You should talk to your friends about your salary. Here’s why (and how).

You should talk to your friends about your salary. Here’s why (and how).

Talking about your salary with friends has long been a taboo topic, but if fair pay is an important problem to solve, how can we possibly avoid the topic?

4 out of 5 people we chat with tell us a story about how they learned they were underpaid. Not only are people underpaid regularly, but according to JUST Capital’s annual report, the consensus across Americans is that we want fair pay.

Let’s explore the benefits of pay transparency and some guidance on how to discuss it.

The upside of discussing pay

A friend came over for dinner a few weeks ago. He didn’t waste any time telling me about how shitty his day was. 

With pay transparency laws in CA, his company told everyone they could request salary ranges. Seems great, right?

Yes - but not when you find yourself at the bottom of the range. The salary range for his role was $80-150k, and he was making $95k. And no, he’s not new. He’s been there for 5 years.

The problem? He’s well underpaid for the work he’s doing.

The solution? Because of pay transparency, he can find one and get paid fairly.

There are far too many people in this position, not knowing that they’re vastly underpaid. By normalizing the discussion about salary, people will be better educated and equipped to fight for themselves and negotiate for more. 

Most people don’t know any better so they just accept what’s given to them. Years will pass for many, with 100s of thousands left on the table, only because they didn’t know (and because we didn’t initiate a conversation with them).

Not only that, according to a 2009 study, people who grew up in homes where money was discussed openly, were less likely to have problems with credit card debt and poor spending habits. Not only that, but another study found that people who discuss their financial goals with friends and peers are more likely to achieve them.

Here’s a list of benefits:

  1. Finding out if you’re underpaid (so you can do something about it)
  2. Helping others get paid fairly
  3. Improving financial habits and literacy
  4. Achieving your financial goals

The harsh truth is that money drives our lives. Does it buy happiness? No. But it’s hard to be happy without money.

How to approach these conversations

Context is key. People innately want to know why things are the way they are. If you’re going to surface a taboo topic such as pay transparency, your friends or peers will likely want to know why. So start there.

Here are some ways you can share why you want to discuss it:

  • You found out you were underpaid for a role and don’t want others to go through what you went through
  • You’re looking for a new job and are trying to get a sense for the pay range (also a good time to use FairComp)
  • You want to play a role in normalizing the conversation because you think it’ll benefit your whole group

“Sooo I just overheard a colleague talking about how much they make, and it’s way more than I make. Can we talk about this? I’d love some advice.”

“I’m looking for a new job and am trying to get a pulse on how much I should be making. Are you guys comfortable discussing this, and sharing what you make?”

If you’re chatting with work colleagues or individuals you’re not as close with, follow these tips as well:

  • Go offsite. People might be more open to discussing pay when they’re not at work
  • Start discussing money and see how they react. Referencing expenses or something you’re thinking about buying, and see what reaction the other person has. That will give you a read on their comfortability
  • Just bring up your own earnings. Don’t ask anything from them. If they’re comfortable, they’ll probably reciprocate.

Share FairComp

You can also let us do the work. Let them know you stumbled across FairComp and align with our mission. See how they react – they’ll either be intrigued and want to discuss more, or they’ll shut off if it’s an uncomfortable topic.

Need More Resources? Check out these links:

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