Talking about your salary with colleagues: the do's and don'ts

Telling your colleagues how much you earn remains a taboo subject for many professionals. It is often seen as unprofessional, or it can cause unnecessary tensions between you and the people you work with.

Yet there are some situations where you can talk about your salary, and where it can even be useful.


Robert Walters tells what the do's and don'ts are of discussing your salary with colleagues.  

Unwritten rule 

Robert Walters' annual Salary Survey shows that only 25% of Belgian employees discuss salaries with colleagues. The subject is still often avoided because it can bring problems and jealousy. Why should you, for example, earn less than your colleagues, or vice versa? For many, it is something of an unwritten rule not to talk about it too much.  

When can you talk about it? 

When can you chat about your monthly salary with colleagues? If you suspect that you are underpaid, or that your colleagues are, you can certainly have a conversation about the amount on your pay slip. Talking about it together will help you know more. Do you earn the same but feel it is not in line with the market? There are interesting online tools to benchmark your salary. If this shows that you and your colleagues earn less than a market-compliant salary, you already stand a lot stronger during a negotiation for a pay rise with the employer. 

When not to talk?  

Even though more people - particularly young professionals - dare to talk openly about their salary, for most it remains a sensitive subject. It is best not to discuss your income with a colleague if you are not sure you can trust that person 100%. Obviously, you do not ask about the salary of your supervisor, but rather from someone who holds roughly the same position as you, or whose profile you know is the same.  

When you bring up this sensitive subject, do it in a polite and discrete way so that not everyone can listen in. You or your colleague may want to talk about this, but not everyone in the office needs to hear your conversation. In other words, it is not a conversation you want to have casually at the copier or the coffee machine. 

Openness makes for better benchmarking 

Discussing your salary remains difficult. But often both you and your employer can both benefit from it. Salary benchmarking allows employers to check whether their employees' remuneration packages are in line with the rest of the market. Benchmarking can be vital to an organisation's success. When professionals are more open about this, it will become easier for employers to compare salaries and benefits within specific sectors. This, in turn, has the advantage that employers will know exactly what a market salary is, making it easier to attract and retain talent.  

Other benefits 

Being open about your salary does not only have benefits for your organisation. It can also be particularly useful for you personally. You will, as indicated, be more confident when wanting to negotiate a salary increase. It is positive to know where you stand: if a colleague with the same position and seniority earns more than you, it is best to schedule a meeting with your manager. In addition, transparency around salaries also turns out to be good for company culture. The more transparent, the more pleasant the atmosphere, and the more efficient employees can work together.  


More information

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