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Should You Share Your Salary Information With a Co-Worker?

Allison Jones profile image

Allison Jones

Two white women sit on a grey couch discussing salary information, with green plants in the background.

In an effort to be more collaborative, supportive, and transparent, organizations implement a variety of policies; for example, Next Jump doesn’t fire people and charity:water offers unlimited vacation days.

Today on Idealist Career Advice, we’re looking at Buffer, a social-media management company where staff members know each other’s salaries.

In an interview with 99u, the co-founder of Buffer, Joel Gascoigne, notes that the company posts everyone’s salaries and the formula for determining these salaries in an internal wiki. The impact of this level of transparency has changed how employees think about work and their compensation in a positive way:

On giving raises:

“We haven’t had anyone ask for a raise yet,” says Gascoigne, “But we have introduced new levels and variables to the formula. As we grow, we’ll need more team leads, for example.” If someone were to negotiate for a raise, they probably wouldn’t be a good fit, he says, arguing that Buffer's strategy of paying above market rate—as well as providing other benefits and perks—should encourage people to stay for the long haul.

Impact on organizational culture:

When the company first enacted salary transparency in January 2013, Buffer had to “normalize” each employee’s salary. In every case but one, this resulted in a raise. The only subjective variable, experience level, was determined after meeting with each employee.

No current employee is at the “junior” or “master” ranks. Buffer makes its revenue and other financials transparent to employees and routinely experiments with culture, something Gascoigne believes made this “just another step” and not a sudden (and jarring) "change of direction."

We often assume that knowing what our co-workers earn make us resentful. However by normalizing salaries and allowing staff members to see each other’s pay, perhaps Buffer was pushed to be fairer in compensation while actively fostering a safe and transparent company culture.

Should you share your salary information with a co-worker?

So the big question for today—should you share information about your salary and benefits with colleagues in order to create a more transparent workplace? Consider how your organization evaluates the need to hire more team members, and how the hiring process itself works. Does HR urge you to consider experience level, skillset, or whether someone is a college graduate before making an offer? There may be some form of bias going on here, in which case knowing what your co-workers make can be an effective way to create a more fair and equitable environment.

As demonstrated by Buffer, sharing salary information can normalize compensation and build a culture of trust and openness, but, at the end of the day, your decision to share salary information is yours alone. If you're confused about how compensation is determined at your organization, schedule a meeting with HR and check out your employer's Form 990 for useful information about revenue and expenses.

Allison Jones profile image

Allison Jones

To better support our community of job seekers and changemakers, as well as strengthen Idealist's position as a great place for nonprofit jobs, Allison supports Idealist Career Advice by sharing stories and tips on how to find, land, and love your social-impact career. She is currently the VP of Brand and Storytelling at Common Future.

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