Talking about salaries with your coworkers is always a difficult and sensitive issue at the workplace and can potentially lead to problems with your employer. Although it’s not illegal to discuss wages around the office, it is something that is frowned upon. Of course, there will be situations when salary will have to be discussed and when that happens, it must be handled with great care so it doesn’t come back to haunt you.
How to Talk about Salary
If you really wish to discuss this topic with your coworkers, approach this conversation with caution. At first, it would be wise if you talked with your ‘work buddies’. Every person involved should avoid mentioning the discussion to anyone else. A safe way to bring up this subject is to discuss about people who have left the company in the past, or have moved to another department. It might be a bad idea altogether because of the discussions that could spiral afterwards.
Why you shouldn’t talk about wages
There is always the possibility to find out that your coworkers are earning more than you and from then on, jealousy and resentfulness are just around the corner. If the situation is in reverse, than your coworkers may start resenting you and you may as well be phased out from common break times or from social events after work. Besides the resentment, morale and teamwork in the workplace may suffer terribly. This could lead to potential problems with your manager, especially if he or she specifically asked you not to initiate such conversations. Although you cannot get fired over this, your job may become troublesome to perform. It’s always good to focus on what you can do by yourself to boost your salary; getting involved in more projects where you feel your contribution may be decisive. Initiative comes a long way.
When you should discuss salaries
Apart from the obvious risks mentioned above, there are a few scenarios which are worth exploring when talking about wages. If you discover you are being underpaid in comparison to your colleagues, it’s a good thing you find out early on. This will offer you the possibility to analyse the range of salaries amongst the office and you could negotiate a better pay further down the line with your manager. There is a slight chance that all your coworkers, including yourself, are being underpaid. Thankfully, there are websites (Payscale.com) where people can compare the average salaries for similar positions in various companies. If everyone’s pay is under the market average, you may work together to find a solution in which all of you can get a fair wage. You should always take into account the fact that every person’s circumstances are different, so your approach should be well thought out.
What managers can do
Discussing pay with your employees can prove to be difficult. Conversations with your staff can bring up various emotions, most of them negative such as: jealousy, greed and sometimes even hate. Employees are likely unaware that pay is different due to factors like education, training, negotiating skills and, of course, experience. In order to avoid back talks around the office, that may as well affect company morale, here are a few strategies managers could deploy so that employees feel their work is treated with respect:
- Decent salaries – Have a look at the company’s finances and, if possible, have the salaries at a competitive level in the marketplace.
- Encourage official workplace discussions – People need to feel safe and comfortable if they are to approach the HR department with enquiries or considerations regarding pay or workplace conditions.
- Future potential – It’s important for managers to have constant conversations with their employees, everything ranging from salary range to professional development. Advise and guide them towards adding more skills, trainings and certifications to their existing palette. Additions that would lead to a promotion and automatically a pay raise.
- Internal surveys – It is always good to get a read on the workplace atmosphere. You can discover the level of morale, engagement and how to solve these issues as well. It also gives a chance for employees to have their voice heard on various themes regarding the company.
Companies should know by now that their employees represent the backbone of their organisation. Trust and appraisal can keep problems at bay even before they get the chance to escalate. With the help of the HR department, issues such as this should resolve themselves quite easily.
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