Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Millennials are changing the workplace landscape again — this time by breaking the taboo on sharing how much they earn on the job.
Among those aged 18-36, 63% have disclosed their salary to someone in their immediate family, compared to just 41% of baby boomers ages 53-71 , according to personal finance blog The Cashlorette.
In addition, 48% of millennials let a friend know their salary — more than double the 21% of baby boomers who have done the same — and 30% of millennials clued in someone they work with — more than triple the 8% of baby boomers who did.
“We’re definitely seeing more transparency when it comes to salaries. And, it’s likely for the better,” said Sarah Berger, Founder of TheCashlorette.com, which tapped Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI) to survey 1,001 American adults. “Knowing what your friends and colleagues make in a similar field is empowering in making sure you’re being compensated fairly and gauging when it might be time to move on or request a raise.”
Things to consider before sharing your salary
Past salary levels can be a boon in current-day salary negotiation levels — if they’re high — or a distraction if they’re low. Workers hamstrung by a poorly paid history can be permanently stuck in a bad pay rate that makes it hard to catch up with incremental raises.
It’s specifically for that reason that places including California, Oregon, New York City and others have adopted legislation that forbids employers from requesting or salary history from job applicants, according to The National Law Review.
While there are certainly reasons why sometimes it’s a good idea to err on the side of discretion, there are cases where sharing your salary could prove beneficial when talking to coworkers.
Berger cautioned that while transparency is a good thing, not everyone is going to earn the same in the same role.
“[It’s] important to remember that in many fields, your salary is determined by factors other than just your job title, like experience or work performance,” Berger said.
Here’s when you should consider sharing your job salary.
You think everyone isn’t being paid enough
There’s strength in numbers.
Although he believes that you usually shouldn’t tell your coworkers, Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, told Forbes about when it could be appropriate.
“When you have reason to believe that everyone at your company or in your department is underpaid, it can make sense to share your salary with co-workers. This can help the group join forces to all negotiate a better salary,” Cohen told the publication.
There’s a lack of clarity at your company
Management researcher David Burkus speaks about what happens when employees are in the dark, and how transparency could lead to better salary negotiations in a TEDxUniversityofNevada talk.
“But why would a company even want to discourage salary discussions? Why do some people go along with it, while others revolt against it? It turns out that in addition to the assumed reasons, pay secrecy is actually a way to save a lot of money. You see, keeping salaries secret leads to what economists call ‘information asymmetry.’ This is a situation where, in a negotiation, one party has loads more information than the other. And in hiring or promotion or annual raise discussions, an employer can use that secrecy to save a lot of money. Imagine how much better you could negotiate for a raise if you knew everybody’s salary,” Burkus said.
Burkus said that according to economists, information asymmetry “makes it easier to” turn a blind eye to “the discrimination that’s already present in the market today.”
“If we really want to close the gender wage gap, maybe we should start by opening up the payroll. If this is what total market failure looks like, then openness remains the only way to ensure fairness,” he said.
Your loved ones might help you gain perspective
PayScale illustrates what can happen when you talk to your family and friends about your paycheck.
“Pretty soon, we’re telling our whole earnings history, sharing stories and tips for negotiating salary, and discussing how our organization handles the transparency issue. We can learn so much from the people who we love and trust the most. If we open up to our most trusted companions about this area of our life, it’s likely to help us make improvements,” the site reports.