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How to talk about salaries at work

·5-min read
Photo credit: We Are - Getty Images
Photo credit: We Are - Getty Images

Do you know how much your colleagues earn? Do you even talk about how much you get paid with your mates? There's still so much shame when it comes to talking about money and what we get paid each month for doing our jobs – it's an uncomfortable conversation, but it's one that needs to be had.

New research – by anonymous employee review site, Glassdoor – reveals that 54% of people in full-time employment admit they are apprehensive about discussing salary with their boss. It also showed that salary is the top consideration for job hunters in the UK right now – and yet, 41% didn't know the pay of their last job before they applied for it. Sadly the research also revealed that more than half (56%) of women lack the confidence to ask for a pay rise, and are 26% less likely than men to ask for a salary increase in the next year.

Let's channel a bit of Victoria Walker's energy, when she left her position as a news reporter, she tweeted: "Oh! Before I forget -- if you apply for my old job as Senior Travel Reporter, you should ask for no less than 115k, a signing bonus &a relocation bonus if you're moving to NYC. In full transparency, I was at 107k. I believe being transparent is one way to achieve equity in media."

"We cannot demand transparency from powerful entities without being willing to do the same ourselves," she continued.

Salary secrecy is driving pay inequality in the workplace. “Every company should be embracing salary transparency. It is only by removing pay secrecy that employers can address potential pay gaps and ensure equal pay for equal work,” states Christian Sutherland-Wong, Glassdoor Chief Executive Officer.

And so we sought some advice from the experts, on how to broach the subject of money with your boss and finally ask for that pay rise...

Make sure you're well informed

There's no point in moaning about your pay unless you know how much other people doing the same job as you are earning. Career trends expert at Glassdoor, Jill Cotton, says that you can check on the Glassdoor salary checker as it compares salaries across thousands of companies, so you can see what others in similar positions are paid. "This should give you a good understanding of the value of your skills," explains Cotton.

If you're asking for a pay rise, carefully time your request

Don't want to wait until your annual performance review? "Request a meeting after successfully completing an important project or when your manager is happy," advises Cotton. "Putting an unsolicited request for a raise during the busiest week of the year is unlikely to get the attention you need."

Show your value

Make sure you're armed with examples that show why you deserve a pay rise and how your experience is worth more than your current salary. "When businesses are also feeling the stress of rising costs, you must be clear on the value you bring to the company," explains Cotton.

Ask about pay bands

A growing number of companies are becoming more transparent about pay by internally publishing the pay ranges of all roles across the company. "Check if this is the case for your employer," advises Cotton.

Benefits beyond money

Let's face it, an increased salary might not be an option in your current role, so perhaps you could consider negotiating on elements beyond pay. "Alternative benefits could include increased paid time off, flexibility in work hours, extra benefits or perks, support for continued education or the ability to work from home," says Cotton.

Get some more tips from our guide to getting what you want from work, which covers flexible working, charity days, mental health support, sabbaticals, doggy day care, and everything in between.

Share your salary with a coworker

Only a quarter of UK employees say they have shared their pay with a colleague. "Break the stigma of discussing salaries by being the first to offer up your pay range," says Cotton. "Hearing other salaries will help you assess whether you are being paid fairly for your role."

Pick one of your closest work pals first, maybe over lunch or even broach it over a work chat on Slack or emails. You never know what other conversations it might open up.

And some tips for the job hunters:

  • Look for jobs that include pay ranges: "Listings that indicate a salary reduce the need for negotiation and save you wasting time on a role that can’t fund your lifestyle," says Cotton. Glassdoor research found that 3 in 4 people would be more likely to apply for a role that included a pay band.

  • Don't feel like you have to share your current salary: Yep, we've just told you to be up front about money, but you don't have to be during application and interview stages. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of job hunters think companies should not ask for their salary history in an interview (which FYI is actually illegal in many American states but not in the UK). Often companies will just add on 10-15% to your current salary, and groups that face discrimination might already be on a lower salary, which means they will never catch up. "If you are faced with this question, don’t feel forced to answer," says Cotton. "Research and be clear in your mind about the value your skills would bring to the company."

  • When looking to switch your career, be strategic: You need to know why you’re leaving, and what you do and don’t want from a new role – and, ultimately, the risk involved in the change. "Research the skills that might be needed and be clear about how your experience is transferable to another industry," says Cotton.


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