Few questions are so taboo in the workplace as the “inappropriate,” “unprofessional,” and “intrusive” – “How much do you make?” question to a coworker.
But why is it such a hands-off question in the first place?
I mean, after all, we’re all coworkers and just because I know how much you make doesn’t mean I could do something with that information right?
Even if I had evil intentions with the knowledge of my coworker’s salary, it’s not like knowing this information gives me some magical power to steal my coworkers’ check or gives me the ability to impersonate their identity.
So, remind me again, why is asking a coworker how much money they make such an “inappropriate” question?
I’ve heard a lot of reasons from upper management as to why this question should never be asked but the most ridiculous of them all is, “If we shared that information, it would only distract workers from doing their jobs…”
What a load of hot crap. It sounds so stupid it’s actually hilarious.
I think that upper management is afraid of what could happen if workers learned what their coworkers make.
Hmm…now what could they be afraid of?
Lets cut the crap—the real reason you don’t know what your coworkers make is that chances are, there are large differences in pay amongst workers that perform the exact same job, period!
Translation, if workers were to ever find out about the vast inequities in pay, the office will turn into an all-out riot.
Emotions will run high and loyalty will fall. Screams, tears, and expletives will fly. Resignation letters will flood managers’ desks and resumes will flood the local job market.
But I’m not the only one asking questions about pay secrecy. Back in April of 2014, when discussing equal pay for equal work, President Barack Obama is quoted as saying, “Pay secrecy fosters discrimination and we should not tolerate it…not in federal contracting or anywhere else.”
So that brings me to the actual reason why the CEO types have virtually outlawed a question that, at its core, should not be associated with terms such as “inappropriate” and “unprofessional.” Alas, the REAL reason why this question has been outlawed is this simple fact; when workers don’t know what their peers make—employers use this lack of transparency to their advantage by paying some workers much less than their coworkers in the exact same role.
And this is the part of the story where I call the practice of paying workers that perform the same duties vastly different salaries STUPID!
It’s stupid because, even before we had salary.com and glassdoor.com, there was about a 100% chance that workers find out what their fellow
But the tables are slowly turning and workers are getting the upper hand these days. Firms like mine, salarymatters.com, was created to help shed light on this practice, and help corporate workers use this lack of transparency to their advantage to get paid not only what they deserve, but much more. I know because that’s exactly what I did to grow my salary by 245%—I beat them at their own flawed game by using their lack of compensation transparency to my advantage.
But hey, do go into the office tomorrow and ask everyone with a pulse what their salary is just yet. Based on the inquiries I get daily in my inbox, we have a long way to go before the, “how much do you make?” question becomes as normal as asking “how long have you worked here?” But, as more compensation data becomes readily available to the public, the tides will continue to turn in favor of the worker.
Until then, remember this, when it comes to your coworkers’ pay…salary matters!