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Secrets of Salary

One thing that has always amazed me is the giant leaps we take in organizations to protect the salary information of others. Even telling another employee your own salary is a firable offense in some companies – much less finding out what everyone makes.

I’m a firm believer in things like Maverick and SEMCO where Ricardo Semler turned the organization upside down by opening just about everything to everybody. The janitor knows how much the IT Head makes. The secretaries know how much the CEO makes. They discuss policies, hiring, raises and a whole host of things that would cause most organizations to shutter.

While I’m a firm believer in it, there is one small caveat. On Twitter this evening, I got this reply:

beefarino: @cory_foy @karlseguin @bradwilson nothing stopping you guys from tweeting your salaries….

And, while he’s right, I want to make something clear. I’m not saying that everyone’s salaries should be seen by everyone, or really anyone outside their organization. There are a whole host of reasons why, with competitive edge topping the list. But inside an organization, it should be fair game.

I worked for a place like that – government. We knew the salary ranges for every position, and you could reasonably guess where someone fell in that range. And if you couldn’t, you could ask them – it was somewhat of public record anyway. And if I were 5x better than someone, and my manager wanted to pay me that way, I would have either been promoted to a position, or had a position created which covered that. And the duties and the responsibilities would have been there justifying why.

Even if you or your organization doesn’t want to post it internally, at least remove it from being an offense for revealing it. If someone asks me my salary, and I want to tell them, by golly, I should be able to tell them. And if I find out they make more than me, then I might understand, or I might ask my manager why. And maybe he has a good reason (the other person is better than I am / has more responsibilities / we needed to hire him at a hire rate due to market, but don’t have the funds to adjust everyone’s salaries). And if he doesn’t, then is he really being a good manager? Or just playing a guessing game?

I’m well aware the shock something like this would likely bring to an organization if it was just turned on. But this isn’t some secret society. We’re professionals. Let’s start asking to be treated as such.

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