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Should You Share How Much You Earn?

Review key business etiquette tips about the touchy subject of compensation.

Key points

  • Compensation at work is a topic that should be handled with care.
  • Sharing your salary information with a co-worker may cause resentment.
  • If you want to confirm whether you are at the bottom of a pay range, it is best to approach HR or your manager.
Karolina Grabowska/Pexels
Source: Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Compensation is a touchy subject. Across workplaces and industries, employers encourage transparency and open communication. Still, there are certain topics that are (or should be) treated with care. Compensation is one of them.

Earn Less Than Your Co-Worker?

It can be tough to get a clear answer on salary ranges when in the interview seat. But what if you learn that you earn less than your new colleague after accepting the offer? Would you want to know that information?

Interestingly, many are aware of the basic salary range for positions within their respective industries. Still, this is a private and sensitive topic for most people. There are a number of reasons why one person may be hired at the higher end of a salary range while someone else may be hired at the lower end of the range. Unless individual salaries are public knowledge, it is best to avoid this topic when interacting with a colleague.

Should You Share?

Is it ever a good idea to tell your co-worker how much you earn? In general, the answer is no. Sharing your salary information with one another may cause resentment. You have to work with this colleague daily and you may take offense if the colleague earns more than you do for a similar role. (The same is true in reverse.) This negative feeling may impact your working relationship and your attitude toward your role and your employer.

Relevant to All

This advice applies to all colleagues, regardless of role or gender. If you feel that you are at the bottom of a pay range, and want to confirm that you are the anomaly, you might ask a colleague. However, in general, this type of discussion moves you down a slippery slope. It is better to approach HR to find out the salary range and to speak directly to your manager, if you feel that you are underpaid or undervalued.

Want to Go Back to the Negotiating Table?

If there are no bonuses or merit increases in your immediate future, you can still go back to the negotiating table. Ask for a creative work arrangement, if possible. A flexible work schedule is invaluable for many employees. Some might opt for four 10-hour workdays, or for the opportunity to telecommute one day per week. This does not cost the employer additional dollars, but it saves the employee commuting time, dry cleaning costs, etc. Many who participate in flexible scheduling are happier and more committed to their jobs, so it is a win-win for everyone.

What If Your Boss Says No?

If your boss is hesitant, share how this will specifically benefit your boss and the company. Ask your boss to commit to a three-month trial period after which you will reevaluate.

Still Want to Reduce Stress?

Stress wreaks havoc on our emotional and physical well-being. Those who are stressed may lose sleep, binge on unhealthy snacks, and even pick unnecessary fights with colleagues or loved ones. Work productivity may suffer, too.

If you are stressed about money, here are some easy fixes:

Create an emergency fund with three times your monthly expenses. Do so by contributing a little bit of money (even $25 per week) with each paycheck. That way, when life throws you a curveball, you have the funds to handle the situation without stress. When you borrow from the fund, pay yourself back by picking up your weekly contributions, again.

Don’t live beyond your means. Stop trying to live like the Jones’ and, instead, take pleasure in the free things in life. Have a picnic in the park instead of going out to a fancy meal. Plan a fun family afternoon of washing the car (water fight, included) instead of spending the money to have a service do it. Save pricey outings for special events like birthdays and anniversaries instead of having them be everyday experiences.

Copyright ©2021 Amy Cooper Hakim.

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