Although collective wisdom tends to err on the side of avoiding salary discussions, when we spoke with attendees at LearnVest LIVE, our first-ever live event presented in partnership with Chase Blueprint ®, we found that 53% of respondents knew how much their co-workers made, and 58% knew how much their best friends earned.
So someone has to be talking about it–in fact, a lot of someones.
When You Can Open Up About How Much You Make
According to Senning, there’s one place where talking about salary isn’t only appropriate, but it’s encouraged: a salary negotiation. In fact, he emphasizes that it’s good manners to present yourself well. Of course, we all know that part of presenting yourself well is doing your research beforehand–but how are you supposed to do that without talking about salary with other people?
The trick is in who you speak with, and how you approach it. Both Senning and Farley agree that a successful salary conversation includes these three elements:
1. A Valid Reason
We’ve established that talking about compensation outside of an actual negotiation can be problematic, which is why you should carefully consider whether you want to begin that talk. If you’re approaching a negotiation, either with your current employer or a new opportunity, it’s the right time to start doing some research. Farley puts it simply: “If you’re doing this out of sheer curiosity, bite your tongue.”
2. The Right Person
People who you may want to approach include close friends in the industry who make similar salaries, a trustworthy colleague who is a level or two above you and might be able to provide perspective or someone who has left the company. If you work for a larger employer, someone in the HR department–the department meant to act as liaison between employer and employee–can give you an accurate range of salaries for positions within your company.
3. A Respectful Approach
Being thoughtful in your approach means flat-out asking someone if he or she is comfortable speaking about the topic before diving in. And begin the conversation in a relatively private place, explain your reasoning for bringing it up and ask for a range, rather than specific figures.
For example, when speaking to someone at a higher level, an appropriate discussion might go something like this: “I’m looking to explore my potential at my job, and I know you’re experienced in the industry. Would you be comfortable sharing with me the range of compensation that someone at my level might expect?”
If, for any reason, the person seems uncomfortable or is unwilling to share, apologize immediately and drop the subject. But if you’ve been thoughtful, respectful and appropriately motivated, the conversation should go well.