FAQ: Can You Talk About Salary at Work?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you're thinking about approaching your manager about a pay increase, you may be tempted to discuss your current salary with your colleagues in order to compare your income with theirs. While there are situations in which it's appropriate to discuss your salary at work, it's important to approach this topic with caution. Learning how to discuss your salary at work and with whom you should be having the conversation can help you determine how to handle this situation appropriately within your own company.

In this article, we answer the most frequently asked questions about discussing salary at work and who you should speak with when you do feel it's appropriate to discuss your salary.

Can you talk about salary at work?

You can discuss your salary at work, although there are a number of reasons why you may not want to do so. If you learn that a colleague is earning a higher salary than you, it could cause you to feel less appreciated, even if there are valid reasons the employee is earning more. Likewise, if your colleague learns that you're earning a higher salary than they are, it can lead to unnecessary conflict. Ultimately, talking about salary in the workplace can impact morale and team performance. It could also impact the relationship you have with your supervisor if the employer prefers to keep salary information confidential.

Related: How To Negotiate Your Salary During COVID-19

Why do some employers keep salary information private?

While there are benefits to being transparent about salary information, as it can show employees that they're earning the same salary for performing similar tasks, there are also reasons some employers prefer to keep salary information private. If an employer has a smaller budget for a specific role, they may find it more difficult to hire and retain talented employees. Publishing salary information can make it easier for competitors to make enticing offers to current employees.

Making salary information available company-wide can also impact employee performance. If a newer or less experienced employee is earning a lower amount than another employee who performs similar work, it could create resentment among a team. Salary information can also be misinterpreted when taken out of context. It's uncommon for employees to have the exact same job, experience level and background. By reviewing salary information without the additional context of the employee's qualifications, the information could be misinterpreted by other employees.

Related: 13 Tips To Negotiate Your Salary and Job Offer

How can I discuss salary at work?

If you do believe you need to discuss your salary at work, there are some steps you can take to do so successfully with colleagues, your supervisor or human resources (HR) professionals:

With your coworkers

It's generally best to keep your salary information confidential, as sharing it with colleagues can lead to potential jealousies. However, if you do feel you need to discuss your salary with your co-workers, it's important to be genuine and open. You may want to start by speaking with a colleague who holds a more senior-level position than you or someone who has been with the company longer. They may be able to help you get a more in-depth understanding of company salaries. You could also approach someone with whom you simply have a strong working relationship, someone who wants to see you be successful in your role.

Keep the focus on the conversation on the salary you're earning and have a specific goal in mind for what you want to accomplish with the conversation. For example, you may be trying to gather information to learn how your own salary compares to that of others. You can take note of how your own qualifications compare with those who are earning more than you and identify specific steps you could take to earn a similar income.

Related: Salary Negotiation Scripts to Successfully Counter a Job Offer (With Examples)

With your supervisor

If you have been in your current position for at least six months, then it's appropriate to have a conversation about your salary. When discussing salary with your supervisor, share your short- and long-term goals and ask for feedback and for specific steps you can take to increase your value to the company and, ultimately, your salary.

Let your supervisor know that, although your first priority is to excel in your current position, your long-term goal is to advance and that you want to ensure you are doing your best to set yourself up for success. You can ask for their recommendations on how you can improve in your current position and what you can do to advance to a higher position and receive a higher salary. Then implement their feedback so you are well-positioned to ask for a raise when the timing is appropriate.

Related: Interview Question: "What Are Your Salary Expectations?"

With the human resource department

If you feel like you deserve more money, you can schedule a meeting with the HR department to discuss a potential raise. During this meeting, however, never disclose who you talked to about salary. Instead, bring in at least three highlights of your achievements in the previous year. Share specific details about your accomplishments or achievements.

You can also share projects worked on and examples of how you positively impacted the company. If you have received positive feedback from your supervisor or coworkers, share that with the HR manager as well. These are not only good indicators of your contributions to the company, but also of your future potential.

Related: How To Negotiate a Raise in 7 Steps

With a potential employer

Before you discuss salary with a potential employer, determine your market value. Search for salary information for your specific job and then take note of the average for your state to determine what a fair salary should be for your area. You can also refer to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which offers salary information for a wide number of occupations, categorizing them by industry to help you determine what a fair salary is for a role.

When you're interviewing for a specific role, it's best to discuss salary when you're offered the position. In some cases, the employer may bring it up in advance to determine whether the salary you want is within the range for the position. If they do address the subject of salary, some questions you may want to ask are:

  • Does the company has a salary range for this role?

  • What's the maximum earning potential in this position?

  • Is promotion based on performance or experience?

  • Are there certain certifications or skills I can earn that would help me get a raise?

These questions can help you determine whether a compensation plan is going to meet your needs and what steps you need to take to earn more within the company, should you choose to accept the position.

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