Tips for Discussing Salary With Coworkers

Do you have the right strategy for finding salary information?

Tips for Discussing Salary With Coworkers

Ever wonder if you're being paid fairly, or what other people in your company are earning? It's a natural curiosity, but even as companies strive to be more open and honest, everyone feels differently about discussing salary with coworkers and just how much information they’re comfortable sharing. Remember, there's a difference between corporate transparency and permission to cavalierly chat about employee wages.

As it turns out, sharing is sometimes not caring, and you need to be cognizant about that. Obviously, sharing salary information has the potential to create tension between you and certain coworkers, not to mention resentment toward management. On the flipside, other coworkers might welcome the opportunity to speak freely about who makes what.

All of this being said, it’s important that you always know the going rate for your skills so you can find out how your salary compares within the market.

These are some reasons why people might hesitate telling you what they earn, and a strategy to help you get the information a smarter way.

It Can Be Demoralizing

Simply put: Discussing salary with coworkers can lead to a gut punch if someone finds out that you’re making more money than they are.

And the reverse can be true too. Sometimes the gossip swirls, and you might hear things inadvertently. In those cases, ask yourself what you can learn. Don’t just sit there grumbling with the knowledge that Bill in accounting makes 10% more than you even though you’ve been with the company longer.

Think about your own situation and compensation. What can you learn from this newly discovered piece of monetary information? For instance, if you find out you’re earning less than the rest of your team, assess if that’s a reason to kick-start a job search.

You Can Draw Incomplete Conclusions

It's very rare that you will ever have two coworkers who have exactly the same job, background, and level of experience. In other words, it's virtually impossible to make apples-to-apples salary comparisons between you and someone else.

Maybe you have prior experience or additional credentials than your counterpart in another department. Or perhaps if two colleagues are performing equally, maybe one is taking on additional or stretch projects. You can’t be sure.

There may also be a scenario in which someone makes less money, but has other valuable perks that balance things out, such as a flexible schedule for some work-from-home hours that allow them to save on commuting and daycare costs.

The point? People often end up making assumptions without having the full story.

Your Friends May Feel Forced to Lie to You

Whether a coworker voluntarily or accidentally shares their paycheck figure, you can't always trust that the information is entirely truthful. And in some cases, it could even be a ruse to get you to fess up. They might say something like: "I'm making $100K. I hope you're making as much as I am."

Even without an ulterior motive, people tend to inflate their numbers to try to look good. The lesson here? Take salary discussions with a grain of salt, even if they come from a colleague whom you consider a friend.

Do Your Own Salary Research

If you’re not comfortable discussing salary with coworkers—or if someone asks how you much you make and you don’t feel like sharing, a better strategy is to do some research on your own.

Want to know how to find someone's salary, on average? To get a sense of the wage opportunities inside and outside of your organization, start by researching online salary databases like Monster’s Salary guide. Remember, ranges can sometimes vary widely depending on geographic location and company size, and job titles can mean different things to different employers.

Another option is to talk directly to your manager about where your salary currently stands, and if there is potential for you to move to the higher end. Ask what would it take for you to be promoted and receive a pay increase.

It’s important to get clear insight on how pay decisions are made at your company, so don’t be afraid to talk to your manager about the pay structure. Some questions you might ask include:

  • Do we have a salary range for this position?
  • What is my maximum earning potential in this job?
  • How do people move through the salary range?
  • Is movement based on longevity or performance?
  • Are there certain skills or certifications I can earn that would help me earn more money?

The goal of the conversation is two-fold: to gather information about your company's compensation plan and to demonstrate your fitness for a promotion and/or raise.

Take Your Talent Elsewhere

Whether you end up discussing salary with coworkers or conducting some independent research, be prepared to find out that you should be making more than you currently are. If that's the case, you’re in a great position to start a job search. Want some help? Create a free profile on Monster. We can connect you with recruiters, send you custom job alerts for the types of positions that interest you, and much more.