In an age of pay gaps and unequal wages, when is it (if ever) appropriate to talk to my coworkers about salary?

Lee Latimer

Lee Latimer, Principal, LHLatimer Consulting
ACS Director-At-Large

First, this situation is not new to our age, it is just getting more awareness.  The base rule is “never.”  This is due to the potential that either you or a coworker is likely going to feel out of place and a situation will get worse.  A better approach is three fold.  Talk with your HR department or manager about the ranges for your position and how you are fitting the job.  Second is to be aware of the job market and related data for your situation. Perhaps even discreet investigations of other positions may give you new opportunities and information.  Third is to develop professional friends (i.e. your network) in similar positions in other companies to consider comparing with, or the ranges.  In the end, talk with management and HR is your best first solid step and share with them your concerns. 

Dharshi Bopegede

Dharshi Bopegedera, Chemistry Professor, The Evergreen State College
ACS Career Consultant

After you have been at the organization for at least one year and established yourself as a valuable member of that community. I also hope that you ask about wages when you interview. If your employer is not forthcoming, it will be very apparent. You may want to decide to go elsewhere. 

Holley Waldron

Holley Waldron, HR Business Partner, American Chemical Society

This is always a tricky question as we seek to understand perceived and real gaps. Discussions with co-workers about salary – if conducted at all – should be very carefully entered into.  We are inundated with data and reports as to the changing wage picture both domestic and internationally.  As you navigate through it all, rather than start with colleagues, I would begin with a conversation with my management, proceeding to Human Resources to individualize my review and ensure I am informed for both the present and future.

Tom Halleran

Tom Halleran, Recruiter, American Chemical Society

I would not recommend discussing your salary with coworkers.  If you believe that you should receive an increase in pay, this is something that should be discussed with your manager.  When considering a new job, it’s important to know what your “market value” is, how much the position(s) you’re interested in pay, and how to negotiate effectively.  I advise that you speak with an ACS Career Consultant if interested in learning more about any of these items.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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