A recent New York Times piece looks at the hot button topic of whether employees should know how much their coworkers make. The current discussion was spawned by a post on The Brazen Careerist but the issue of salary transparency isn't a new one. A professor at University of Southern California has been studying the subject for over 4 decades and notes that the current behavior of not disclosing pay is related to our upbringing and the fear of finding out our perceived value is lower due to a coworker's higher pay.
The professor went on to note that we are often off on how much we think our coworkers make, giving our boss a smaller salary and inflating those of people in similar positions, which he notes is a simply asking for trouble. Whether you think salaries should be transparent or not I found it interesting to discover that we underestimate how much our bosses make, which makes me reevaluate the paychecks at my day job! If anything I would think we would overestimate those above us especially anyone higher than your direct supervisor and undervalue those who work at slightly lower levels in the organization.
In order to achieve a transparent salary setting at an office the way in which salaries are awarded and increased needs to be quantified and made known to all of the people working there. In my situation this would be a deal breaker; it isn't so much that I would be upset if I found out a coworker is making several thousand more than me but to find out without a reason behind the disparity would be problematic. My current day job doesn't make the salaries known to employees and for the most part it seems that we as employees are OK with this but unfortunately my employer doesn't lay out the pay ranges and scales associated with determining salary which makes it easy for employees to feel as if they are underpaid for the experience, education and performance. I don't care how much my coworkers are making but I'd love to see where I sit in the pay scale for my position and description.
Should your salary be public knowledge?