Millennials are notorious for over-sharing, but are you going too far when you reveal your salary to family, friends and coworkers?
A study by financial services company Bankrate, Inc. found that 48 percent of millennials share their salaries with friends, and 30 percent with co-workers. This is a sizable increase compared to the 21 percent and 8 percent of their respective baby boomer counterparts. As with most things, there are pros and cons to sharing or hiding your salary, but there has been an emerging consensus favouring salary transparency over secrecy.
Sharing with friends
Given how much we share on social media, it’s perhaps unsurprising that people are more open about how much they make. Euodia, a psychologist, agrees: “People are getting more confident sharing [their salaries] because the culture of sharing personal information and knowledge has become increasingly transparent with the use of social media platforms. This, in turn, has empowered mass movements [such as this one].” But unlike holiday snaps, sharing salary information has a more practical purpose.
“My friends and I don’t share our salaries for bragging rights, but because we want to know if we’re being paid fairly at our companies and because we want to know how other people budget their money,” says Shannon, a 22-year-old working in public relations.
“It’s not easy being on your own [financially] for the first time, so it’s helpful to know how your friends are getting along.”
Sharing with colleagues
Discussing your salary among friends is one thing, but there’s more at stake when you reveal your salary to your colleagues. An obvious risk of sharing your salary is having your employer retaliate against you. Generally, companies are not allowed to fire you for revealing how much you get paid, but there are other subtle ways of retaliation—for example, your boss overlooking you for a well-deserved promotion.
“There’s definitely a right way and a wrong way to go about asking your colleagues, especially if you don’t know them that well,” says Amber, a 25-year-old working for a tech start-up.
“I never ask them to give me an exact figure because it’s unnecessary and seems more personal. Asking for a ballpark range has been sufficient for me when I’m looking to ask for a raise. As long as they’re in your department and aren’t your boss, I actually find it less awkward if you ask someone in a more senior position. Higher ranking people don’t see you as direct competition so they’re usually very happy to guide you and help answer questions. It’s also less likely to get awkward because both parties already know who is getting paid more.”
The issue with secrecy
While it comes with risks, the practice of being open with salaries may have good long-term results if enough people do it. In his TEDx talk on salary transparency, Professor David Burkus said, “sharing salaries openly across a company… makes for a better workplace for both the employee and the organisation. When people don’t know how their pay compares… they’re more likely to feel underpaid and… discriminated against.” This, in turn, creates a hostile environment. Some researchers even suggest that salary secrecy is what allows gender and racial wage gaps to persist.
If you’ve been open about your earnings, you’re already part of the movement that has been breaking down the stigma around talking about wages. It might seem like a small step, but if it leads to closing wage gaps and improving collective well-being, who doesn’t want that (along with more money, please)?
Still a little bit unsure of how to adult? We’re here to help. Here’s what you need to now about prepping for retirement in Singapore, and how to handle a bad boss who likes to jump to conclusions. For more career-related stories, check out our Change Makers issue here.
Text: Claire Soong
Additional Text: Zoe Zeng