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Why, and how, you should openly discuss your salary with colleagues

Salary transparency allows employees to compare their salary to colleagues and gain reassurance that they are being paid fairly. Picture: File

Salary transparency allows employees to compare their salary to colleagues and gain reassurance that they are being paid fairly. Picture: File

Published Apr 5, 2022


In various fields, disparities in wages between people in the same position are commonplace, says the School of Economic and Business Sciences at Wits University.

Worried that this might be the same in your workplace? There is a new school of thought that believes you may actually be better off talking openly with your colleagues about how much you earn. However, how you go about this, will make all the difference. (FYI, drunk at an office party is not the right setting).

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Labour law is on your side, as well, and under the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, workers can discuss their conditions of employment with their counterparts. This means that your employer may not permit or overtly discourage these types of talks in your company or organisation: it is within your rights as an employee.

Reportedly, millennials and Gen Z are far more open about talking about their salaries than previous generations.

This phenomenon known as ‘salary transparency’ has led to employees reporting feeling less underpaid and having more negotiating power, according to Forbes.

Here is how you can open the dialogue about salaries with your co-workers:

Create an environment of trust

This is a touchy subject; some of the people you work with may not be comfortable breaching the taboo of secrecy.

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You don’t need to be friends with the individuals you approach, but as long as there is a degree of respect, they will be open to hearing from you.

The why

Explain why you need this conversation; for example, you want to know if you are all earning the same.

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See how they react before continuing with your point.

Start with your own salary

Disclose how much you earn. This will cement the trust that you have established with them.

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It might also dispel any notion that you want to have this discussion for negative reasons.

Be respectful

Not everyone you speak with will be open to sharing their earnings with you.

Don’t force the matter. Respect their decision.

There will also be those who doubt or are unclear about your intentions. This does not have to be an instant discussion.


If you have found out that some of your co-workers are paid more than you, consider contacting your employer about this.

You must have all your points and data on hand before making this bold move. Question why this is as you do the same job. Be open to hearing what your employee has to say.

You have every right to ask to be compensated the same amount as being paid less is discriminatory towards you.

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