When Is It Appropriate to Talk About How Much You Earn?

It is common knowledge that Americans are squeamish about our personal income. On some level, this makes sense: in a society with a huge concentration of wealth in the hands of a few and glorification of the rich on the covers of magazines and TV shows, we may feel uncomfortable talking about our own income. And, if you make more money, you may not want to brag.

But in some cases, it can be productive to talk to friends and family about how much money you are making, if only to meet realistic job expectations in our volatile economy, or to share practical advice on enabling upward mobility.

Share only when someone asks

If you voluntarily provide information about your salary or income tax return, you might want to ask yourself why. Squeezing out the number on your newly received job offer, especially without a clear reason for revealing it, says more about your need for approval than anything else. On the contrary, if someone is hinting at how much money you make, it is a sign that they may be interested for production reasons (it is also possible that they may be cynically comparing your income to theirs, but we will proceed from this assumption) … good faith here).

As an impromptu gesture, a pay rise seems like an act of modest bragging, unless it’s in a useful context. Somewhere in the evolution of social etiquette in the United States, it became silly to talk about this topic – even below talking about sex work and religion .

Dan Shavel, managing partner at HR consulting firm Workplace Intelligence and author of Back to Human , tells Lifehacker how discussions about personal income turn into bragging rights when two people’s salaries differ widely.

He writes in an email:

When you know that you are making at least 15% compared to what everyone else is doing, you may be seen as bragging. It really depends on what income range you fall into in the audience you’re talking to, so keep that in mind.

While mindfulness plays a key role in such discussions, there are times when you don’t need to tiptoe about money.

Talk about money with colleagues

US wages have grown slightly over the past 40 years . Due to the stagnation of wages compared to the sharp increase in the labor market , workers floundered, unable to voluntarily chart a course for economic mobility than their parents. And this is one of the reasons why you should take money seriously with your colleagues.

You may be paid less than someone who does the same job at your company. If you work at a job and feel like you’re underpaid – or the yearly payoffs come and go – you should definitely ask some trusted coworkers.

Asking a salary question to peers in side positions (and those in higher ranks) can only do you a favor: knowing what to expect in terms of salary when you are interviewing for a promotion will give you an idea of how to negotiate correctly. “I can really see this changing as younger generations are more open to sharing everything about their lives in public, especially on social media,” says Shavelle, citing a study by The Cashelorette, which he notes “found that 30 percent of millennials shared their salary. with peers versus 8 percent of baby boomers. “

This will give you an edge over your company.

One of the most deceptive practices employed by corporate America is deliberately keeping employees in the dark about the wages of the organization. In this sense, the corporate sector is one of the biggest beneficiaries of our monetary taboo. Salaries are rarely mentioned in job listings, and it can seem presumptuous or bad form to ask the hiring manager about the money until the interview process comes to a close.

Shavelle notes that this is intentional: “It is taboo to discuss your salary at work because your employer does not want you to find that you are earning less than someone with the same role and experience.”

Since in this sense the workers have a chance of winning, compare notes with your colleagues. Think of it this way: if you have limited information about how much your company has paid people in similar positions in the past, you will have a limited amount of salary negotiation ammo.

Talking about money can also help bridge the pay gap between people of color and their white counterparts. According to a 2019 analysis by the workplace compensation research organization Payscale, black men earn roughly 87 cents per dollar compared to white men. (This pay gap also often widens when it comes to women of color.) Talking about money adds a layer of transparency that can help level the playing field. And while it won’t be a panacea – of course, companies always care about their bottom line, often at the expense of employees – discussing money with colleagues is much more productive than ignoring it entirely.


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