The Rules About Salaries
Remember the three editors who were about to have their first review? They made a pact to go to lunch to make sure they got the same salary increases.
In my experience, the idea that you donÃ¢â¬â¢t talk about your salary is a foreign concept to well over 50% of people who are in their first business job. In a context in which most employees I trained didnÃ¢â¬â¢t go to business school, this number makes total sense. There is no reason they might have picked up this information.
In most companies, itÃ¢â¬â¢s a serious offense for an employee to reveal his or her salary or compensation details. IÃ¢â¬â¢ve seen it lead to written reprimand and probation. Every employee handbook that IÃ¢â¬â¢ve read states the companyÃ¢â¬â¢s right to terminate an employeeÃ¢â¬â¢s job for such an action.
Most new employees immediately can see why such a policy is in the companyÃ¢â¬â¢s interest, but often they donÃ¢â¬â¢t see why the policy works to protect them. So whenever I share a company handbook, I tell The Brother Story and the Facts about Grandma.
The Brother Story
When I was nineteen and still in college, my much older, married brother sat me down to teach me of the world. He asked about my future and my goals as if I were in an interview. Then he invited me to ask him questionsÃ¢â¬âany questionsÃ¢â¬âI asked many. What struck and scandalized me at the time was that he answered every question, no matter how personal, except oneÃ¢â¬âHow much money do you make a year?
I thought he had his priorities screwed up for sure, telling me personal things, but keeping things of money secret. I told him as much. He said, Ã¢â¬ÅNever tell how much you make. People only need so much money to live, and the rest is gravy. If you knew my salary, it would change things.Ã¢â¬Â
Ã¢â¬ÅNo it wouldnÃ¢â¬â¢t. YouÃ¢â¬â¢d still be my come-here-grasshopper-learn-from-the-master, older brother.Ã¢â¬Â At the time I was too inexperienced and idealistic to understand what he was saying.
ThatÃ¢â¬â¢s why, when I relate The Brother Story, I always follow it with The Facts about Grandma. I figure if I needed something more concrete, other people might need it too.
The Facts about Grandma
Ã¢â¬ÅNow, listen to these facts about my sonÃ¢â¬â¢s grandma,Ã¢â¬Â IÃ¢â¬â¢ll say, Ã¢â¬Åand decide whether my brother was right.Ã¢â¬Â
- My sonÃ¢â¬â¢s Grandma retired.
- She used to manage a real estate office in downtown Chicago
- Her yearly bonus was US$20,000.
- When she retired, her boss gave her an extra US$30,000 bonus, a sterling silver champagne stand, and a magnum of MoÃÂ«t et Chandon.
- The bonus was 20% of her yearly salary.
Do you see how Grandma changed in five sentences? SheÃ¢â¬â¢ll never be the same Grandma she was before I revealed the information in the last three sentences. The changes in who Grandma seemed to be are proof of the rule.
When people know how much money you make it changes how they see you.
I donÃ¢â¬â¢t even tell Grandma how much I make.
–Me “Liz” Strauss
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