Talking salary with coworkers may seem taboo, but having that conversation can help your career.
Imagine you’re working until midnight, while your coworker leaves at 5 p.m. You hope your company values your effort, but you’re not sure. You wonder how much your coworker is being paid.
Conventional wisdom says you should resist the urge to ask. For instance, an article on CNN Money breaks down , with a major reason being that learning what other people take home can make you dissatisfied with your job.
But that doesn’t close the case. While you may have compelling reasons not to discuss salary, you also have many reasons to have the conversation. Here are three reasons discussing salary can be to your strategic advantage:
1. Discussing salary helps you, not your bosses
Why do companies say salary is confidential information? One reason is that privacy benefits them. They don’t want you to know if you’re underpaid, that you could make more at another job or that they might have given an undeserving raise to a relative of the boss.
Job salaries are based on market forces, and companies do their part to research competitive salaries. You should ask yourself: Why are they telling you to be clueless while they’re informed?
and the options that might be available to you is one way to even the playing field.
2. You can negotiate better with more information
This point echoes several of those made by the author in this Brazen post on .
My friend started a job with a $1,000 signing bonus. Several months into the job, he discussed salary with trusted coworkers. It turned out that one person had started without a signing bonus, while another was given a $3,000 bonus.
My friend could have felt unhappy to learn he was paid less. But he took the information positively. It made him realize he missed an opportunity. He didn’t even know the company gave several tiers of signing bonuses, which is why he settled. The next time he goes on a job hunt, he can negotiate more strongly knowing he can try for more.
When I talk to my friends about compensation, I’m always surprised to learn what benefits companies can offer I didn’t know about — negotiable vacation time, transportation benefits, housing options and so on.
Every time you learn, it helps you know what you can ask for, making you a .
3. You can decide about your career path
You might be satisfied with your job and salary now, but think ahead. If you’re on track to become a manager in five years, you’ll have to think about whether you’ll enjoy your manager’s job and compensation.
If you’re fortunate to have a friend in management, you might be able to discuss salary. Shy away from asking their exact salary, but instead ask about salary ranges for the position. If that doesn’t work, you can find general information at a salary website like . This also applies if no one at your level is willing to discuss compensation.
Not everyone is going to want to talk about salary.
And you might feel bad if you’re making less (or more) than others.
But the short-term pain is well worth the long-term gain for your career. ( to tweet this thought.) You should have the talk to find out what your market value is, learn about negotiating options and inform your career at your company.
is the author of , a practical introduction to strategic thinking. Read more of his work at http://mindyourdecisions.com/blog or on Twitter @preshtalwalkar.