Discussing salary with your colleagues has been taboo for a long time. One employment expert even calls it one of the “most subversive acts” a worker can do.
Unfortunately, this aversion to talk about salary openly causes many people to lose out on wages they deserve, as companies end up allocating resources wrongly.
So would an open salary culture, where employers and employees share about their salary packages openly with others, turn things around?
Does an open salary culture exist in Singapore?
Yes it does, but mostly in Singapore’s public sector, which has more than 150,000 workers. The sector is transparent about what it pays every worker, from entry-level officers to ministers. The formula for calculating bonuses based on performance is also publicly disclosed.
Besides public sector data, there are websites such as Glassdoor and MyCareersFuture that provide salary information for different positions. While most job platforms do not require employers to disclose the salary range for positions advertised, MyCareersFuture requires employers to indicate a position’s salary range.
These platforms have helped shape an open salary culture. More companies are now revealing the salaries they offer so that employees know they are compensated fairly.
Pros of talking about salary
For job seekers, knowing the salary range that is offered helps to save time on job applications since you can filter out those that do not meet your expectations. This can save you hours of writing cover letters and going for interviews.
For people who are already in jobs, talking about salaries helps you figure out if you are earning what you are worth. Knowing what others earn will help you to negotiate your salary during reviews or your next job application.
Learning what your colleagues take home is also useful in weeding out bias. Your workplace could have pay gaps between men and women, or discriminate against senior workers and people with disabilities. This way, employees can make an informed decision on whether they should file a complaint, leave the company, or stay put.
Cons of talking about salary
Most employers do not want to disclose salaries. This gives them more negotiating power. In their opinion, each employee should get a salary specific to their qualifications and experience.
Salary disclosure also leaves firms vulnerable to rivals, since competing companies can easily offer a higher compensation to win over candidates.
For employees, knowing what others earn could cause discord as some may feel disgruntled that they earn less than their colleagues. Employees could end up working against one another, rather than together. Ugly competition could sour the company’s culture, and even push some employees to leave as they are dissatisfied with their pay.
So, do you disclose or not?
There is no hard and fast rule. But here are some tips if you think talking about salary with others is important.
Tip 1: Have a private conversation
Since the topic of salary is personal for most folks, talk to colleagues whom you see as friends. If you have not previously connected with a colleague on a personal level, it could be awkward to ask such sensitive questions out of the blue.
Also, do not discuss salary at the workplace as your superiors and other colleagues could overhear the conversation.
Tip 2: Ease into the conversation
You should not jump straight into such a delicate topic. Start on a related note so you can gauge how receptive your colleagues are toward talking about money matters. You may be on board, but others may not.
For example, before asking others how much they earn, ask for an opinion about what fair compensation is.
Tip 3: Ask for permission
If you manage to find out what others earn and you think you deserve better, first ask your colleagues if you can use the information. Promise not to share their names with your managers as well. They may have been comfortable sharing with you, but they may not be happy if others find out.
While talking about salary requires some tact, it does not have to be avoided at all costs. It is a conversation worth exploring to close pay gaps and make sure people are being compensated fairly.