Don’t Tell Anyone, But…

…I got a raise. And a title change. I’m now the “Direct Marketing Technical Coordinator”, where “Coordinator” equals “Whozit”. Thanks John!

Included in the paperwork I signed notifying me of this is this part that I had to sign:

I have reviewed this salary change notification and discussed the contents with my manager. I acknowledge that it is company policy that all salary information is strictly confidential. My signature below means that I have been informed of my salary and review status, and that I will not discuss my compensation with any member of [the place I work] or with anyone outside of my immediate family.

I once read somewhere that sex, politics, and religion are not the three most taboo conversation subjects in America. People will happily talk about them. You want to get them to shut up, though, you ask them what their salary is. And now, not only would I be breaking the rules of society if I mentioned what I was getting now, but I’d be breaking the rules of my company. I could get fired for telling you guys what I’m paid.

Isn’t that weird? Seems like that’s my business, free for me to tell should I choose, no? And where there might not be any reason you in particular might want to know this, wouldn’t it be helpful for my co-workers and myself to share this information with each other? After all, if Jane is doing what I’m doing or more and making less, she should be able to address this with management. But she can’t, because we can’t share this information.

Has it occurred to you that secret salaries are probably not in the best interest of workers? Other folks have noticed this, as you can read here.

For me the most interesting part of that post are some of the comments. I’ve long been having a blog post percolating in my head about how perverse this country’s view of work and employment are, and some of these comments add fuel to it. The Company will provide. The Company knows what’s best. When you are but food for worms, The Company will endure.

And your salary is just a little secret between you and The Company.

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7 Responses to Don’t Tell Anyone, But…

  1. David Thiel says:

    Working for a state university where, by law, all employees’ salaries are available for anyone to peruse, I have the opposite view. The ability to look up what your coworkers make makes for unhappy coworkers. It’s been my experience as a supervisor that perceived inequities may exist for perfectly legitimate reasons, and that explaining to Sally why Sue got a bigger raise than she did isn’t likely to make Sally any less resentful.

    When I first entered the workforce, I didn’t understand why my peers didn’t want me to tell them what I made. Now I do.

  2. Al says:

    I believe all salary information, and in fact, all fiscal information, all transactions whether on the individual or corporate level, should be completely public

  3. David Thiel says:

    Sounds good. You first. Make sure to include your credit card number.

  4. My old company’s web filter blocked the Department Of Labor website. I wonder why:

    http://houston.bizjournals.com/houston/stories/2005/10/10/daily51.html

  5. caparoon says:

    Hey man, it was my pleasure!

    I noticed that bit in the contract, and I also thought it was a little weird–I wonder if that’s new, or I’ve just never been in a position to care before? “Outside of my immediate family”..? Seriously?

    I’d like to say, though, re: “Jane is doing what Iā€™m doing or more and making less”… One of these things is very likely while another one is less so. Unless Jane also has a weblog. In which case all bets are off.

    And thank me all you want, but you know if I had any real power, “Coordinator” would be replaced with a different, more “Who”-oriented word. ; ]

  6. Uncle Stewart says:

    Congratulations on the raise and title change, Dave. I know what you are thinking now- PS3 or Wii, PS3 or Wii?

    The blog entry is thought provoking. My relatively recent shift from employee to employer has complicated my feelings about matters like “company policy” and “salary status”, and not at all infrequently I feel the pull to the dark side. That guy David’s comments add a valuable nuance. I look forward to your treatise on work and employment.

  7. I think you’re on to something here, Dave, and I’m happy that you agree with my post on secret salaries. Though this is presented as a privacy issue, I’m pretty sure that companies benefit more from secret salaries than employees do.

    Uncle Stewart: I was just talking to a friend the other day about this pull towards the dark side. We may feel intuitively that there is a better, more modern, more open approach to many workplace issues, but still “business as usual” has a certain attraction. It’s what everybody else has been doing for years. It’s established wisdom. And it ain’t working too badly. Unfortunately it ain’t working too well either.

    We ended up agreeing, that if you relax your guard against this mode of thinking, you end up doing what everybody else does.