagues hadn’t cultivated an Executive Board!

    • SarahN says...

      I’ve learnt to do just that – I went from full time permanent to a contract and rang a white dude contractor I knew to make sure I was in the right ballpark when I quoted. I asked for $110 per hour, despite seeing the interview paperwork across the table for $80 an hour. Given my contract was cut short by 3 months, I probably did myself a favour negotiating up – the contract would have been cut short no matter.

    • Theresa says...

      Okay, now I need to know who these old white guys are, how you met them, and how you were able to cultivate them into an Executive Board. DETAILS NEEDED!

  17. txilibrin says...

    YES and YES. Sharing your salary only works against your employer. All employees will win when that is shared.
    Google “Adam ruins everything” as there is an episode about it with huge statistics that will blow your mind.

    Now I’m a manager, and I don’t my my team sharing their salary at all. But I remember when I wasn’t a manager, and our bosses kept saying our position and salary were private and encouraged us to NOT share it. Shame on them.

  18. Alexandra H. says...

    LOVE LOVE this article! Sharing our salaries and thus empowering us to have our value realized in pay equity can only lead to good things.

    I have successfully negotiated two raises in my current role, my last being 20%. One thing I always do is prepare a one (or two at most) page proposal on the main points on why I deserve a raise; I bring this proposal into the negotiation and send an electronic version after our initial discussion. In most cases your supervisor will need approval from other leadership or teams. I like to prepare the document – in my own words – to avoid having my supervisor interpret my ask and then through their own lens share key information on my value. Keep in mind you are paid to do your job description so your framework, so I like to frame my argument in how I excel beyond those measures and I have found success both times using this tactic.

    One final thought – if you find out that you are being paid less than new hires are being offered in your current role – like I was the first time I negotiated my salary – you immediately have a pay equity issue. In this case, your company is saying that a job description is worth X amount of money regardless of time/experience.

    Thanks COJ for opening up your space to have this important conversation. Some of the moments I am most proud of myself thus far in life are when I am advocating for my value to be realized.

  19. Lisa says...

    I’d also love to read some writing on negotiating rates if you’re a contractor/freelancer. I make about half my income on freelance work (as a grant writer and nonprofit fundraiser). I honestly have no idea if the rates I charge are reasonable. Over time I’ve bumped them up, but still struggle with what’s reasonable. No one has ever told me I’m charging too much, and I’m pretty sure I’m under charging a lot of my clients….but I JUST DON’T KNOW, ugh.

    ALSO – as someone who works exclusively for non-profits, many that work in poverty services, I really struggle with the idea of saying I need more, when in reality, I don’t need more (and could even live on much less, as many people do). Has anyone else made their peace with this….and how?

    • Lisa says...

      Almost forgot – transparency! I’m charging clients $50-60 an hour for grant writing services. Any other grant writers out there?!

    • Leslie says...

      Consider joining or creating a professional peer group. This is a group of people you meet with on a set cadence or not that you can discuss rates, work strategies, managing client expectations, client issues, industry trends, etc. It’s also a good for business referrals — when I get calls about additional projects and don’t have the bandwidth I often refer those prospective clients to my trusted peers.

    • Megan says...

      Hi Lisa, I work at an agency that does nonprofit fundraising and our hourly consulting rate is $200 (most of our clients are on monthly retainers, so take that with a grain of salt). Hope that’s helpful!

      For transparency’s sake, I work on our digital team, and I make $60,000 and suspect that I am underpaid. Trying to work up the nerve for the “I deserve a raise” conversation based on a colleague recently sharing with me that she asked for (and got!) a $12,000 raise while at my level.

  20. K says...

    So important! I hope you have put this transparency into practice at the COJ office, too.

  21. Stephanie says...

    This is very different in the UK. Job ads will tell you their salary (or salary range) so immediately when applying you know what you’re going into. And while some applications may ask you what your salary is, you do not have to include it. Moreover, the public sector (and some private sectors, including higher education/academia) has transparent pay spines. It’s very easy to see what people’s salaries are, depending on the “grade” they’re on. If you’re near the top end of Grade 4, you can see what you should be looking for in a Grade 5+ job, and there’s no sense of your coworker in the same role getting paid much more than you. I plan to move to Canada one day (where I’m actually from) and am NOT looking forward to all this salary secrecy/shame again… It’s toxic, and good for no one except corporations.
    Additionally, ALL companies in the UK (with 50+ employees) are legally obliged to report gender pay gap data, and there are moves to have this data further reported along the lines of race/ethnicity.

    • Elle in L.A. says...

      There are some industries in the U.S. where this is standard parctice. I work in Higher Education for a private institution, and they are slowly making the move to publishing salary ranges as the public institutions often do.

    • Robin says...

      Here in Ontario at least there’s very clear transparency for public sector pay – I know almost exactly what all my coworkers make (jobs have defined scales so you just need position + years in that job), and anyone who makes over 100k has their salary published online.

  22. Nora says...

    When I started a new job a few years ago, it came out in a conversation with my new colleague what my salary was. She got very angry, but not with me. She made a LOT less than I did, after years at that same workplace.

    She was very happy I told her, because up until that point she thought that what she made there was good. It gave her the courage to demand better pay.

    Anyway, how do you negotiate your salary if you dont really know what others are being paid?

    • Lesliel says...

      You negotiate your salary based on what the market will bear, not what others are being paid. It’s the same as with products. Why does a 2000 SF house in Mobile, Alabama cost $125K while a 2000 SF house in Portland, Oregon cost $500K? Your job is to make the most amount of money for your work. Your employer’s job is to pay you the least they can to get you to take the job.

    • Rachel says...

      “Your employer’s job is to pay you the least they can to get you to take the job.” This is a very antiquated view of the employer/employee relationship. Many employers are now realizing that paying the least possible amount and being reactive (i.e., giving raises only when forced to because someone has a competing offer and threatens to quit) simply won’t work to retain top talent. These employers are receptive to market data and fairness arguments.

    • mb says...

      “You negotiate your salary based on what the market will bear, not what others are being paid.” This is a really weird comment as a whole.
      You can figure out the pricetag and value of your particular work by comparing it to colleagues. The “market” is different in every location and at times your actual salary does not reflect the importance of your job.

  23. Kaitlyn says...

    In the spirit of solidarity, here is my salary info:
    I am an Apparel Designer in my mid 30s. I work in corporate fashion for a large U.S. retailer (West Coast). I’ve been in the industry under 10 years and currently make $85,000 plus a bonus of 15% of my salary if the company meets performance goals.
    It’s difficult to find solid salary information in my field because there is so much variance, depending on the location, level of designer, and type of company you are working for.

    Hoping this will help someone in the future.:)

    • So helpful!

    • Michèle says...

      What a kind gesture!

    • Megan says...

      This is so helpful! I posted below, I’m a PhD neuroscientist who’s been in elite programs throughout my career but I earn $60,000– much less than what people perceive I make.

      Meanwhile, my old roomie was in fashion design and typically earned over $100K without any postgraduate degree (and less pressure than I was under).

      When my aunt was discouraging my younger cousin from pursuing her love of fashion and design due to salary and career concerns, and advised her to talk to me, I think they were all very surprised that I advised her to absolutely pursue a career in fashion! But, you’re right, there’s little data and a perception that this is an impractical choice, when in reality it can be a wonderful way for talented people to make a living.

  24. Chrissy says...

    When I learned I made less than a female colleague (with same job/title) who had less work experience and produced lower quality work than me, I immediately felt less valued by my manager and felt so demoralized.

    I do think transparency will help us toward fair and equal pay in the workplace, but in my case, I wasn’t prepared for how I’d feel.

  25. Cassie says...

    I work for a nonprofit that’s completely transparent about the salary for each position and also announces all promotions; I know what all my coworkers make, and there’s no negotiation. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s by far the most equitable and unbiased I’ve encountered (and was designed for those purposes).

    Also: some research just came out about how it’s not that women “don’t ask” for raises, it’s that they’re turned down or penalized. Like another commenter said, a lot of “how to negotiate a raise” tips for women end up unduly blaming women for a systemic issue.

    https://www.thecut.com/2019/03/women-do-ask-money-work-salary-raise.html

  26. anonymous says...

    I used to teach at an all-girls school which was also my alma mater. While a grade level dean, I decided that to quell my students’ grade anxiety by sharing my high school transcript. I was a strong student, but my grades clearly showed where I had prioritized or “economized” my effort. I still went to a top university and have had a successful career.

    I told my on-campus mentor (my former teacher and boss at the time), and she was shocked, saying, “that’s like sharing your salary!” Shocked myself, I replied “As I think we should! How else do we fight income inequality?!” At a school where one of the goals was to teach girls how to be in control of their financial lives, I was taken aback by this female leader’s lack of interest in transparency.

    Suffice it to day, I left the school after I found this to be something of a trend amongst the leadership team. The way I see it, it is SO important to separate the idea of money/income/wealth from the person who holds – the more we talk about it, the less it becomes a personal trait!

    • anonymous says...

      Suffice it to *say ;)

  27. Tracy says...

    The company I work for explicitly forbid us to discuss our salary with our co-workers. So to be safe, I just don’t.

    • Jessica says...

      I believe in some states, that’s actually illegal to enforce – companies try to do so to prevent the type of conversations mentioned in the article.

    • Jennifer says...

      That’s illegal in many states and immoral in all of them. It’s a way for employers to keep wages down and exploit their employees.

    • Hannah says...

      I’ve heard of companies banning salary discussion. That is super interesting it is illegal in some states! If I’m ever in this situation I’ll definitely be sure to check what the law says in my state :) thanks for the info!

    • Yup, my last boss did this too. When we went out of town on business, I would get reimbursed a certain amount for housing costs, and I of course assumed my colleague in the exact same position as me did also–I was casually complaining to him one day about how I wished the reimbursement was more so we could stay somewhere nicer, only to find out that he wasn’t getting reimbursed AT ALL. We both agreed that was incredibly unfair, and he brought it up in his contract negotiations for the next year (with my permission).

      I got into huge trouble with the boss, got called ungrateful, and told that none of us were allowed to discuss our salaries or anything with one another. I left the job shortly after that… I completely agree with this post that total transparency fosters a MUCH happier, healthier work environment.

    • Kacy says...

      Yup. This happened in a small town bank I worked at for many years. No one was allowed to talk about salary, bonuses, benefits, or the like. Unfortunately, I balanced the account that all of those bonus and benefit checks came out of. I saw the unequality happening with men vs women 10 fold. It was awful. I’m so glad to be out of that job.

    • Meghan says...

      That’s absolutely illegal in the US, as a protected workers’ right under the NLRB ( https://www.nlrb.gov/rights-we-protect/whats-law/employers/interfering-employee-rights-section-7-8a1). Talking about your salary is a concerted protected activity, meaning your employer can’t on the whole tell you not to do it. They can tell you not to discuss it when you’re supposed to be doing (insert work task here), but they are not allowed to tell you not to talk about it on breaks. I’ve been in HR almost 15 years and I still have to coach managers on not doing this and how to have meaningful conversations around pay.

  28. Dana says...

    Ahh! Ok for any readers interested in nonprofit salaries – you MUST create a free account at http://www.guidestar.org and look up the 990s (tax filings) for nonprofits. Nonprofits are required to disclose their highest compensated employees as part of their annual tax filings. You can search on guidestar, fine any nonprofit, and look up previous years – names, titles, salaries, all there waiting for you! The caveats – if it’s a giant organization or if there are a lot of super highly compensated people, it might not be helpful in terms of figuring out what a program manager salary there might be…and data also lags a year or so (I’m just now seeing 2017 990s pop up). But my husband works for private schools and I’ve spent most of my career in the nonprofit sector and we have both found it hugely helpful! The more data points you can track down, the better off you will be.

    • Eleanor says...

      You don’t usually need a guidestar account! Propublica has been compiling a database of 990s and charity navigator usually has them as well. I usually google the name of the nonprofit plus “990” and “propublica” and that gets you to it most of the time! Also any decent nonprofit will have their 990 on their website. <3 I second everything you said though, Dana!

  29. Lucy says...

    As someone who is coming out of training as a physician and has interviewed with 7 different universities or private practices, and sat through 3 different talks on negotiations in the past year, I cannot stress to women how important it is to ask for more and ask for advice from others! Here are some things I learned:
    1) It is SO uncomfortable to ask for more. But it’s important to ask before you commit to the job, because sooner or later you will need to ask for something at your job – a raise, time off, more help, and you need to know how supportive your boss can be. I turned down jobs where I felt like the potential boss didn’t care to entertain my asks or they were not in a position to advocate for me.
    2) Knowing what others were offered makes it easier to ask. I didn’t ask for a bump in salary because I knew that what I was offered was what everyone else makes. But I did ask for a signing bonus, because I knew that they offered that to others but not to me.
    3) You can ask more than once. When I first asked for a signing bonus, I was told I couldn’t have it because the university was already offering me research support. But that money doesn’t go directly to me, so I asked again, citing that I wanted to be treated fairly and valued like everyone else. And they gave it to me!
    4) Remember that men always negotiate. When I texted my guy friends for advice, their response was “Of course I asked for more money. I didn’t expect to get it, but everyone asks for more. The employers expect it.”
    5) But women are the best negotiators for other people. So whenever you get stuck or want to hold back, ask yourself what you would do for your best friend.
    6) You can negotiate for more than money. I ended up with more flexibility and an office with the research group I’d be working with, which to me are worth more than a bump in salary.

    • Kim says...

      It’s also important to ask about compensation other than salary. As an academic physician, things like non-clinical time and research support are also on the table. My fellowship program director had a spreadsheet that everyone dropped data into when we got back from an interview – salary, did the institution pay for board exams and licensing, vacation, shifts/month, continuing education funds, etc. It was invaluable – I realized I was offered a considerable amount less at one place than a male who graduated from our program the year before me.

    • Liz says...

      Completely agree with this and just wanted to second that men always negotiate and rarely engage in self doubt about it, at least not the way women do. This is all kinds of unfair and wrong, but until we change our society I strongly suggest you talk through your salary negotiations with a guy.

    • Jessica says...

      I was just coming to comment about how behind academic medicine (and actually all medicine) is on this topic. I’m a psychiatrist and just discovered I was earning $20 less/hour than a male counterpart with 1 year more experience than me. I didn’t negotiate at all at the beginning. I felt so horrible and devalued. Sadly, I got the information second hand and the male in question refused to discuss salary with me so I didn’t have it as a bargaining tool when I went back to the table with my boss. My boss (also male MD) was threatened and infuriated by my asking for a raise (eventually apologized and offered me an additional 5/hour) and so now I will be finding my way out of this clinic. Their loss!

      I so wish medicine would just STOP this.

  30. Jen says...

    I used to work for the state, and everyone’s salaries are posted publicly on a website. Kinda weird to Google yourself and see it, but the transparency was SO valuable when it came time to decide what kind of moves I should make in my career.

  31. Katie says...

    I think there are times it feels like the right thing to keep salaries on the down low. My husband is the general manager of a 10 personnel company branch. He earns quite a bit more than his employees but all those employees are very good friends. So they spend the entire day working together and then we all hang out on weekends as family together. There is a real sense of camaraderie but yet my husbands salary is triple theirs.

    In this situation we keep it private so that that our friends don’t feel like crap about it. They all obviously know he earns more than them but it feels like we would be rubbing it in their faces if we discussed it openly. I guess in our situation is feels like the relationships could be damaged by that knowledge and its just not necessary?

    Or maybe this is creeping into a whole other subject the one of how not to make your less privileged friends feel like crap.

    • Amelia says...

      I think your story is getting at some of the reasons for salary transparency. Is there a reason for a manager to make 3x the salary of the workers his company depends on? I do believe his employees have a right to know, and with this information they might question whether that level of salary gap is necessary and ethical. If there is an explanation, then great – let them know! If not, maybe it’s time to rethink the distribution of compensation at this company.

    • Leslie says...

      Amelia – I suspect the general manager has much more responsibility than his 10 employees. In the private sector, compensation can be negotiated. The ultimate weapon is walking away from a job offer that one doesn’t believe is enough compensation for the work one will be required to do. For the last 20 years I have made my living as a marketing consultant earning more than $200K/year. I am very comfortable with negotiation because I do it so frequently. I also do it to help close the wage gap for my three daughters and future generations of women. I don’t believe in mandatory salary transparency because all employees in the same job do not perform equally in the private sector. And in the public sector I’d like to see pay for performance, too. My daughter has a phenomenal high school physics teacher a few years out of college who is paid $28K/year. My daughter’s English teacher does a disservice to the students and English language and makes $168K/year.

  32. DM says...

    My salary is posted in our collective agreement (along with all other teachers’ salaries) where I live so anyone who wants to know can look it up. I did have a funny conversation with one of my neighbours once when he asked how much I made and I said “how much do you think I make?” He replied with a figure almost 3 times my salary at the time. It made me wonder about public perception and what the general public actually think teachers are paid. Because we are public servants and our salaries come from tax $, I feel like many people have an opinion about how much we “deserve”.

    • Charlie says...

      Yes! Why is it that were ok with 23 yr old consultants making $100K, but we’re outraged when the CEO of a nonprofit makes 500k? Or a government employee makes more? I believe you shouldn’t have to take less to be a public servant. If anything, I want the best talent in positions in government, schools, and non profits. These orgs are benefitting society much more than uber and starbucks, and should be rewarded for the value they provide to the public, not expected top make personal sacraficesin salary. Let’s reward dogooders!

  33. Kate says...

    A word of advice for those with public sector salaries: while it might feel tempting not to worry about this since your salary is public info and there are charts for these things, pay attention to your classification.

    I worked in a government department that was a notorious old boys’ club. There was only ever one woman (MAX) on staff. They were eventually taken to court over it, lost, and were ordered to get busy hiring women.

    Well wouldn’t you know, all the earlier hires were XX-04s, and all the new hires were XX-02s. Same education, same experience, same chart, but the dudes are making 40k more than the women.

    Worse, since our department only loans people out “at level”, the guys are getting the face time and the opportunities with other departments, while the women “just aren’t ready”.

  34. Amy says...

    Recently, my partner read something to me to the effect of: ‘career advice for women’ (as opposed to ‘career advice’) is just gaslighting. I can’t help but think of that as I read through the comments — so many reflect that persistent perception that income reflects a person’s own failings in negotiation skills or business value or ability to manage the culture of the organization around salary. The maddening simplicity of it is that womxn, people of color, people with disabilities, people of transgender or nonbinary experience and many others are paid less because the systems were DESIGNED to pay us less. Being explicit with others about money is important (I make $87k/year + good benefits as a program manager at a nonprofit) but companies have to be pushed to and held accountable for advertising pay with job postings, assessing pay equity regularly among existing employees and actively promoting a culture of transparency.

    On a related but side note: A few episodes on the podcast, Call Your Girlfriend, discussed money and that income is not just your salary but also other sources of income that often come to people with privilege (i.e. money or property from parents, inheritances, etc. whether big or small). An annual salary, taken out of context, falsely presents the idea that it is possible to live comfortably with $30K salary in a large city.

    • Amanda says...

      Yes thank you for saying this!
      ‘Career tips for women’ are problematic in the same way that Lean In is problematic. It is WONDERFUL and important for those who identify as female to do as much as we can to push the needle, but the problem lies in our white capitalist patriarchal society, not in us. <3

  35. Totally agree that it’s awkward but necessary to close the pay gap between women and men.

  36. S says...

    I have a 62 year old female manager who advised that I not share my salary and that I could get into trouble if I did. However, I am close with a male colleague in the same position and he is of a progressive mindset and shared his salary with me.

    I like my boss well enough but sometimes I wonder if even female bosses hold other women back. But I realize it could be generational as well.

  37. Fluffy says...

    Where I work, if we discussed salary, we could be fired. Many companies have a written (or unwritten) policy disallowing the sharing of one’s compensation. Make sure you know your company, boss, or CEO’s policy on this, if you don’t want to risk your job!

    • D says...

      Under the National Labor Relations Act, it is illegal for companies to forbid employees to talk about their salaries (at least in the U.S.).

    • Katie says...

      That sounds crazy that a company can dictate that to their employees. Makes me thing that they are likely under paying some people and they want to keep the salaries low?

    • Amy says...

      This is illegal in the US, for what it’s worth (and I realize you may not be in the US). But it’s so in line with how we think about compensation as something secretive that I think many people don’t even question these policies.

    • Emily says...

      You may want to contact your HR department, because it is illegal in the US for companies to prohibit employees from discussing pay with their co-workers.

    • Just so you know.... says...

      If you’re in the US, that’s against federal labor laws! Check it out!

    • Zoe says...

      I believe this is actually illegal (depending on where you live) you’re allowed to discuss it.

  38. Caitlin says...

    I think it is SO important to talk about salary. I’ve been a state employee for most of my career and our salaries are actually public information – literally you can google my salary. It’s made it super normal to know my coworkers’ salaries which has been helpful in negotiating etc. And YET I still had an experience early in my career where I was making $10K less than a male with the same education and experience who was hired on the same day as me – that I found out about because our salaries are all online. Even with that transparency I still experienced pay discrimination! (I promptly quit that job because it was terrible anyway.)

    • June2 says...

      Thanks for the head’s up, yikes!

    • Jennifer says...

      Wow, literally the exact same thing happened to me. Ridiculous, right?

  39. Kel says...

    Share the information! I’m a partner a law firm and have always been open with my colleagues about what I make. (I also pry to find out what they make.) A few years ago, the knowledge that I made $30,000 less than my male counterpart, (same education, same years of service, same job) really lit a fire under me for my salary negotiations. Up to that point, I mistakenly thought of myself as an aggressive raise-seeker – always asking for more than I thought I should and “pushing the limits”. It turns out I was just another woman being convinced I was making more than I should! The men that I work for had a knack for making me feel unworthy of a high salary. Now that I have that knowledge? I ask for $30k more than that guy every year. Because I am worth it. And now I know it.

  40. katie says...

    Thank you to the scientist who shared her salary. I’m between 35 – 40, 12+ years in the field but no masters (school of life, baby!) and recently took a new job for $70,000 after a layout from a position paying $68,000. Nonprofit, slightly specialized manager role, in the Metro DC area. I hate how I partially feel “lucky” to make what I’m making, but then again my husband is same age and making over 40k more at a larger nonprofit. Yes, he has a Master’s, but it does make me wonder.
    And here’s my question: for the HR folks out there – how legit is the “best we can offer” when the company leads with that? It was my case, and as I was out of work and it was hitting right in the range I said I’d like to make, I felt like negotiating was rude. As in, I said I’d be happy with this, you’re offering me this, but I’m tempted to push back since it’s your first offer and I feel I am supposed to negotiate.
    And lastly- shoutout to my boss years ago- I was only in a role for 1 year, but another woman came on and apparently required 5k above what I was making for the same role. My awesome boss immediately ensured that my salary was also bumped up, as I had been proven in the role. Lift others up!

  41. Katie says...

    I am 100% for pay transparency and I really believe that within the next 5 years this will be something all employers do. It’s a great way to weed out subconscious discrimination and right size unequal pay disparities. Plus for employers I think it is a powerful way to limit liability. I think women in particular need to share pay to empower each other and give data points because it is so hard to know what to ask for and easy to settle. In addition to talking openly about pay (or if you don’t know anyone in similar work who will share) Payscale is a great tool that relies on anonymous data to determine if your salary is appropriate.

  42. LH says...

    Timely!

    My co-worker (same titles, same hire month, although I have more experience/education than she does) and I recently disclosed our salaries to one another, prior to our annual comp meetings and found out I made about 20% more than she does. She doesn’t expect to make exactly what I make, but it gave her some leverage when heading into that meeting.

    I was happy to share something with her that I wished had been shared with me. I have NEVER been told by ANY woman in my industry (and maybe only 1-2 outside my industry) what their salary is. Regardless, I went into my own annual comp meeting asking for a significant raise (detailing recently notable accomplishments that far exceeded my job description…I had a full page of these to present, haha!). This led to a meeting to go over my job description, since it has shifted quite a bit, and while we are still in talks, I’m proud of asking, since it was my first time to do so (strong arm emoji).

    • M says...

      Did you get the raise you asked for?

    • LH says...

      @M I’m waiting to hear!

  43. Danielle says...

    Wow! Thank you for covering this. As someone who has been in the workforce for 9 years now and am considered mid-level, the money conversations definitely don’t get any easier (which is shocking!)

  44. Megan says...

    It’s interesting. I read through all of these comments, and although almost all are in favor of more transparency, no one has said how much they earn for what they do. Even within the context of the article, no actual salaries are mentioned.

    So, deep breath, here goes: I’m a neuroscientist who is 39 years old. I have a PhD from an Ivy League school and close to 20 years’ research experience. I earn $60,000 per year as a research scientist at a major hospital in the northeast.

    When I was offered this job last summer, I also had a competing offer from a nearby university, a pricey private school. For that job, I was offered $41,000 to teach 5 biology and laboratory-based classes per semester and individually mentor students on top of that (equates to roughly an 11-hour workday). Although I love teaching, I couldn’t live off of that salary at my age/stage, and wish I knew how low higher ed paid before I worked so hard to gain experience to break into that field.

    I try to be very transparent about my salary so that the next generation can be better informed than I was. As a first-gen college student myself, I had no idea how much various fields paid, and I’m not sure whether I would’ve pursued my love of biology versus one of my other passions if I knew more about salaries in the field.

    • Danielle says...

      Wow, you are a rockstar! Love this energy.

    • Frances says...

      Bravo! I am currently without a full time position, and my search is ongoing (wish me luck!). In my previous position I worked for a nation-wide non-profit organization that offers services and support to patients living with a chronic illness. I was a government relations manager across a 5 state region, with responsibilities at the local, state, and federal level. After 12 years with that organization (I started as an executive assistant) my salary was approximately $58k /year.

    • Jess says...

      Thank you Megan!!

    • mb says...

      Thank you for your honesty!!!
      Here goes mine–prof at a private college–in the humanities (humanities typically earn less than STEM) and for me, it’s 59k a year.
      I am currently helping someone else negotiate for a similar job at a different university.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m a 31 year old working in State government and I make $57,000 per year. Over the course of my 10 years of working full-time, I’ve made more (as a nonprofit fundraising professional – working in this field will get rid of most shyness around money, quickly!) and I’ve made less (as a public school teacher) and I’ve determined that a solid benefits package, positive working environment, and generous time off are worth their weight in gold, or at least worth giving up a higher salary at this point in my life.

      PS Ask A Manager has threads like this (“What do you do and how much do you make?”) if you’re interested in more!

    • Andrea says...

      Thanks Megan! I recently quit (for many reasons, one of them being grossly undervalued) but I made about $43,000/year at my old job. I was Assistant Manager of Operations at a high-end retail store. I’d started at the very bottom as a part time seasonal sales associate and worked my way up and was transferred to two different locations over my course of seven years. I found out I was being paid much less than others who had been with the company much shorter and were arguably less productive and knowledgeable than me. The health and vacation benefits were the only thing keeping me on for so long. But there were too many issues and drama going on and I was extremely unhappy, so I finally took the step and quit at the very end of the year! I’m so proud of myself for not putting up with it anymore, but meanwhile I’m stilling job searching for something I’m worth! It’s scary being out in the job hunt for the first time in seven years.

    • Andrea says...

      Good luck Frances!

    • CB says...

      I live in a small city in the South. I graduated with a MSW in 2017, worked in foster care for a little less than a year for $31k/year and now work at a large non-profit engaging corporate volunteers at $37k/year.

    • Sarah F says...

      Those policies are generally unlawful. Discussing salary is concerted activity, protected by the NLRB in most settings.

    • Gina says...

      I’m an MSW and licensed social worker with over 20 years of experience. I am a supervisor in a child welfare non-profit agency and earn $41,000. My agency is always struggling financially and because we’re in the red most years no one is given raises. I love my work and work very hard at it but I know I’m underpaid, and so are my staff and my coworkers.

    • Liz says...

      Thanks for being open! I’m a PhD Chemist working at a major pharmaceutical company (R&D). I started straight out of school making 105k and have worked up to 130k after four years experience. Hope that’s helpful to anyone in the same field. (disclaimer: I am located in New Jersey… where we all live in $500k shoeboxes)

    • Nale says...

      Kudos to sharing our salaries openly! I am a Product Designer (we design the interface) at a large tech company with three years of experience and make 195k. I would love to see more women pursue careers in tech and for more awareness that there are lots of options outside of becoming a software engineer in this field.

    • Megan says...

      Thank you to everyone who is replying! It’s so informative to see the salary spread! And good luck to all who are on the job hunt!

      Liz, I’m also in the NJ area. Really helpful to get an idea of what industry salaries are like around here, thanks so much for posting.

      Let’s keep the conversation going! Information is power :)

    • Hannah says...

      Megan- thanks so much for sharing your info! I was so surprised to see your salary at only $60,000! I only have 10 years experience and a masters and make almost that much (58k) as a research coordinator at a large west coast university. Keep asking for more, you deserve it!

    • Laura says...

      Wow Nale, I am a Product Designer too, but I make about $83k (5+ years experience in product design, 15+ years in graphic design overall). My company is not officially tech-industry, but definitely tech-focused. My company is also a bit notorious for underpaying designers. On the other hand, our benefits are really good (and very family-friendly which is important to me). I know I could make more elsewhere but I have stayed here because the flexibility has non-monetary value to me.

    • KT says...

      Nale,
      That’s awesome! Can I ask roughly whereabouts are you located (e.g. Bay Area), and did you go to grad school for HCI (or something similar)? I’m also a female Product Designer, with several years more experience but no formal degree in design or human factors. I wonder just how much of an impact location (among other factors) has on salary. My city has a rapidly growing tech scene but it doesn’t compare to SF’s. However, if that’s how much a mid-level PD can make even outside the Bay Area, that would be very eye-opening, and inspiring!

  45. Erin says...

    I’ve noticed that men are MUCH more open with each other regarding their salaries than women tend to be, which puts them at an advantage in negotiations and contributes to the wage gap.

    Broaching the topic of salary with my female friends has always resulted in awkwardness, while my husband and his friends have no qualms discussing salary, signing bonuses and equity.

    The less taboo this subject is amongst women the more we’ll be empowered to close the wage gap!

    • gfy says...

      I wonder if this is because women intuitively know – or fear – they are underpaid and just don’t know how to handle that emotionally. I mean it is devastating when you find out and kind of a societal can of worms unless you can learn to just redress it without dissecting implications. What’s allowed me to do it without being sucked into the drama is to understand and be proud of the fact that I am a fulcrum for positive change and to really embrace forgiveness of society for it’s past. I acknowledge that it happened/happens but addressing it in my own life allows me to forgive – even when I’ve had to quit or change jobs. It is an upheaval but for the best of reasons. That is The Work – and we are doing it!
      And to share – I have had it go wrong when asking someone to disclose their pay while I was job shopping; she reprimanded me as if speaking to a child saying “salaries are PERSONAL information” and that it was rude of me to ask. I was mortified and she was so touchy about it that I did not even try to save the conversation by explaining the point that women need to look out for each other. I will be better prepared next time it comes up.

    • KS says...

      It has been proven that while women are less likely to speak up, it’s because women who are assertive are “aggressive” and “B words”. Men who are assertive are “rockstars”!

      Women are “supposed” to be demure and nice…and advocating for yourself doesn’t fit within society’s expectations.

  46. MW says...

    When my partner left his last job (at a small org with mostly women employees), I pushed him to take all the women in non-management roles out for coffee and tell them what he made. It’s my hope that men especially get wise to the idea that discreet, polite FYIs about salary can be the norm. Down with the pay gap!

    • gfy says...

      And what happened? How did he respond and was it illuminating for the group if he did it? Also, I used to work as a manager for a small non-profit and would really love to know in numbers what he did make! Thank you!

  47. Elizabeth says...

    I’m a public school teacher, so this secrecy around salaries has always amused me. The teacher salary scales within your school district are easily google-able, as this info is open to the public. (You should look them up; it’s depressing.)

    Salary secrecy serves the capitalist patriarchy. Shrouding the finances of workers in secrecy and silence ensures that there will never be a revolution of the workers. Think about what jumpstarted the feminist revolution of the second wave: women getting together and talking about all this shit. If the workers get together and talk about all this shit too, we might have the economic revolution this country is in such desperate need of.

    So yeah, start talkin.

    • B says...

      YES! I am also a public employee, and this weird salary secrecy issue is one of the reasons I wouldn’t want to work in the private sector again. Transparency benefits workers.

    • Madeleine says...

      Amen, sister! Well said! I also work for government and all salaries are posted online. It’s civil. Also worth noting that not all countries are the same – in Norway, for example, you can search online for any individual’s income as claimed on their income tax. Now that is transparent!

    • Katherine says...

      I came here to say this, too – I taught elementary school for a decade, and while I definitely feel I should have been compensated more, I’d have been laughed out of the principal’s office had I gone in to ask for more money. That’s just not how it works for teachers, but at least when I go back to teaching after finishing my stint as a stay at home mom, I’ll know what’s up in each district before I interview. However, I’ve been using the advice found here over the past few months to encourage and coach my sister through salary negotiations at her current job and while she’s been job hunting recently, so this info is still very valuable and helpful for me!

    • Ann says...

      I’m a teacher too, and I think that because our salaries are transparent and public, we have no ability to advocate for ourselves, and it enables the government to keep our salaries so low. Savvy, resourceful, and good teachers shopping for higher paying districts will only disadvantage the students in the lower paying districts. With the new budget plans, more cuts will be made to education. Without striking, there aren’t many options. Sometimes I wish I worked in business where I could go and show my merit and campaign for myself.

  48. Louisa says...

    Let’s say you are transparent and find out that you are – relative to your co-workers – grossly overpaid. Is the onus on those colleagues to fight the good fight, or should you approach the boss and say “I noticed something that seems unfair…”

    Asking for a friend… who is paid 50% more than I am.

  49. Emily says...

    I cannot recommend the book “Feminist Fight Club” enough for strategies on how to have conversations like this! My friends and I are constantly having to buy new ones because we give our copies away. It’s a lot of fun to read but also has great advice.

    • Donna says...

      Excellent book.

  50. CE says...

    Another huge piece of wage transparency is publishing salary ranges in job listings. Many commenters talk of the importance of initial salary negotiation, yet studies have proven that women negotiate less up front, and receive less during negotiations in general than men. So, if a business is committed to the benefits of equity – diverse teams, satisfied employees, better work – it’s in the business’s best interest to play a part in equity promotion. Many of the links Ms. Miller provided reiterate this point, as do the ones I’ve included below. Plus, according to the National Women’s Law Center, 85% of organizations budget for roles, so this is not outside the realm of possibility for the vast majority of companies. I’d love to see COJ include salary ranges in their next job posting.
    https://nwlc.org/resources/requiring-transparency-around-salary-ranges-reduces-the-gender-wage-gap/
    https://hbr.org/2018/06/research-women-ask-for-raises-as-often-as-men-but-are-less-likely-to-get-them

  51. Megan says...

    I work in HR and spent the past two years developing a transparent salary plan for my team. I have found it has had enormous benefits and I’ve gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback. Now the team can anticipate what their salary will be in years to come and there are specific skills they can work to acquire to increase their pay. I think my favorite part about it is that we’ve set the intervals in which you can expect a raise so that we aren’t putting the onus on the staff to initiate those conversations. Not everyone has the personality or ability to self-assess in a way that gives them the credit they are due.

    I would be happy to talk to anyone about the plan I created (both from an employer’s perspective or employee’s). I have learned a lot and we have a happy team.

    • Katie says...

      I would love more information on this! What industry do you work in?

    • Danielle says...

      I would also love to chat further about this as someone who also works in HR and would love to implement salary transparency.

  52. Lisa says...

    This article is so timely for me. There’s a policy at my work (and industry in general) that you’re not allowed to discuss your compensation with your colleagues. Incidentally; my husband works in the same industry but different area (more male dominated) and he knows pretty much what everyone in his team is paid because they talk quite openly about it.
    There’s a few articles coming out at the moment that lots of women at my employer have been disadvantaged post maternity leave – their pay is reduced and then their base going forward is from a lower starting point, pretty much screwing them over for a long time. I’ve just come back from mat leave and my pay has been stagnant for a few years, and I was passed over for promotion with no explanation as to why. In a way this code of silence is worked against and for me – against because I’ve been told that everyone’s pay is stagnant but I have no way of checking (apart from industry standard, which i am way below). It’s working for me because I’ve raised a complaint to HR (on the back of all the negative news) and one of my arguments is, I don’t know if I’ve been penalised for taking maternity leave. I’ve been told no one has gotten pay rises but I have no way of checking.
    It was a scary decision to make. I’m up for promotion again (2 years after losing out last time), so there is the concern that I am going to be punished for this. But I have a daughter. I remember when my mom told me that she had been fired for being pregnant and I was shocked. She didn’t do anything. If my daughter finds out about this, I want her to know that I stood up for my right, for her rights.

    • M says...

      I’m pretty certain that it’s illegal (in the US) for a company to have policies about or take measures to prevent employees of a company from discussion salary with one another.

  53. Cait says...

    I’m dying to know if the staff at CupofJo shared their compensation with one another after (or before) this article?

    Or has it remained “do as I say not as I do?”… which I could completely empathize with as well.

    • Natalie says...

      I was wondering this same thing!! Will you share?

    • Jessica says...

      I had the very same thought!

  54. Teresa says...

    The best way that I have found to be compensated fairly is to interview for another job and use that job offer as leverage in my current company. If you are truly a valued employee, you will get a raise that meets or exceeds the offer…..Or you can leave and take the better job.

    If you are denied the raise you think you deserve, ask what you need to be doing to make the raise happen. Set mutual goals with your boss and determine a specific date to revisit your progress.

    Bottom line is that you need to take control.

  55. Claire says...

    YES! I am super transparent with anyone who asks, especially because most of my peers are asking with the motivation of receiving a fair salary. And my motive on the other hand is breaking down barriers and allowing women to rise in the workforce.

  56. H. says...

    I work at a large financial firm where there isn’t a lot of room for negotiation but the compensation structure is relatively fair and transparent. Anyone is able to see the salary range of one’s grade level and the two grades above. Bonus targets and how well the firm/division is meeting its financial/operational goals are updated throughout the year as well. A more open dialogue would be interesting, but I don’t find it quite necessary. It helps that I have a manager whom I trust to look out for his team members’ best interests. (I may be naive, but he’s overall a great human and I am so glad I work for him)

  57. Krista says...

    I was just listening to a podcast with my kids called Bedtime Stories for Rebel Girls (highly recommend!). They had one about Billie Jean King, who leveraged her talents as a tennis star and a lot of grit in order to demand pay equality in tennis.

    If you want to learn more- https://www.billiejeanking.com/equality/

    • A Martin says...

      OMG I JUST downloaded this podcast! Excited to listen to it with my kids.

  58. Mel says...

    HUGE do for me. I never did, until last Spring. I had been at the same company for 10 years, and while when I started all the new hires spoke salary then it got real hush-hush and the company had an unspoken policy that you do NOT speak salary and every time you did at your review and got a raise you were told that this was private and could not be shared. Well. Fast forward to last spring I started to feel that perhaps I was a bit under-paid for what I was doing (as most people were at the company but stayed because of culture (which was deteriorating). I was approached by another company so I flat out asked a co-worker who had a comparable role/work-load/skill set and she made $12k more than me. She told me she had left making the same as me then came back and just asked for more. I ended up taking the new job making nearly $20k more than my previous job and when I left my company offered me a $15k pay bump. $15k! That I could have been making for years. My Director flat out told me as I was leaving that I should have been asking for bigger raises all along but the company on principle offered lower raises (because they’re in the business of making $). Her advice to me moving forward? And to all of you dear readers. When you’re offered a raise don’t say thank you always, always say ‘is that the best you can offer?’ Because it often isn’t…..

    • KS says...

      As an HR Manager I would walk away and not look back from a company that knowingly lowballs its employees. That’s it a silly game.

      Yes, one should negotiate but if my manager is playing chicken with me, I’m done.

  59. Amy says...

    I find this complicated, though I love the idea of transparency. I work at a school w/ an internally published salary scale, but it’s well understood that many people negotiate upon time of hire, so it’s more like a starting point than a rigid scale.

    Here’s what I find tricky: hiring is subject to supply and demand forces. The reality is, there are many more qualified applicants for humanities teaching positions than there are for science (especially chemistry- those classes are notoriously hard to staff), computer science, and math (especially calculus) teaching positions. So, STEM teachers are far better poised to negotiate than humanities teachers. I suspect many of them know this and that it leads to their being paid more.

    There’s a sense, though, in which faculty members in all fields feel like they’re doing the same work – and, there’s a sense in which that’s true. We just bring different content expertise. I don’t think it would be great for morale for humanities teachers to learn that they’re making an average of, for instance, 5K less than their STEM colleagues. (And, to be clear, I have no idea if that’s true, but I suspect it is.) But, that’s the reality of being in a higher-demand field than one w/ less demand.

    I happen to be a math teacher, so maybe I’M the one who’s uncomfortable at the prospect of my English teacher friends learning that I make more than they do. Maybe they know and accept this.

    • Ks says...

      I agree it is tricky. And I feel while the intention of transparency is good, it won’t be used for good in long run. Individuals and individuality is what contributes to our skills. So we all maybe working for same position but soft skills contribute a bit more to just robotic knowledge and skills. And how are you going to weigh it in flat salary so you observe the employee and add to their compensation accordingly. The blanket rule and socialistic approach to it is just not practical. Hence too much transparency will just coz chaos and unhealthy work environment. Be smart, help when you can but guard your interests when you want to.

  60. M says...

    I think you should do a post on negotiating for salary and when and how to ask for a raise. I have been on both sides the boss/ hiring manager and the one negotiating for salary. As a hiring manager in my experience men ask for more and they have their reasoning and points ready. We as women shouldn’t be afraid to ask for more from the get-go and then later on. One of the first companies I worked for wouldn’t give a range and asked for your former salary ( which is a huge problem in itself) but when I interviewed candidates the women didn’t ask for more salary (or just a small increase) that HR offered (HR had ultimate say in salary) and 9/10 the men asked for more as got more. I asked HR to be more transparent but they wouldn’t, so I told the women if they got an offer to negotiate for more. I ended up leaving that company but not before I gave raises when raises were deserved but also to make it an equal paying field for the women on my team. HR is meant to be fair but I have found everywhere I have worked most have issues.
    I mean don’t be crazy and ask for $1million dollars if it’s an entry level role but don’t be afraid to negotiate when you have an offer because the worst they can say is no.

    I think we as women have to help others navigate the workforce and be our own best advocates . But I think it would be great to do posts on negotiating and asking for a raise (and when to do it because I have had some people demand raises after a few months who haven’t performed).

  61. MC says...

    I work at a public university. The starting salary they offered was really low, but at the time I was unemployed so my hands were a bit tied. Luckily since then, through some different venues (and some luck), it has risen to an amount that is more tenable (but still low). There has been talk about expanding some of my responsibilities, but nothing yet about salary. I have a feeling I will need to be pushy- that they might be like here ya go with new job responsibilities and I’ll have to be like- pay me more.
    In addition, there are three other staff members in my area who do what I do and make more than me, which is tough. Only one has an advanced degree that I also have.
    It’s just really exhausting that I have to expend energy at work trying to get paid fairly. I have to figure out who to ask and when to ask them.
    I do feel lucky that the raises I’ve gotten have been largely because of other women I work with who were in a position to advocate for me.

    • cilla says...

      “I do feel lucky that the raises I’ve gotten have been largely because of other women I work with who were in a position to advocate for me.”
      Bravo for these women!

  62. Andrea says...

    At my old job I found out I was being paid less than every other manager, even though I’d been with the company and in my management much role longer than all of them. I was much more knowledgeable and arguably way more productive than most of them. Some were even making 35% more than me… Unfortunately I never felt comfortable bringing up that I knew exactly how underpaid I was as I was never actual told by these people, I just found out when I had to do payroll scheduling (pretty easy to figure out…) I never would’ve guessed how underpaid I was and I felt sick and awful knowing how undervalued I was even though I was told over and over how great I was at my job. I tried bringing it up at one point even just to get a little raise. My boss said he would give me a raise no problem, but then transferred to another location before doing it and I never had anything in writing. Needless to say I left the company for that and many other reasons… But it taught me never to undervalue myself again and to stick up for what I’m with! Unfortunately, sometimes you have no idea what you’re “worth” if there is no transparency :(

  63. Whitney says...

    I’ve always worked in nonprofits and now a social service consulting firm. My org now is larger and has better structure than any nonprof I’ve worked at, but one thing I appreciate is that they publish salary ranges for each position, so you know where you fall in the range compare to your peers. At nonprofits, it was always eye opening when I found out the guy in the office next door who spent all day selling electric plans through a pyramid scheme instead of doing his job made $30k more than me. That definitely was a motivator to leave if things didn’t change quickly.

  64. Sarah says...

    I was working for one company and got recruited by a start-up. I had my “make me move” number that was a pretty big increase above my previous pay, per my business-savvy sister’s recommendation. The company (then 15 men and 1 woman) first told me they hadn’t budgeted for that number, then gave it to me, then I was constantly made to feel that I didn’t merit my pay. I ended up leaving quickly because I got into grad school, but I’m still unsure about what the best approach would have been. As a result, when I joined my current job after grad school, I didn’t even negotiate and am paid way, way less than before grad school. I’m just about to switch jobs again and am so nervous about naming a salary because it feels so closely tied to my self-worth and self-esteem, and I’m not really sure what I deserve!

    • MK says...

      Ok- what in the actual fuck.
      You did not do anything wrong- if they didn’t want to pay you they much they could say no- making you feel like you don’t merit that amount is total bullshit and systematic of a culture where women are undervalued. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

    • Emily says...

      I’m with MK on this one. And most places wouldn’t do that – especially larger companies or more established startups. That’s the kind of culture you don’t want to be a part of at any salary.

    • E says...

      Agreed — was just talking to my BFF’s mom who works in HR and she said you shouldn’t move jobs without a 15 percent increase. A bit of an oversimplification with benefits, culture, other factors but that was a really helpful benchmark for me to hear.

    • gfy says...

      What MK and Emily said. Don’t let other people’s toxic behavior cripple your own behavior! You’ve got to stand up for yourself or else leave for a healthier environment – WITHOUT giving yourself a pay decrease! I really hope you do not self-sabotage by asking for less at your next job just because that one company psyched you out.

    • Sarah says...

      You guys! Thank you. I am in tears. I have been avoiding the job search just because it brings up so much crap so thank you, thank you for validating some of this :) GOD I love the Cup of Jo community. Last week I got advice about buying cute work pants, this week the girlfriend pep talk I’ve been needing. I just love this corner of the internet!

  65. I totally agree with this! I wish more people were open about how they budget, how much money they keep where, etc. because it feels like we are all supposed to know these things and yet we don’t!! There has been nothing more affirming to me than going out on a limb to ask someone a money question and have it answered honestly. On the other hand I did try this with a coworker since she has a family and more of the same schedule I would like once we start a family and she kinda made it awkward. We both rubbed it off but it definitely felt awkward for a minute. Moral of the story: more money talks please!!

    Allie

  66. Lauren says...

    I 100% agree that salary information should be less secretive! Until we get there, I have a tip for people who work at 501c3s – review 990 forms on Guidestar. The salaries for “key employees” are listed in part VII which is useful information when you are exploring opportunities at other organizations or negotiating a raise/promotion with your current employer.

    • Kara says...

      Thank you for this tip, Lauren! Just found my organization on Guidestar and it’s super enlightening.

    • Kate says...

      YES! This is the best advice for those who work at non-profits.

    • clare says...

      Thank you! Just looked up salaries for an organization where I’m interviewing. It’d be a new role in a new city and without this I wouldn’t have had a good idea of what the “going rate” is.

  67. Agathe says...

    It’s just so important! I’ve tried to have it in every place I’ve ever worked and it has always been a huge help! I’m especially comparing myself to male colleagues because… gender discrimination is real and knowing what the guys make is how you start fighting against it!

  68. Jennie says...

    WHOA! This is akin to opening your marriage up to a threesome…not saying it’s wholeheartedly wrong, but proceed with extreme caution. Some considerations:

    Your company is a microcosm in a broader marketplace ecosystem. You want to be compensated fairly for the market. Knowing your friend’s salary is not the same. Try using online resources for your ZIP code first. If your company pays both of you undermarket, knowing her salary does not help you.

    There are many variables in pay that can occur even if you have the “same” job as your friend. Performance ratings, time of hire (e.g. if you were hired during a downmarket and she was not) If she negotiated a better entry salary than you did, then that was her floor for every raise thereafter. I always coach women that the salary you negotiate upon job acceptance is the most critical thing you can do….it’s your floor for everything after.

    You may be able to get good, general information from your HR department. For example, you can ask for the salary ranges of people at your level, job description; performance ratings at some (usually larger) businesses.

    One of you will likely feel better after the conversation and one worse. So what are you REALLY going to do with this information? She may also say she is ok with it at the time, but then over time not be. Think carefully about what role she plays in your life, and how you would be impacted if that was gone.

    • Donna says...

      I like the idea of some transparency (companies disclosing ranges at various levels, at least) but what you wrote in the third paragraph is valid too. When I took my last gig, I was being offered significantly more than at my previous job, and I wasn’t as experienced as I am now, so I didn’t ask for more and happily took their offer. Years later, another person was hired for a different department as a designer and although our jobs and experience weren’t identical, in fact our titles differed, and for years we didn’t even report to the same people, eventually our departments were consolidated and we were both ‘designers’ and he found out that I was making more than him and resented me for it and was very unprofessional about it imo. He took it out on me instead of showing our bosses why he merited a raise. He wasn’t hired at the same time as me, nor by the the same people (in fact, those people had long left the company) and we had different backgrounds and skill sets. When I was hired my role was different in his in that in addition to designing, I was also writing, editing and performing some web development tasks. Did I mention our titles weren’t the same either even if in fact, staff referred to us as the company’s designers? Smh

  69. Sami says...

    I absolutely agree that it helps! I was in a position where I felt I was being under compensated, but didn’t know for sure. A couple coworkers I felt very comfortable with also felt the same way, so someone broke the ice and just said their salary and the rest of us followed. Like you said, it gave me the concrete data that I WAS being under compensated, and gave me confidence to ask for a raise (which I got!). I decided then that refusing to have an honest conversation about salary was only holding us back.

    I was recently able to pay it forward when a current coworker was asking for salary advice and wondering if other offers she was receiving were fair. I just told her what I was making and what the jumps in salary for me had been when moving jobs. It felt good to help in a tangible way, and to hopefully give her the confidence to ask for more!

  70. Caitlyn says...

    I read “Nickel and Dimed” in college (fantastic – recommend it!) and it talked about how establishing a culture of not talking about your salary is something employers do to screw employees. And that you should talk about your salary openly. I really took that to heart and I’ve been very upfront about my salary, my expectations and what I need to do to get there. I just walked out of my co-workers office – she is junior and wants to ask for a raise. I told her how much I make (her next level up) and encouraged her to talk to our boss now (about 6 months before her annual review) to let her know that she’d like to ask for that amount at her next annual review. I let her know this was how I negotiated my raise and that doing so ahead of time gives our boss a chance to budget for the raise (the most common reason we’re turned down is if the item wasn’t budgeted) as well as asking what she can do now to put herself in a position to ask for that amount in 6 months. I am a HUGE fan of transparency with your co-workers and your boss! My boss also knows that I’m looking for a promotion this year and we’ve had multiple conversations about what things I need to be doing throughout the year to earn that increase. I’m happy to go above and beyond to meet these goals with the expectation that doing so will result in a promotion in a year’s time. I think being honest and open is ideal for everyone!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      i love that, caitlyn! thank you!

    • mb says...

      This is absolutely true. In my work (education) salaries tend to get compressed and newer people can be getting bigger paychecks than the ones that have been there for a while. Because of that, there’s a whole thing in my university about NOT talking about salary because it may create low morale.

      I wholeheartedly disagree with the premise that low morale is the result of comparing wages. Low morale is the result of having people in charge that are not increasing wages to correspond with the standard of living increases. When I found out about a colleague’s higher salary I was deeply disappointed. But it was definitely not that I was pissed at my co-worker, who I know works hard–I was pissed at myself for not negotiating better and thinking ahead and of course at the people who lowballed me in their offer!

    • Emily says...

      This is such a smart way of looking at it! I am going to start approaching my boss and my raises like this. Thank you!

  71. Irina says...

    I’ve worked in nonprofits for most of my career and went from a nonprofit where staff was vastly underpaid and salary information was extremely secretive, to a nonprofit with better compensation and a greater degree of openness about salaries.

    Here’s a funny story about my previous job. When they sent me my job offer, I saw that the salary in the offer letter was 5K less per year than what was in the job listing to which I’d applied. When I called my future boss out on this, he was pretty flustered. Said the agency didn’t normally publish salaries in job listings and he would investigate and get back to me. He then got back to me and said it was an HR mistake that A) the salary was listed at 5K more than what they’d intended to pay, and B) that the salary was even listed at all. He said that they would honor it, and they did, which was great, but it was my first glimpse into how little most other people at that organization were making. There was also a four-fold disparity between the lowest salary in the organization and the executive director’s salary, and a nearly two-fold difference between the salary of the executive director and that of the other directors, which I felt was absolutely unacceptable, particularly in a small organization.

    At my current job, we don’t necessarily know how much everyone makes (well, I do, due to the nature of my work, but most staff don’t), but we do have a pay scale, and each job posting includes the salary range for that position. Staff are generally hired in the lower half of the salary range for their position and receive annual raises that fall between 2% and 4%, depending on budget and performance. And, our health insurance premiums vary depending on your salary range, which I love and I think is absolutely fair.

  72. Rose Smith says...

    Yes yes yes. I found out my coworker who started the same day as me was making more than me, and I so appreciate her for being transparent with me. When I brought it to my supervisor, she literally said “I thought you would never find out”, well I did and because of that i was able to get a equity raise.

    No matter how much salary doesn’t denote your worth, it is so hard not to feel that way. Be transparent so you can make sure your organization wont take advantage of you. Because most of the time they will.

  73. Alexis says...

    Unions all the way! Everyone’s paid by a step scale. It’s not perfect but it’s better than the alternative and I want all my colleagues to be fairly compensated for the work we do.

  74. Alison says...

    I’ve always worked in the public sector—so everyone knows everything. It’s nice.

    • Heather says...

      Same here. My salary is public information; anyone can look it up at any time. Granted, I’m still grossly underpaid, but that’s another story.

    • Cynthia says...

      Heather, would you mind sharing why you willingly work at a job in which you feel grossly underpaid? Since you used the word “salary” I trust you are not an hourly employee or rely on tips. I’m really curious!

  75. Kit says...

    As someone who works in HR the only bit of caution I’d provide is to be comfortable finding out you’re not the companies top performer. I personally think pay band transparency is great to know where you stand within the band for your role – but finding out a peer is regarded as a higher performer can be a tough blow if you’re not particularly self aware. Pay should be fair – but it’s also inherently based on performance as well (particularly bonus numbers!).

  76. Alison says...

    I can see both sides of this. I work in a corporate job that has a VERY diverse set of folks employed (artists, engineers, business, etc.). As someone on the business side, I have fairly candid talks with my creative friends about other things (are we taking advantage of the 401K match, how much to put into retirement, if our different medical plans are worth the cost difference, etc), but I’ve never divulged my salary to them. Our roles are too different for it to be a good comparison set, and I worry that it’d cause strife between us. I don’t know enough about the industry to understand where a good monetary range for their work would even be. They’d be much better off asking fellow writers or designers on their side of the business! (Similar to how I’d never ask my friends who are engineers here… I KNOW they make more, but man I did NOT go to the same level of school they did.)

    I do talk a lot to my friends who are in the same industry I am, but not at my company a lot more about my (and my husband’s) salaries throughout our careers. It’s definitely helped friends who have wanted to job hop, or are considering going back to school for a different skill set.

    Salaries just seem very personally associated with the individual, so I think knowing where the person you’re talking to is coming from is so helpful. I’m way more willing to tell random people how much I paid for my house, and what $ amount is left on the principal. That’s just a market factor and I’m sure is public knowledge somewhere! These things are all intertwined though… Another thing I’m also very clear on for money conversations with friends – whether it’s housing, retirement, etc is to point out where I have advantages. No student debt, no car payment, etc. (I think it’s similar to another commenter mentioning full benefits as part of the salary talk. There are a lot of factors to include for someone to get the full picture of your situation.)

  77. Patty says...

    As a former HR manager, I find salary conversations so tricky. Pay discrepancies are obvious, and a huge problem. But I also cringe a little bit when the reason behind asking for a raise is due to comparing yourself to other people.

    I think it’d be more helpful for employers to be open about salary bands for roles/levels and have an open discussion from there with each individual. I like to ask myself, “Am I performing at the highest level of this role? If so, why? I list all the reasons based on the job competencies, and if I am executing at the highest level, then I deserve to be paid at the highest end of the band’s spectrum. If not, I ask for CLEAR ACTIONS that I should take to get to that level? So, at the very least, I walk away with feedback and a plan to get there.

  78. LB says...

    Money discussions oddly make me feel guilt. When I first joined the corporate world I guess I was naive about the discussion of salary among co-workers, I just assumed same job same pay. There were only four women in the entire U.S. doing my job (50 men, 4 women) and when I spoke with one of the women regarding compensation I openly told her my salary. Her eyes widened and she let me know she was making much less than me, I felt bad and covered it up with cost of living demands ( I live in CA and she lives in WA) but I felt guilty for saying anything. I didn’t think there would be such significant gaps between us. At my new job my boss asked me that I do not share my salary with anyone because I am getting paid more than others and he said it “would cause problems”. I am happy he is paying me what I asked for but then when he said that it made me feel guilty.

    • mb says...

      That’s not on you! Hopefully, this conversation emboldened your colleague to ask for more! Trust me–I was on your colleague’s end of the conversation. I feel zero anger or resentment toward the people earning more than me. But I am actively trying to figure out how to get a raise based on that information.

  79. I live and work in Germany, and there’s actually an explicit clause in my contract saying I have to keep my salary confidential. It’s such a shame because I’m all for salary transparency! My friends and I are very open about what we earn but because we all work in different industries it’s nowhere near as helpful when it comes to negotiating raises.

  80. Cara M says...

    Thank you for such a compelling article. I’m in a different situation because the global consulting firm I work for uses banding for salaries for each level. Depending on your experience, progress throughout the year, etc. you are paid somewhere in a range. Throughout the year, you document your work efforts (projects, priority) and collect feedback. It used to be that your superiors would then have year-end discussions with everyone with an employee at your role level and they would classify you and the other employees of your rank on a bell curve. Where you landed (exceeds, meets, etc) determined how much of a raise you’d get or a bonus. But because it was on a bell curve, there were people who got shuffled to the bottom. If your advocate/superior could make a great case for you – or was just an excellent storyteller, you could get a higher end-of-year rating. They’ve recently revised the process so now each team gets a lump sum of money, and individual superiors can figure out how to dole it out among your team based on your documented performance. I know have no idea what this will look like as I am a part-time worker on a flexible schedule – how will that rank against someone full-time. Ugh. The lack of discussion and transparency around it just kills me!

  81. Michaela says...

    Why wouldn’t you want to disclose your salary? Would it hurt your career to tell your co-worker you make xyz? Is it because it might be awkward? I guess I am confused as to the secrecy factor.

    • Donna says...

      Because traditionally your employer might penalize you for disclosing it because it is in the employer’s best interest that neither of you know what the other is making.

    • June2 says...

      @ Donna But is that legal? To be penalized?

  82. Jessica says...

    Does anyone have any suggestions about asking for a raise when you work in the public vs. private sector? So often a lot of the advice I read seems geared towards corporate environments, but I work in public education where annual budgets can feel much more “locked in,” with little wiggle room. You can be made to feel difficult for asking for so much as a paper clip, let alone expressing concerns about your salary, especially when money worries are a constant concern for every person and every department. I often feel like my desire for financial security (and the ability to do things like buy a home or have a child) is in perpetual conflict with my desire to do work that I love and find meaningful, but then wonder if I’m just being too passive? Any other federal or state employees out there with advice or resources?

    • Donna says...

      Just remember you are not a charity and you must look out for yourself because your employer is not going to do that for you. Especially in your prime earning years. You won’t get that time back.

    • E says...

      I don’t have advice but my husband runs into this. It truly doesn’t bother him b/c he’s so passionate about working at a public school (and with our salaries combined, we’re doing fine). But it kills me to see someone like him who is such a high performer (his principal said he’s the best she’s ever seen) just … stuck!

  83. Kari T. says...

    Definitely do. The only people benefiting from us not having the conversation are companies that don’t want to play/pay fairly. These are the same companies that will not give you a raise unless you ask for it, so ask. From experience :)

  84. anon says...

    But what about those of us who work for ourselves? I don’t know anyone else in my field as I basically fell into it and work remotely with small clients. I’ve slowly raised my rates over time as I feel more comfortable with my role, but I have no comparisons. Add to that the fact that I am terrible at judging my own worth—love to volunteer, hate to ask for pay for actual work. It’s a real struggle I desperately need to address.

    • Sophie says...

      I came across this via Instagram a few days ago. The idea is that you put in your rates and are able to see the rates that others charge. https://www.freelancingfemales.com/rates

    • Anon, I highly encourage you to check out tobemagnetic.com and Lacy’s Phillips work. I was one of her first clients and she completely changed my life with her approach to raising self-worth by clearing out the subconscious. I think her work could really help you navigate the why behind your struggles.

    • Teegan says...

      I work as a freelance editor on a part-time basis, and I had a lot of trouble with this, even googling “standard rates for editors.” But then I found a worldwide facebook group for editors, and people ask pay rate questions all of the time! I would see if there’s some sort of group for your field. It’s also nice just to have people to ask general work questions or to commiserate when you’re down and other people don’t “get” your position.

    • KC says...

      This is something I struggled with as well. I found, however, as a remote freelancer that with a lot of people *the more they were paying me the better they treated me* – they’d be more likely to be on time, give me what I needed to do the work, reply to emails, etc. if they felt like I was “valuable” – and for many (far too many) people, your rate is a direct proxy variable for your worth. I didn’t have this problem with people I knew who were solidly good people with concepts of human worth outside of money, but 1. the people who wanted to pay me less also very consistently treated me less professionally (not sending me things by deadlines, not meeting agreed-upon standards, etc.)(oh, I have stories) and 2. where they didn’t offer/negotiate and I just said what my hourly rate was, people treated me substantially better when it was higher. I assume that this would have maxed out at some point, but it honestly surprised me that cutting nonprofits a financial break, for instance, would have reasonably-substantial *negative* repercussions on my working environment.

      I think asking for pay for actual work can maybe be reframed sometimes into things like “With more details I could give you a tighter estimate, but for a project of that general scope my rates are $X (or $X/hour with estimate of Y hours); let me know if you’d like to move forward with [thingy].” You are not asking them to pay you; you are asking them if they wish for you to do this work. (sending in invoices to people who are reluctant payers is, indeed, asking them to pay you. What they agreed to pay you. And you enforcing that payment is, barring special charitable circumstances, a good thing for the world, as following through on ethical/legal obligations is a good thing for the world.)

      I really haven’t figured out how to deal, in terms of conscience and ethics, with earning so much more per hour than, say, a public school teacher or a social worker – jobs that are socially *vital* and draining and very important – but just paying yourself less apparently doesn’t really fix this, societally. So. Good luck!

    • Teegan says...

      KC, I’m married to a public school teacher, and while I may make more than he does when you look at it hourly on my editing versus his teaching (especially if you look at alllll of the hours he works above and beyond the school day), he also has a confirmed wage every two weeks, without fail, and insurance and pension, etc. While I would love for his hourly wage to match mine, I’m much happier that at least one of us has a stable salary and all of the benefits.

  85. megs823 says...

    I have talked about it with friends who have similar jobs in the same industry. I don’t have any direct coworkers with my job title/responsibilities.

    Someone above said they got a 15% raise. That sort of thing is just…unfathomable and I am jealous. I work for a non profit. I got a 5% raise last year but it seems like ages ago.

    I think often, to move up, you gotta move on…

    • E says...

      It was me! I asked for a 15% raise and got a 12%. I hear you on the non-profit thing, and this is the highest salary I’ve ever had, so I’m super grateful.

      I hope this makes you feel better and doesn’t read as a complaint, but even with that raise there are some pros and cons to the financial picture. My husband works in a non-profit and even though his salary is about 2/3rds mine, with his benefits it’s almost a wash. That’s part of the reason I pushed for this raise b/c while the number seems high now, there’s a bigger picture.

  86. Liz says...

    This is the perfect question to ask recently-departed colleagues.

    I met up for lunch with someone who was one title above me and had recently left my company. She was kind enough to share with me the salary band for the next title. At my next review, I didn’t get promoted, but was able to negotiate myself into the next salary band despite that – a great feeling. And when I did get promoted, I relied on the numbers she gave me to make sure my compensation was right on-target for my new title.

    This had made tens of thousands of difference in my salary amount.

  87. In general, I think transparency and honesty in the best policy. I like your reasons for discussing wages, but I confess I would even like to know what people in other industries make, not just my co-workers.

    Right now my kids ask me “is so-and-so rich?” (usually people we know) and then I have to say: I just don’t know! Maybe they live a lavish lifestyle and they’re in debt. . . ? Maybe they have huge savings accounts and large charitable donations and drive an old dented car. . . ? What I end up discussing with my kids is what does “rich” mean and how it’s basically none of our business how much money other people make and how they spend it. But I’m CURIOUS.

  88. Le says...

    I work for a state institution, so it’s public knowledge if you know where to look. But it has not led to any peace of mind finding out. I’m making at least 10K less than people doing the same kind of work here, and I’ve been doing it for longer. I’ve always been one of those “nice” people who doesn’t push for more. Now we’re in tight budget times at my institution, and I know better than to ask for more. Doesn’t help that a few years ago the Dept. of Labor decided based on my pay that I am “hourly” rather than “salaried,” although I had been hired as a salaried employee a decade ago. As a result, now I am the only hourly person in my department doing the same kind of work. I don’t work in the kind of role where I will ever be able to request/receive OT, which is the reason for the Dept. of Labor’s move. So I just feel like crap about myself at least twice a month when I submit a time sheet. I guess I just needed to vent. I realize I’m fortunate to have a job, and one that actually uses my degree, so I’m not ungrateful. But I do feel undervalued.

    • kathy says...

      Ugh I’m sorry to hear this. Have you thought about asking a lawyer about your situation? Not that you would raise a claim but it seems a little odd that you would be characterized as an hourly employee given the other factors that you mention (e.g. you were previously characterized as salaried, you do the same kind of work as your salaried peers).

    • Erin says...

      You might be surprised! Tight budget times can actually be a great time to ask for a raise. The organization would likely lose a lot more than the value of your raise if you left and they had to spend time and money on rehiring your position. Smart managers will see a raise to retain an employee as a worthwhile investment in lean times since an unfilled position can be a major liability. Don’t ever feel like you need to make accommodations to your compensation based on how you assume your organization is doing financially. Your work is not charity–always push for the money you deserve!

    • Kim says...

      Even in tight budget times, it’s so much cheaper to keep a good employee than to hire someone new. In your position I would ask for a raise anyway. Make all the points you’ve made here and go in knowing you are more valuable to them than what they are currently paying you. You are worth it!

    • Le says...

      Oh my gosh, you are all so nice; thank you for your words of encouragement. I really appreciate them! I had my evaluation with my supervisor this week, though, and it’s pretty likely due to budget cuts at my institution a coworker who has less seniority but a higher title or I will be laid off. No chance for a raise. I’m an editor. Maybe it’s time to turn this into a full-time freelance gig.

  89. LK says...

    Yes, always yes! This isn’t so true with my current company (where there is a clear linear movement with steps and raises) but at my old job, a girl found out she was making hundreds less in bonuses than her male counterparts.

    I find it so helpful to know what salaries people are making in different industries, as well as vacation/benefits.

    It’s also helpful to interview every few years to find out your options! A place I interviewed recently offered over a $20k raise…in an extremely more stressful environment than my current job. Luckily I was able to negotiate a raise with my job so I am happy. But that is a LOT of money!

  90. anon says...

    I’m a teacher and we have levels. Every year when we have our contract talks, there’s a sheet with all the levels and pay for each level. The levels represent years of teaching experience. So if you know how many years a teacher has taught you can basically figure out their salary. When you’re hired, if you have experience, they’ll figure out your level based on that. It’s pretty open and clear, though no one really talks about it… maybe b/c we don’t need to, we can just check the chart?

  91. Ellen says...

    This is a great article. I’m in my mid thirties and I can think of at least two instances when I’ve been sure my peers were getting paid more but didn’t know how to navigate those conversations or ask for a raise. I even had one mid level manager tell me that it was illegal to ask about salaries. Seeing that this has been illegal for over half a century makes me wish I could go back in time and have all those conversations! Thanks for this information—let it be sung from the rooftops!

  92. Talking about salary often feels awkward but it’s so worth it! I think of it at as a very generous move on the part of the person sharing — you’re taking a risk (there’s that fear of “what if this information makes our relationship awkward?!”) and pushing through your own discomfort to give someone information that might greatly help them. Like, when you consider that our salary typically grows over time based on what we were making previously, you’re sharing information that *could change their entire life*. That’s a really big deal!

    Every time I talk about money with a friend and use real numbers, I feel like we’ve leveled up in the world / in our friendship / as adults / etc. It feels great!

  93. Lisa says...

    I’m in the legal field. As my friends navigate career changes, we’ve all opted to be very open with each other regarding pay and benefits at our various employers and job expectations. One friend just took a job which is going to pay her significantly about 10% more than me. BUT, when we balance the fact that my job pays 100% of the cost of healthcare for me AND MY FAMILY, our pay is equivalent. I offer this as a point of saying, don’t let salary be your one and only question or point of comparison: what other intangibles may factor into pay?

    As an aside, employers can’t prohibit you from talking about pay!

  94. In my last corporate job (working in marketing for a mortgage company) I was explicitly told that any discussion of what I was making would be grounds for termination. When giving my assistants raises, I was told to reiterate the threat that any discussion would mean they lose their jobs.

    Now that I’m a few years removed from the situation, I wonder if that was true or even legal? Regardless getting out of there was the best decision I ever made. :-)

    • Megan says...

      Not legal!

    • janee says...

      So does this mean you can counter an employer’s threat for “silence or else termination” by educating them to the fact that you are legally entitled to discuss pay and any action towards termination or retribution would evoke legal proceedings?

  95. Hilary says...

    I would LOVE to be having these conversations, but my workplace prohibits salary discussions with colleagues (it’s actually written into our contracts)! Any advice on how to approach this in an atmosphere that clearly isn’t encouraging of salary openness?

    • Clare says...

      That sounds really tough! This kind of policy is pretty common but very often illegal, thanks to the National Labor Relations Act. Maybe try researching that (NPR has an informative explainer from 2014) or looking into collective action / unionizing. Good luck!

    • Hilary says...

      Thank you!! I’m looking into this now.

    • Hannah says...

      It depends on where you live, but some states (CA, CT, NY, MA, VT, WA, CO, IL, LA, MN, NJ, VT, probably more!) have laws that forbid companies from banning employees from talking about their pay (they’re designed to keep companies from paying people unequally). Just Google “Pay Secrecy Law” and your state name! My company, in one of these states, used to put something in our annual contract letters about pay being considered confidential, but I pointed out politely that they were in violation of state law as well as the NLRA, and they removed the language. Pay transparency is crucial!

  96. Anne Elliot says...

    I work for the government so my salary is public information. While that’s not always comfortable for me, the value of the information outweighs the discomfort because it is enormously helpful to know how I am paid with reference to others in the same or similar positions.

    One of my first jobs out of university, in the private sector, I went to work for a particular salary and about two years later discovered that I was being paid less than a male employee who had less education, less time with the company, and less experience generally. That changed my whole relationship with the company because I could not conclude that they had/were treating me fairly. It literally soured everything about an otherwise pretty good job, and I quit within a year. Overall, I’d rather have salaries be public information.

  97. Laura says...

    This is a great post! I went from a state workplace where people’s salaries were posted online to a private company where no one talked about salaries. One of my co-workers who had been there for years was making significantly less than others, and we talked about it one day because she was seeking advice on how to get a raise. My boss got wind of that and I got a big reprimand because of it! I didn’t know the company discouraged it, and it left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I have since learned that it’s actually illegal for employers to prohibit wage discussions in the workplace, per the National Labor Relations Act:

    https://www.npr.org/2014/04/13/301989789/pay-secrecy-policies-at-work-often-illegal-and-misunderstood

  98. courtney says...

    I have found openness about salary extremely helpful and refreshing. It’s a person’s choice to speak about their salary; if there is any secrecy about it, it should come from an individual, not be enforced by the workplace. I don’t see any reason for withholding something so basic and factual, when sharing it can be very informative and useful.

  99. E says...

    I haven’t ever done this directly but have often known other’s salaries when I was in more corporate roles where the leveling was clear. I now work at a company smaller than 20, which makes it feel weirder to ask since we’re so small.

    I did just ask for a raise (15 percent, rather than leading with a number), and got it! That led to my boss sharing that everyone at my title was going to get that raise, which I think is a good thing.

  100. Mali says...

    I live in Israel, and the culture here is very open about money in many ways. “How much do you make?” “How much did you pay for your house?” “How much did that cost?” (And people are willing to bargain over many things, too. Maybe it’s related?)
    At first it was really hard for me to adjust to, but it’s getting easier (after 14 years). Talking so openly about money and finances means that money is less of “thing” and less of a “topic.”
    Still, when another American co-worker just asked me how much I make, I checked with the boss first to see if I could tell her… I know I am making more than her and I wasn’t sure why she was asking and didn’t want to make things weird. He said I could go ahead and tell her, and not to worry if she ended up asking for a raise because of it…

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s great, mali! sounds so refreshing.

  101. Cynthia says...

    When I worked in a bank office many years ago, we were told not to discuss our salaries. There was a salary range for each job level, and you and your co-worker both could be level 5s for instant and each of you making a different salary. When I went back to teaching, there was a scale on the county’s website, so you could see where you were. In the county, performance had nothing to do with your raise, if the county was financially able to give a raise, everyone got one. When the economy tanked in 2008, we didn’t get a raise that year nor for the next three years, but no teacher lost their jobs. I do know that the brand new teachers were getting almost as much as many of us veteran teachers, and now that I’m retired, the county is addressing that issue.

  102. Taylor says...

    I’m a fed, so how much I make is public online, and I know how much my coworkers make (the same as me!) and how much my bosses make. It’s SUPER HELPFUL because we are all, for the most part, starting our careers together and we’re all navigating contributing to retirement and savings and figuring out what kind of lifestyle we find comfortable within our salary. I’ve realized that I need my savings to be automated, so I have 15% put into my savings account automatically–but I also don’t mind spending more on rent than my coworkers to live in a “nicer” area where I can walk to the grocery store and all my favorite places to eat. It’s been really helpful when asking about health insurance and gym memberships–since we’re all operating on the same budget more or less (some of us have partners that make less or more, or kids already, or no partner, etc etc) everyone is keen to share ideas to make our salaries comfortable. Built in salary transparency is a gift–there’s been literally no downside.

  103. Michelle says...

    I have found it’s sometimes easier to seek out a work friend who is a level or two above me and ask what they were making when they were at my level. It’s a bit less invasive in case they’d like to keep their current numbers private, but just as useful to me.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a great tip! caroline’s friend did that and it really worked out.

  104. Julie says...

    At a previous job the pay conversation came up on accident…. low and behold all of the women hired at the same time were making a significant amount less than the the males. We were all supposed to be set on an even scale, so there was no fight on the company’s behalf. Soon after we were paid back pay and increased in salary to be equal, thank goodness. Have the conversations- it’s really not that big of a deal if you know your coworkers well. They (and you) would hopefully want everyone to be paid fairly.

  105. I wish that this headline was not framed as a “Do or Don’t” because as you have compellingly argued, we have to make salary transparency a priority if we are ever going to end the persistent gender and racial pay gaps that plague our workforce.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      that’s a really good point, lexie. we just talked about it with our team. i think it’s still a “do or don’t” type question these days — although we’re definitely on the side of “do.” there are still such ingrained etiquette/social norms around not talking about money and it seems like most people don’t talk about money at work. we definitely vote “do” but i’m curious about other people’s thoughts and feelings. xoxo