A Step-by-Step Guide to Talking About Salary With Your Co-Workers
How to initiate an awkward but necessary conversation
“Please don’t share that you got a bonus,” my manager whispered to me in the same sort of lowered voice usually reserved for the juiciest office gossip. I was just leaving the one-on-one meeting where I’d gotten the good news — one of several such bonus-related meetings happening that day — and I knew that within the next 24 hours, our open-plan office would be abuzz with information about who had and hadn’t received one. Still, I agreed, mumbling, “Okay,” on my way out.
A few hours later, one of the women in my four-person desk cluster approached me to share, in hushed tones, that one of our colleagues hadn’t gotten a bonus. “How much did you get?” she added.
Unsure if my manager’s directive was a request or a command, I hesitated, trying to quickly run through the potential ramifications of sharing this information. What would it mean if it got back to this other colleague of ours that I had received a bonus when she, a superior, hadn’t?
Thus began the mental gymnastics done in offices everywhere: When faced with the conundrum about whether or not to talk about salaries with your co-workers, what do you do?
Outside of a select few especially close relationships, we’re conditioned not to ask each other about money. But hiding behind social niceties is doing us all a disservice.
“It’s in our best interest to know” what our co-workers and industry peers are making, says Ashley Feinstein Gerstley, author of The 30-Day Money Cleanse and founder of the blog The Fiscal Femme. “When we don’t know, [companies] win the game because they have more negotiating power. When we have more transparency, we can know more readily what the value is for a certain role.”
Plus, open conversations about salary may help drive necessary systemic change to lessen the gender wage gap and push us toward more equitable pay. “We want to move towards a more fair and equitable system where your pay is based on your skill set in the marketplace and what you’re producing in combination with your experience,” says Alex Dickinson, who founded Ask For It, a company dedicated to helping people learn how to…