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Checks and Balances

Jen Sorensen
© Jen Sorensen

I have never understood why some companies treat talking to other employees about salaries as a firing offense. Seriously? Do they really have that little faith in their employees?

I’ve run a number of companies, and we always treated everyone’s salary as public information (at least internally), so everyone understood everyone’s compensation. It always worked out best that way.



  1. PatriotSGT wrote:

    I completely agree IK.
    IMO it goes completely counter to good team building, not to mention allowing for newer employees see a pathway to improvement. If a newer worker see’s that a more experienced employee with specific education or skills can earn X dollars more, it makes sense and then they see the “how to” move up process. It becomes a win-win for the employer. Newer employees see the path and add skills bringing value to the business product. When you hide that information it fosters mistrust and a sense that an Ole-Boy network is in play.
    I’ve worked for the Army for over 20 years and the newest Private in the unit can know exactly how much I make (it’s public information). If they like that then they can ask me how to do the same and I’d be glad to tell them.

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink
  2. Hassan wrote:

    As a business owner (with no employees except myself and my business partner), I think I should not have legal right for my employees not to talk about paychecks, but I can certainly hope they don’t.

    I will always try to get best deal out for my business, why should I pay a person A more if he agrees to do good work on less amount? So for example if I have two positions for mid-level software developers, and I get a male candidate and female candidate, both equally qualified and good, and if I hire both, it may happen one of them agree on less salary than the other. So why should I pay both same? And it may be that I end up paying female more than the male (not necessary what is common that male will be paid more).

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink
  3. Iron Knee wrote:

    Hassan, I understand your position, but I think it is short sighted. I’m not saying that you have to pay everyone equally, but if someone cares about how much they make and they are a good employee, they can usually get a better paying job somewhere else, and you will lose that employee. In the long run, high employee turnover will hurt you more than saving a little on someone’s salary.

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 8:22 am | Permalink
  4. Hassan wrote:

    Iron Knee, I agree, so I have to make good right business decision keeping all aspects in mind.

    So what is this fairness paycheck act? I thought it will take that business decision power away from me?

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 8:29 am | Permalink
  5. westomoon wrote:

    *grinning* Sounds like you might have a rational basis for your salary decisions, IK — which makes it easier to take a “sunshine” approach.

    Hassan, if you want to screw over some employees, better make sure they’re not key or critical. Coz when they find out you’ve been paying them less than the person they’ve been helping and/or cleaning up after, they will be gone. I made that discovery about a job I liked many years ago, and do you know? I’m STILL mad about it.

    At the time, I found out what a discount I was working for (someone always knows), talked to my boss about it, and then walked right out and never came back. Interestingly, that burst of temper — probably the most irresponsible thing I ever did on a job — never did me any harm with any of my subsequent employers. They all thought that was a perfectly good reason for quitting.

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 3:13 pm | Permalink
  6. Iron Knee wrote:

    The Paycheck Fairness Act —;_113th_Congress) — which would prohibit employers for retaliating against employees who share wage information.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it is passing any time soon.

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 6:01 pm | Permalink
  7. Hassan wrote:

    WESTOMOON, I would not consider it screwing up some employees, there is always a healthy acceptable range. I know if I am giving extremely low pay, the people will leave for better job. I am talking +-5k yearly, which is not much. But again it will be my decision, someone else can really be screwing up some employees.

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 6:52 pm | Permalink
  8. Hassan wrote:

    Iron Knee, that is terrible legislation, (in detail). We cannot prohibit freedom, so employees must be able to talk about wage as much as they want, but ability to sue for damages if not being paid same is just another level.

    Friday, April 25, 2014 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  9. Zed wrote:

    Since when is $5K/year not much?

    And the research is pretty clear that asking for more money is seen as a plus when done by men and a negative when done by women.

    So basically, Hassan, you are deluding yourself. In reality, your described behaviors are sexist and screw some of your employees.

    It is exactly this kind of executive delusion that led to unions fighting for salary schedules and against “performance bonuses” and “merit pay.” In reality these tend to become sycophant pay, even when they don’t start out that way.

    Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink
  10. Westomoon wrote:

    Hassan, I quit that long-ago job over a lot less than $5 K. A slap in the face is a slap in the face.

    I’m just giving you some good advice. If you want to pay a good employee less than other employees, make sure they’re in a job where you can afford to lose them with no notice. People don’t like to be insulted or made fools of.

    And BTW, the only employees who would get the right to sue for damages under this bill are ones who’ve been paid less because of their gender. If your bargain employees were all young white males, you’d have nothing to worry about.

    Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink
  11. Hassan wrote:

    How is it sexist, when I may pay a woman more than a man just because how things got negotiated?

    At the end of the day it is business decision, so it can be good business decision or bad business decision, the government does not have to tell business to make good business decision.

    Anyway, this is all hypothetical as this bill is not going to pass.

    Saturday, April 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  12. Iron Knee wrote:

    Hassan, it is only sexist if you consistently pay people a different amount because of their gender. Or even just one person if you say stupid things like “I pay him more because he has a family to support”.

    It doesn’t matter whether you are discriminating against a woman or a man, unless there is a valid business reason to discriminate.

    Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 3:43 am | Permalink