Why You Should Never Discuss Your Salary With Coworkers

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Salary Secrets

Discussing salary among colleagues used to be a major faux pas — and even though you have the right to communicate with coworkers about your wages under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act), many folks are still hesitant to talk about compensation in the office.

But discussing salary and wages can be a great way to ensure you’re being fairly compensated  even if it might seem a bit taboo or awkward to bring up.

To better understand the pros and cons of disclosing income with colleagues, we spoke to a handful of career and financial experts. They shared their professional insights below to help you decide for yourself whether or not sharing your salary with colleagues is a good idea.

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Con: Sharing Could Cause Resentment

“If you find out that you are being underpaid relative to your colleagues, that can create feelings of anxiety, anger, and resentment for you,” points out Kerrie Carden, Certified Financial Planner and Founder and CEO at Equip Advisory. “Keep in mind that depending on how much empathy your colleagues do (or do not show), it may sour your day-to-day work experience.”

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Con: You Could Get in Trouble

Keep in mind that under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or the Act), all employees have the right to communicate with their coworkers about their wages. That said — Carden says that your company leadership may still seek to chastise or even penalize people who participate in salary transparency efforts.

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Con: It Could Cause Prejudiced Behavior

Carden also points out that discussing your salary could result in colleagues making prejudiced comments or engaging in prejudiced behavior towards individuals they think are being overpaid. That said, you’ll want to keep in mind that sharing your salary will often reveal truths about your colleagues and company that are worth knowing, even if they are difficult to experience once brought to light.

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Con: Others Might Find It a Taboo Topic

“In some cultures, it is taboo to discuss money. Before you think about disclosing your salary or asking someone to do the same, make sure you ask if it is something they are comfortable with. If they say no, respect that decision and do not try to force it,” points out Arissan Nicole, Career and Resume Coach and founder of Authentic Empowerment. The last thing you want to do is make your colleagues uncomfortable.

Related: The Biggest CEO-Worker Pay Gaps in America

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Con: It Could Be Misinterpreted

Every employee brings something different to the table — even if you have the same job on paper. “Without the context of experience, education, and other factors, sharing salary alone could lead to misunderstandings and false assumptions,” says Jones. “It's important that organizations have a salary structure that takes into account various factors, allowing them access to the best talent for each position.”

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Cons: Privacy Concerns

“Some employees don't feel comfortable sharing their personal financial information due to concerns about privacy,” explains Jones. “This can stem from a variety of reasons, including the worry that sharing their salary could lead to unwanted comparisons or judgments from colleagues.”

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Cons: It Could Cause Jealousy

Morale can take a hit if employees become jealous of others, affecting team dynamics and the work environment. “Sometimes, even with transparent information, it can be perceived in a way or manipulated to further someone's personal grievance,” says Tramelle D. Jones, Strategic Success and Workplace Wellness Coach with TDJ Consulting. “Even if their claims are false, public opinion can do more damage than facts to harm an organization's public persona.”

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Pro: Sharing Shifts Power Imbalances

“Salary transparency undermines the systemic power imbalances that keep under-recognized and marginalized folks underpaid relative to their peers,” explains Carden, adding that while discussing salary transparency, it's worth thinking about sharing details of overall compensation. Identical salaries for the same job may not illuminate that one employee received a much better equity package than another.

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Pro: You’ll Understand Your Worth Within Your Company

According to Carden, sharing your salary with your coworkers will also allow you to get a much better sense of how your company values both you and your colleagues (she also notes that it’s even more powerful if you can find out the compensation of those at the top of the organization).

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Pro: Sharing Helps Create Financial Equity

Sharing your salary doesn’t just benefit you — it can help ensure that historically underpaid folks can ensure they’re receiving fair compensation. “Especially if you bear one or more privileged identities for your company, sharing your salary is a way to participate in creating more financial equity,” says Carden.

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Pro: You’ll Build Trust With Your Colleagues

“Sharing your salary with your colleagues can build trust and camaraderie and lead to stronger team bonds,” says Nicole. “It can feel scary to talk about money, however, the transparency that comes with disclosing allows individuals to go into meetings with leadership about their compensation with more confidence.”

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Pro: Negotiating With More Leverage

It can be hard to negotiate a raise or salary increase when you’re going in blind in terms of what others in similar roles are making. “Sharing your salary with coworkers can also give folks the ability to negotiate with more leverage, especially if they find out they are being underpaid,” says Nicole.

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Pro: It Can Be Empowering

“Employees who understand salary expectations based on experience and education can feel confident seeking higher education goals in line with industry standards, leading to a more empowered workforce,” says Jones. “I believe when employees feel challenged, love what they do, and are paid what they're worth, you'll find they openly brag about their employer to other highly qualified individuals! This can create a positive influx of empowered candidates who are eager to join the company and create a culture of continuous improvement and success.”

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Pro: It Can Create Trust in the Workplace

“When companies are open about their salaries, that transparency can lead to trust between employee and employer while creating fair and equitable pay rates based on gender, race, and other factors,” points out Jones. “Studies have shown that when people perceive themselves as being paid fairly, their productivity increases.”