It’s human nature to compare ourselves to other people, to measure our lives against theirs—to see what clothes they’re wearing, to find out who they’re dating … to know how much money they’re making.
Of course, it’s taboo to ask someone their salary. That’s top-secret information that remains tightly under wraps, tucked away in the HR director’s filing cabinet.
However, in a time when people share everything on social media, one company, SumAll, a business tech firm based in New York City, is bucking tradition and giving up hard numbers for all to see by storing salary information on a digital drive that’s accessible to everyone.
SumAll C.E.O. Dane Atkinson told TODAY that the system is an important part of creating a transparent workplace that will facilitate the building of trust among co-workers.
Additionally, Atkinson argued, making salaries public knowledge holds employees more accountable for their job performance. “It definitely makes you feel obliged to live up to your salary,’’ he said. “It’s pretty obvious if you’re not delivering for what you’re being paid. It also makes it very hard for you to abuse your personal salary.”
The Argument Against Sharing Salaries
However, not everyone believes that this higher level of financial transparency is beneficial for companies. About sixty percent of respondents in a TODAY online poll reported that sharing salaries is not a good idea.
Attorney Karen DeSoto agreed, stating that salary transparency could prompt jealousy among co-workers and even encourage some to leave the company on the grounds that they aren’t being adequately compensated for their efforts compared to their peers.
The issue is serious—and contentious—enough that it has even made it to the upper echelons of the federal government: Over the years, Congress has considered legislation that would make it illegal for employers to forbid salary disclosure between co-workers. (A bill has gone before Congress three times but it, ultimately, hasn’t passed.)
Do you think employees have the right to know what their co-workers are making, or are they better left in the dark about others’ salaries?