Why Coworkers Don’t Talk About Their Salaries (and Why We Should)

if financial success and work is a game,

The gender wage gap is a thing. Bitches Get Riches illustrated this best when they said “This is not open to discussion” and made every word a separate link to census data and economics journals. Anyway, know it’s true, even in my past workplaces. I’m now paid $2 more per hour than my previous (female) assistant manager. Guess what: I’m not the assistant manager. Obviously, something’s going a little fucky here. That’s why I’m trying to do something about it.

Paraphrasing from a now buried tweet I once saw, “Men shouldn’t consider themselves allies unless they disclose their salary to female coworkers. This is the only way we can achieve wage equality.” I agree, and I’ve been extremely open to anyone who’s asked. I also kinda think everyone should disclose their salary to one another, for a couple of reasons. First though, let’s weigh the cons.

The main problem I hear is it might put a target on your back. Sometimes, people will think it’s unfair you’re getting paid more than them. (Spoiler alert: Sometimes, they’re right.) I’ve had coworkers go out of their way to try and sink me, but the end result of this was I actually got much better at my job. With management seeing me go above and beyond in my work, the naysayers have mostly slinked away. Besides, any misguided attempts at revenge would be a race to the bottom. Being a good dude and trying to boost them up instead is a race to the top. With this mindset, that target no longer seems so bad. It just seems like part of the game. Let’s come back to this in a second.

The other obvious problem is this results in coworkers making a snap judgment about workplace hierarchy. I don’t really think I “outrank” anyone, by the way. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all the same cubicle. We’ve already established wages aren’t objectively fair (and most of them are far too low across the board anyway), so let people think what they want, but try to boost them up too. This is actually one of the best things you can do to increase your own salary. If I’m a manager with three employees, and they’re paid $30/$30/$23, when Employee #3 asks for a raise, giving them $27 is almost a “Why the fuck not?” Here’s the sweet part: If you’ve got a great connection with your coworkers, and you’ve all been open about your salaries, Employee #3 can knowledgeably ask for more! This even makes your boss look good. Managing a team of highly paid professionals looks great on paper. Managing an unmotivated clusterfuck of minimum wage underlings? Not so hot.

Your workplace is just a game, and everyone’s in it to win. Done right, there are no losers. Your “boss” is a coworker. That’s it. They want success too. Stop comparing the extra money and focus on yourself. “How can make $3 more per hour,” not “Debbie’s a bitch for being richer.” Besides, if you’re here, you’re on your way to wealth already, partly because you’re smart enough to talk about money openly. If financial success and work is a game, you should know the rules and how other people are playing itBurying your head in the sand helps no one. Bringing down your workplace helps no one. You know what does help? Community over competition. It’s not even a competition! Go to work, boost up your team, and be open about how much you make. Any temporary feelings of inadequacy might suck now – “Ben makes HOW much?!?” – but knowledge is always good. After all, if someone is doing the same job as you, but makes $40,000 more per year, wouldn’t you want to know about it? Wouldn’t you want to look into that opportunity too? Just resist the urge to bring them down. Race to the top, y’all. Let’s all get rich together, and embrace the workplace. If you’re still working, you might as well love it.

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Bank Your Raise

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The liquor store doesn’t pay me much. $13/hour is only $26,000/year full-time. Luckily, that gig isn’t my main source of income. No one ever needs a wedding photographer on a Monday though, so I figured I may as well make some extra money on my weekdays.

I got a small $1 raise three months into that job. Starting on September 1, I’ll be banking that raise. I started that job at $12/hour and lived just fine, so I’m dumping that extra $1/hour into my investments. You can bank your raise too. It’s easy: Just compare how much you currently make per hour to what you started at, then multiply the difference by the hours on your paystubs. Throw that into investments ASAP. Here’s some math on how much you’ll save.

On my last paystub, I worked roughly 47 hours over two weeks. If I bank my raise, that’s $47. I get about 25 pay periods per year. That’s setting aside an extra $1,175/year, and that’s at the low end! What if you’ve had a full-time job for years and your raises add up to more like $5? That’s investing $10,000/year into your future! If you have a $50,000 income, that’s about what you’d need to max out your RRSP! If you make banking your raise automatic, and literally use just that step alone, your retirement will become automatic too! Even my paltry $47 per pay period adds up to $43,475 by 65 – AND THAT’S IF I DON’T INVEST IT. Invested the way I normally do, I’m looking at $200,000 JUST BY BANKING MY $1 RAISE.

As usual, run your own numbers. I’m just here to remind you financial security is easy. This is such a simple way to compartmentalize your savings, and mentally set aside money.

You lived perfectly fine when you started your job. Anything extra is just icing on the cake.