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How To Talk Salaries With Coworkers

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Hmmm… when I saw this article on finding out if you’re underpaid by discussing salaries with coworkers, it really piqued my interested because salaries are usually held really close to the vest. The article even starts off explaining why sharing salaries sharing salaries is dangerous, how feelings can get hurt, and how if done incorrectly can derail friendships. So, how does Money recommend you go about finding out salaries and talking money with coworkers?

First, do some online research with salaries databases. While they won’t be keyed in on your specific company, they will give you a general range for your demographic and geographic location. The next step is to find a mentor that will be able to sneak you some salary information without getting into specifics. Now, your mentor will have to be in the know because if they aren’t, they’re not going to be able to give you any useful information. After that, turn it into a game where people can anonymously share their salaries. Money illustrates a “game” where people put their salary on a slip of paper and look at the numbers.

Okay, did you think that was a weak answer with such a big buildup? Yeah, me too. Play a game? Honestly, the only way you can talk salary with a co-worker is if they won’t get worked up over hearing the numbers and can understand that by sharing numbers you’re only gaining more information to go into battle with against your employer when it comes to talking money again. Now, that means only a small subset of your co-workers are going to be okay with talking dollars and see it from that perspective. These aren’t the folks that you only see at the office every day, these will have to be people you hang out with at the bar on a weekly basis, and they will have to be able to check their ego’s at the door in this sort of talk.

Anyone have any tips to share?

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7 Responses to “How To Talk Salaries With Coworkers”

  1. Patrick says:

    I have found it is best to talk with co-workers outside of the workplace, and throw out pay bands that you believe most people of a certain rank/level fall into. Your co-workers will usually agree or disagree with a range, but not a specific number. Another great source is to talk to co-workers or friends who have recently left the company. They are usually all too happy to talk about what they were making and how much more they are going to make at their new position. :)

    Another good source is to find out what someone with similar duties make in the government sector. This is usually public information (there are payscales based on level), and can help you get a rough baseline for your salary. In most cases, you should make equal or slightly more in the private sector.

    Salary.com and payscale.com are two websites that can give you a decent idea, but they can also be limited because they generally have very narrow, or very specific parameters that might not meet your situation.

  2. plonkee says:

    I hate it when someone is trying to trick me into divulging my salary details.

    The only person I work with whose salary I know (and he knows mine) is indeed someone who I hang out at the bar with and he isn’t a useful comparator to me (he’s a couple of rungs higher up the ladder). Interestingly he gets paid a lot more than I thought he did, its about half as much again as I make. Sure makes it easier to understand how he can afford to go on vacation at the drop of a hat.

  3. yorman says:

    I personally found http://www.salarybase.com to be another source of info (it’s built around sharing salary info). Needless to say that in categories in which there aren’t too many folks reporting, this is going to be weak

  4. Minimum Wage says:

    Where I work we’re all paid within a 20-cent range.

  5. Weekly Roundup – 04/27/06

    Here’s a quick look at some of the articles that caught my eye over the past week.

    JLP talks about when you should drop collision and comprehensive coverage.
    Jim talks about how to talk salaries with your co-workers.
    Flexo got a Nintendo Wii. A…

  6. MFJ says:

    I’ve found that dropping your salary somehow in a conversation with co-workers tends to break the tension and I’ve found that in many cases even if they are a little reluctant at first generally spill the beans without any pressure on your part. Granted again you can’t just go do this with just anyone (good friends and/or the right scenario) will probably increase your chances.

    I’m not sure why salary is so taboo – as workers you can only gain by knowing what your co-workers make. Now don’t be surprised to see someone go off the handle or get upset, but if you calm them down and have them use their newfound knowledge for good it can only help them. I’d personally rather have a friend ticked off that I made a bunch more than him then for him to be ignorantly going through life severely underpaid.

  7. Chuck Fries says:

    a mentor who can sneak you information – Really ?!? – that might not only be against company policy, I’d suspect the company and the manager could be held CRIMINALLY liable for that sort of behavior.

    legally that’s fraud or maybe racketeering, in that a manager and an employee are essentially colluding to unfairly influence business practices.

    The problem with inter-employee salary discussions is that you simply might not get accurate information. People, even those you consider “friends”, have innumerable reasons to not tell you the truth.

    The ONLY way to approach IF there is suspicion of unfair business practices, in which case, a third party should be called in to investigate (EEOC, Better Business Bureau, Independent Accounting Firm).

    Oddly enough, there is apparently precedent (or at least lack of an upholdable company policy):

    http://accounting.smartpros.com/x27337.xml


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