Dear Evil HR Lady,
Why do companies “request” that you not discuss your salary with your co-workers?
Two reasons: 1. People are largely immature whiners. 2. Everyone else makes more money than you do.
Let’s deal with the points in order. Truly, I have found that people like to whine, whine, whine about their salaries. Sometimes their whines are legitimate, but often time they are already overpaid or brought their own misery upon themselves.
I’ve been fortunate (or unfortunate) to have access to not only my salary and the salaries of my co-workers, but my boss’s salary, her boss’s salary and so on and so forth all the way to the CEO. This is great because I’m nosy. This is bad because there is nothing I can do about it. The first rule of having knowledge like mine is you keep your mouth shut.
Why do you want to know how much money everyone else makes? It’s probably not truly academic. You want to know so that when you find out that the guy who comes in late every morning and pushes all difficult projects onto you and then proclaims his greatness at every opportunity makes more money than you, you can go to your boss and whine. “He makes more money than meeeeeee!!!!!!”
Then, when your boss does nothing, you come whine to HR. “My boss won’t give me a raise and I deserve it!” Quite frankly, I’m trying to figure out how to get my boss to pay me more money and don’t have time to deal with your little problem.
I’ve found that most managers try to pay fairly. Employees sometimes have a difficult time seeing this, as they don’t truly understand what their co-workers do. Your “slacker” co-worker who comes in late every morning may have negotiated this schedule when he was hired. He may work 3 hours at home every night. Or perhaps he has some specialized skill that is in high demand. Or, perhaps he just interviews really well and is an excellent brown-noser.
Point 2: Everybody makes more money than you do. Let’s face it, it’s true. So why do you want to know that? Keep yourself happy and pretend that you make the most money of anyone in the office. (Of course that will keep you awake nights as you ponder how the CEO can afford yet another Gulfstream 5 when you can barely afford your Honda Civic.)
If you really think you are underpaid, go interview for a few jobs. You’ll find out rapidly if your current salary is good or bad. (If no one wants to hire you, your current salary is good. If everyone wants to hire you for more money than you make now, your current salary is bad.)
Evil HR Lady
p.s. I need a raise.