Should you share your salary? 1

Should you share your salary? Here’s when it’s okay and not so okay

Aneth Ng-Lim

Posted at May 16 2022 01:31 PM

When I started working many, many years ago, I learned quickly that discussing salary is taboo. My first boss warned me that I was being offered a starting salary that’s higher than the usual rate, and if my colleagues found out, it could cause problems for me, for him, and for the company.

So I kept my mouth shut even though many asked, and I learned to keep my lips sealed even after I moved to four other companies over the next 20 or so years.

The truth is I have no idea if my first boss was telling me the truth, or keeping me from finding out that I was paid the same, or worse, less than the others. The same goes for all the other bosses that came after him. But I got so used to not sharing, and decided to stick to that path until I left corporate work.

Today, many workers are more open to discussing their pay. They candidly share with relatives, friends, and work colleagues too. With fresh graduates starting their work careers this month and in the near future, consider these reasons to share and not to share.

#1 Okay to ensure you get fair pay

When negotiating pay, employers mostly look at 2 things: your pay history and their internal salary structure. Between the two, they look for the best price overlap and that’s most likely what you will be offered. In some cases, there is room to negotiate around that overlap, and what can help is if you gave an accurate old pay. 

To do that, you need to not just look at your take home salary, but also monetize what other benefits you are or were receiving. As much as you can, make sure you can make an apples to apples comparison. Some pad up their old pay to push for higher pay with their new employer, but be careful you don’t get too greedy or are found out. Some employers ask for your tax return and they can quickly check if you disclosed the wrong amount.

#2 Okay when asking for more pay

All employees want to be paid more, and good employees will always think they deserve higher pay. But wanting and thinking won’t get your salary to go up – you will need to convince your boss. One way to do that is to be able to benchmark your pay against the average pay of your co-workers, who are of the same rank and same tenure too. 

To find out the benchmark, you will need to ask your colleagues about their pay. Some or all may not want to share, and you can convince them by first sharing your pay. Instead of naming specific amounts, you may want to share rounded off figures. This way, you will know, they will know, but not know too much.

#3 Not okay to start trouble

The tricky thing with salary sharing is you may actually find out that your pay is already pretty good, so you may end up stirring bad feelings among those who are paid less. While this is a good thing for you, the others may all go running to the boss and complain about their pay against your better pay. They may also add that you started this conversation.

So consider approaching your quest for salary information slowly and with one target at a time. If the first person you approached quoted a figure close to yours, maybe you can lie low for a while. Or try to approach a second person and see if the trend is consistent. 

#4 Not okay to cry wolf

Before you go running to your boss or to HR to complain about your low pay, when you find out that others are paid better, make sure you have the right context. Consider all the reasons why others may be paid more or less than you. Years in the company may be one reason. The longer a person has been employed, even if you are of the same rank, the more opportunities she or he has to receive annual increases.

Some companies also pay a premium for academic credentials, so even if you are of the same rank, but your colleague has a master’s degree, that can entitle her or him to more pay. There are also cases where an employee received a better offer from another company, and filed a resignation. But your company wanted to keep him or her, so made a counter offer which bumped up their pay.

#5 Okay to uncover pay gaps

Now, if you already have the right context and still can’t make sense of the pay gaps, you can explore this with your boss or your HR in a non-aggressive manner. Position it as information you came across that bothered you, and you would like to know more about the company pay scale and how you can improve yours. The more reasonable your request, the harder it will be for your boss or HR to dismiss them as simply sour grapes.

It goes without saying that you should pursue this if you are doing your job, and making a contribution to the company. Some employees fail to meet the minimum expectations for their jobs, and like to complain about the pay. For them, the boss or the HR would likely be happy to show them the exit, no salary discussion needed.


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Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.