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Pay Day

Do you tell people how much money you make?

Marketplace Contributor Aug 24, 2012

Employees who earn less money than they feel they’re worth are more likely to share salary information with friends, family and co-workers. Meanwhile, those on the higher end of the pay scale are more likely to keep quiet about it.

This according to anecdotal data from more than 150 people who responded to Marketplace’s Public Insight Network query asking how comfortable they feel talking about talking about their income.

Are you comfortable telling others how much money you make? Share your stories through our Public Insight Network.

“While I don’t bring it up voluntarily, my salary is a matter of public record,” writes Cristobal Palmer of Carrboro, N.C. “I can’t hide it from friends and family if they want to look it up.”

While some employee pay is a matter of public record, the idea of making your salary public remains one of America’s remaining taboos. But it also depends on who you ask and who they’ll tell.

As you might expect, the majority of respondents said they are comfortable talking about salary with family. Their comfort level declined when you when it came to friends. And only a small portion say they’ll discuss salary with their coworkers. Answers also varied when you sorted the responses by age, income and level of education.

For Jeff Bray of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the question is easy: “Yes. It’s not enough to hide, believe me.”

As with Bray, pride plays a big role in disclosure, both as a reason for revealing salary and for keeping it secret. Becky Greene, of Evanston, Ill., wrote to us to say that she doesn’t usually talk about how much she makes. “I do not think it is polite to discuss income,” Greene wrote. “I do not want them to pity me for how little I make.”

Conversely, Hallie Espel from St. Lousi Park, Minn., said her low income is why she’s happy to share the information. “I make less than all of them [my family and friends],” Espel wrote. “I think if I made more than my friends and family, I’d probably be less likely to talk about it.”

For others, being open about salary is an important tool for ensuring equality among employees. “When I was working, we didn’t talk about our salaries, stock options, and/or bonuses. The topic just was avoided,” writes Patricia Clark of Millis, Mass. “Once, when I was teaching at a University, we shared salary information in the faculty lounge. I discovered that I was way underpaid.”

The issue of equality was a common thread in a number of respondents who said they don’t share their salary.

“I think it’s particularly important for co-workers to talk about salaries because there are lot of inequities,” writes Deborah Woolston, of Bremerton, Wash. “I grew up and worked in the era of gender inequality and silence.”

Woolston’s response was echoed by Kathleen Garness, of Forest Park, Ill. “Before I opened my business, one of my co-workers told me how much she was making. We were basically doing the same work but she had several years’ seniority. I was actually surprised that she wasn’t making more,” Garness, writes. “At another workplace, there were really large disparities between the salaries of the men and women of equal rank and approximate seniority in the accounting departments; when word leaked out about that several women left for better positions.”


Tell us how you feel about disclosing your salary to family, friends and coworkers. Post a comment below.

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