Money can be a touchy subject to talk about with coworkers, but it can also be a way to connect with them and understand your company better. There are many reasons you might want to discuss salary with your coworkers, and it doesn’t need to be awkward. Salary transparency is a growing company policy from which workplaces have seen positive effects. Discussing pay is not always about asking for a raise—the discussion can also help ensure your workplace is fair and allows your supervisor to explain how your company calculates salary ranges.
Here’s how to have a professional conversation about salary with your coworkers or friends who are in a similar field of work.
Tear down the taboo
A 2018 Bankrate Survey shows that millennials are twice as likely to openly talk about their salary than baby boomers. These results show that the taboo nature of “salary secrecy” is dwindling, so it’s an opportune time to start the conversation.
The taboo nature of salary talks stems from fear of judgment from both sides, so the first step is to establish trust with your coworkers. While you don’t have to be best friends with them and know every detail of their personal life, it’s key to show them that you care about them as a person and value their contributions to the team. This approach makes it feel more comfortable because they know you’re coming from a non-judgmental place. Make it clear why you want to talk about your salaries. Your reason could be that you want to help both yourself and your coworker negotiate pay raises as a united front or maybe you want to help each other feel less alone by satiating the constant salary curiosity. Whatever your reason is, make sure they understand it.
Lead by example
The results of a number of workplace studies show that employees receive better pay and report higher job satisfaction when there is a culture of salary transparency. The transparency starts with you. Lead by example and share your salary with coworkers first. You can always give a range, too. For example, you could say “I make an estimated twenty to twenty-five dollars an hour when you break down my annual gross income.” You may consider starting the conversation outside of work hours so you both feel less restricted. Propose a lunch break out at a restaurant together to get the conversation flowing naturally.
Follow the rules
It’s not uncommon for companies to require discretion about pay. Therefore, you should review your company’s policy, and, if you’re dissatisfied, propose a change at your company.
Read your HR handbook and hiring contract
Your HR handbook likely has information about discussing salary. If you feel uncomfortable directly asking your HR department if you can talk about money, read through the handbook section first. If your company has a confidential suggestion or question submission form, you can also benefit from submitting it there.
Additionally, you can review your hiring contract to look for language such as “non-disclosure agreement.” It’s always a good idea to thoroughly review your hiring contract before signing it, but if you missed it, the window to discuss pay with coworkers or employees at another company may have closed. There are, however, ways to implement a change in your company’s pay disclosure policies!
Propose salary transparency
The best way to proceed if you find that you cannot discuss your pay is to suggest that your company review its policies. Again, if your company has a suggestion box, this is the best place to do so anonymously. If you feel comfortable approaching HR yourself, tell them that you believe the company could benefit from salary transparency. There are several studies available about the topic online, so find one that fits your field of work and pull data from there. Send your HR department a letter about your findings to back why you believe it would boost company morale, not just your own. It’s best to show them the bigger picture.
You have the power and right to feel good about your pay. If you follow these tips, you can start exploring the relationship of your pay to your work and your company as a whole—without causing yourself stress or harm to others.