Monday, April 28, 2008

Revealing Salaries Favored by Young Workers

In a live radio interview last year about my book, the host asked me:

"So, Anita, how much do you make writing your syndicated workplace column?"

Thankfully, you couldn't see my reaction, because I have a feeling my face sort of resembled a landed halibut. But after a moment's hestitation, I answered him in a round, ballpark-figure-sort-of-way.

I thought of this as I read The New York Times story that noted younger workers don't really have a problem telling someone else what they make, and even financial adviser to the huddled masses, Suze Orman, chimed in that she thought fessing up to what you make is a good idea.

My parents were very closed-mouthed about their income, and the only reason I ever figured it out was because I snooped into their income tax report sometime in high school. My own kids don't have a clue what my husband and I make, although with the way we constantly yell at them to turn out lights "because it costs money!" and "No, you can't have the new you think we're made of money?!" I'm sure they think we make about $450 a year.

Should we be discussing salary with our kids? What about with our work mates? Orman thinks it needs to be out in the open, claiming it will help level the playing field and get rid of income disparity. Younger workers claim they have no problem with it, and is part of their willingness to be more transparent.

As for me, I have to say that when the the radio host admitted that he doesn't make any more than I do as a workplace columnist, I felt better. But am I going to tell my kids our annual income? Probably not. I'm not buying a new Wii anytime soon.


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Miriam Salpeter said...

If it is true that the trend is going to transparency, it will be a lot easier for job hunters to know what to expect when it comes to negotiating.

I admit that I'd be a little shocked if someone asked my income. As long as there are still nice ways to say, "None of your business," no harm's done!

Miriam Salpeter
Keppie Careers

Anita said...

I think because the Internet allows you to track fairly closely what certain jobs in different regions of the country make, we can come pretty close to figuring it out. Still, I'd be pretty ticked if I found out someone in a similar position at my company was making a lot more money, which may be what employers are hoping to avoid in not allowing workers to discuss the issue. Still, I once had a new neighbor ask me outright what my husband and I made. I smiled and said, "Enough." I didn't feel like it was any of her business!

Ian said...

I would think sharing salary with coworker would be a no-no, since it might generate jealousy by others or yourself, depending on who get a higher pay with similar experiece.

As a XY-er , I had shared with my friends my starting salary of my first post-college job & after job-hopped. I think we are more willing to share the salary with friends, especially explaining a job change. This might also lead to others to consider to job-hop or even a career change for people early in their career.

Whenever a Gen Y statement is said, I always wonder if it's generational or an age/life stage thing.

Anita said...

That's a good point about the stage of life. I wonder if someone is more willing to reveal a salary when they aren't making much...but as they climb higher they are less willing to reveal what they make. Will these GenYers be less willing to share when they're 35 or 40 and making top dollar? Good question.

Erika said...

After reading the article I'm still not convinced that sharing salaries is the best course of action. Suze Orman claims it will level the playing field but I have yet to see that work in the real world. One of the people quoted in that article even admitted that sharing salaries works best among people with similar salaries.

Money is such a touchy topic for so many Americans that I can't really imagine this idea becoming widespread. It may be fine for close friends but I'd rather staple my hand than tell my co-workers what I make.

Anita said...

I have seen it cause strain among co-workers who feel someone is "overpaid" or obviously doing something "special" for the boss in order to get paid more than someone else. You're right...this could add an extra layer of tension. And the stapler thing? OWWWW......

FrauTech said...

When I've found out about coworkers making a lot more than me for either less work/experience or equal, it's only made me fume and get angry. Unfortunately my pay/review process has nothing to do with these other people, so the knowledge does nothing but add to my dissatisfaction. So in most cases, I'd rather not know.