Should people share their salary info with each other?

by Hanna Horvath
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Should people share their salary info with each other?

Talking about your salary can be considered taboo. But how do you know if you’re being paid fairly?

Sarah Kobos, a senior photo editor at Wirecutter, created an anonymous way for people in the media industry to openly discuss their wages in the form of a collaborative Google spreadsheet. Industry workers could contribute their their demographics, salary and benefits, along with any notes about company culture in the spreadsheet. As of Dec. 1, there were more than 1,500 entries.

Media workers aren’t the only one sharing their job descriptions. Baristas, museum workers and professors have created their own industry lists.

What’s the benefit of sharing your wages?

Spreadsheets like these “are important because knowledge is power,” said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster.

Knowing the hidden details of a role can help job seekers and those currently working at that company.

Those on a hunt for a new job can get more information upfront about the anticipated salary and culture of a specific company.

“You never want to look for a job in the dark,” said Salemi. “You have to do research to see if it’s the right fit, including looking at the compensation and perks. If you end up getting an offer, you can benchmark it against other submissions to see if it’s acceptable.”

Current workers can use the spreadsheet to see if they are earning their worth.

“It’s good for asking, ‘Is my current salary equitable?’” said Salemi.

How spreadsheets are changing company behavior

It will take time to see if these spreadsheets will lead to more equitable wages, said Salemi. But companies have taken measures to promote equal pay and competitive benefits.

“There is pressure on employers now. It’s a tight labor market, and companies have to make offers really enticing to keep those employees,” said Salemi. “If they know their employees are a flight risk, it can impact their bottom line.”

I looked up my industry salary information. Now what?

Look at your industry as a whole, said Salemi. This will keep your expectations in check. How much do most companies pay? Is there room for growth?

“You don’t want to feel constantly underpaid,” she said. “You want to be towards the top of whatever range your industry offers.”

If you think you are underpaid, consider asking for a raise. We have a guide here.

If you’re a job seeker, using a salary spreadsheet can inform your job hunt. Keep an eye out for companies that pay higher than the industry average. But salary isn’t everything. Consider benefits, like paid time off and health insurance, when searching.

While Salemi doesn’t think workers have much use in reporting false information, the information in the spreadsheets may not have been properly vetted. (Policygenius did not independently vet any of the salary information in any of the spreadsheets.) You may want to compare any information you get from a spreadsheet like this to data from jobs sites or the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“Work-life balance is so important,” said Salemi. “Making less but having fewer hours may mean you have a higher hourly wage overall.”

If you’re willing to move, consider geographic regions that may offer better pay or benefits.

“These spreadsheets in general will make people comfortable and empowered to discuss compensation,” Salemi said. “It will open the door for the conversation to talk to your boss or peers. Salary isn’t a taboo topic. You should talk openly and confidently about it.”

We have a guide on finding the right job (and getting paid your worth).

Image: Nastia Kobzarenko