Yes, You Should Talk About Salary With Your Coworkers

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Talking about money in any setting isn't easy — whether that's sharing how you budget, any kind of debt you're in, or even your emotional spending habits. Discussing your salary — especially in the workplace — may be the most uncomfortable of all, but doing so is ultimately better for your own finances, your coworkers, and your company as a whole.

"The only way you get comfortable talking about money is to talk about money."

As Andrew McCaskill, a LinkedIn career expert, tells PS, "The only way you get comfortable talking about money is to talk about money."

"We're in one of the most competitive job markets that we've seen in a very long time," he says. "So you've got to look at your career as the business of you, because it is business." In order to build your career and the "business of you," you need the resources to take you to the next level. That's where talking about salary comes in. Ahead, we break down why you can and should discuss salaries with your coworkers, and how to approach those conversations.

Is It Ok to Talk About Salary at Work?

First things first: yes, it's completely legal for employees to talk about salaries at work. Under the National Labor Relations Act, which passed in 1935, employees have the right to discuss their wages and compensation with coworkers — whether that's in the office, on the phone, or in written messages.

Should You Talk About Salary With Your Coworkers and Friends?

Getting transparent about your salary with your fellow employees gives you confidence and information for you to build a strategy for making more money. "Information is power," McCaskill says. "You'll never get more money just by saying, 'Hey, I'd like to make more money.' You need to have a strategy in place, and you don't get to a viable strategy without really great information. Some of the best sources for that are people who are around you, working in the same place."

While McCaskill acknowledges there can be "a lot of ego and shame" in talking about finances, "we cannot let that stop us from getting better information, better training, and better inputs." This is especially important for women and people of color — it's no secret these groups are paid inequitably amid persisting racial and gender wage gaps. "You cannot outwork the system, but you can out-strategize it. Part of how you out-strategize it is by getting better inputs and better information," he explains.

As you have these conversations, keep in mind that your worth, both personal and professional, is not tied to your salary. Oftentimes, salary discussions can reveal that you're making way less money than a counterpart in the same role. McCaskill emphasizes that it's important to remember that while it can feel personal, "being underpaid is a reflection of poor management and can be corrected. It is not a reflection of you and your professional or human value."

Ultimately, by sharing your salary, you're not only helping yourself, but also those around you — which can help bridge the wage gap longterm. Learning your compensation information may encourage others in your workplace to strategize for their own raises, or build their knowledge on salary expectations within the company and industry at large.

Moreover, in the long run, employees discussing salaries benefits employers, too. "When you take that fear of 'Am I being paid fairly? Am I being paid equitably?' off the table, you open up the aperture for people to lean into the work that they're doing," McCaskill says. Knowing you're compensated fairly will likely boost respect for the work you do and the people you work for, leading to positive workplace culture overall.

How to Ask Your Coworkers About Their Salaries

Delivery is important, McCaskill says. Instead of abruptly asking someone exactly what they make, approach the conversation as polite information-gathering. Offer the context that you're hoping to negotiate your salary, ask for an idea of a salary range, and seek advice on how they might have made a case for a raise in the past. During these discussions, McCaskill also suggests keeping in mind that total compensation includes more than just annual salary. Ask your peers about their benefits, equity incentives, and specific time-off policies that might contribute to their overall compensation package.

Who you ask is also just as important as what you ask, McCaskill says. He suggests starting with coworkers who you trust and have similar responsibilities as you. "That way, you can get apples to apples. If you're working at a small company, there might not be someone who does exactly what you do, so if you can't get to apples to apples, at least get in the same fruit family — go citrus to citrus."

Other options are talking to someone who used to have your job, especially if they no longer work at your company, as well as folks who have progressed and grown in your workplace. "There may be someone at your company you feel comfortable talking to who used to have your job or a job like yours, but they have since been promoted," McCaskill says.

"Great careers are not built solo; they're built with teams," he adds, which is why it's important to utilize your network and build a professional community of people who are "rooting for you to win." "Finding people in your circle that you can have these conversations with, it gives you so much more confidence, clarity, and context," he says.

Yerin Kim is the features editor at POPSUGAR, where she helps shape the vision for special features and packages across the network. A graduate of Syracuse University's Newhouse School, she has over five years of experience in the pop culture and women's lifestyle spaces. She's passionate about spreading cultural sensitivity through the lenses of lifestyle, entertainment, and style.