Many Americans would go to great lengths to keep their salaries hidden from co-workers. Given the options of running naked through the workplace or sharing their salaries, 11% of adults said they would rather streak, according to an October 2021 Trusaic survey of 1,276 adults. Just over half, 55%, said they would prefer to share it.
Men were more likely to opt into running naked than women, 14% versus 9%. The 25-to-34-year-old age group had the biggest percentage of people, 63%, preferring to share their salaries.
When it comes to the subject of openness about salary, opinions about what's right or smart can vary. But there may be better, less revealing ways to get what you want. "The question is, salary transparency for the sake of what?" says Georgene Huang, co-founder and CEO of Fairygodboss. If you're feeling an urge to share your salary with coworkers as a way to suss out whether or not you're being underpaid, "you don't have to put yourself on stage in such a public way to achieve your goal."
"There's a lot of tools, more than ever before, on salary and benchmarking data that's basically publicly available and free" that could help give you sense of what you should be getting paid, says Huang. Sites like Glassdoor, Payscale, Salary.com, and Fairygodboss all offer that kind of information. You can use them to find out what's typical for your role and experience level.
If you're trying to get a big-picture understanding of how your company compensates its workers, it's important to understand context, too, says Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, entrepreneur and author of "Choose Possibility."
Rather than sharing your individual salary in hopes of hearing details about how much money other people make, she points out, you could ask your boss or HR representative questions like, "How does our company make pay decisions? What is the context for equal pay?" That can give you more useful information. "For most organizations," she says, "there's some method to the madness of their pay structures."
How much pay someone gets can depend on their experience in the field, educational background, years in that specific job, and so on. Just hearing somebody's number won't necessarily give you an understanding of why it is what it is. "Compensation is an art, not a science," says Huang.
Remember that everyone's comfort level talking about money will also vary. "You can be open but it doesn't guarantee that anybody else will be open with you," says Huang, and being transparent around your pay "only makes sense if everyone else is doing it."
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