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Back in November, I shared a piece about the “Real Media Salaries Spreadsheet” that was started by one of my colleagues and publicized the incomes of more than a thousand people working in media.

Now the New York Times has published a great new piece about this movement, on the breakdown of the taboos around pay transparency:

Open discussions of pay lay bare some of the basic contradictions that govern so many workplaces, which claim to embrace their workers like family while insisting, all the while, on professionalism and discretion. They are communities whose members care about one another and yet also know that their respective right to belong is based on their utility, perceived or actual. To ask a co-worker her salary — especially one who has worked at an institution for years — opens up deeper, unsettling questions. How valued are you in this community? Are you more valued than I am, or beyond what I perceive as your worth? Or have you undervalued yourself, been timid, clueless, exploited?

The article does a fair job of approaching the issue from different differences, including the social and professional comfort involved with even trying to change the expectations around salary secrecy, and the actual data that reveals what happens when money matters are aired out in the open:

[U]sing data from a happiness survey that has been conducted in Norway since 1985 … Perez-Truglia found that the newfound accessibility of other people’s pay led to a significant increase in the happiness gap: Higher-income earners were happier than they were before the information was widely available, and lower-income workers were less happy.

In other words, I’m personally in absolute favor of sharing income information. There can certainly be room to negotiate within that — if you can make an argument to your employer that your skills and labor are worth more, for whatever reason, then by all means, go for it. But to do that successfully, you need information. And as long as the boss is hiding information from you, you’ll never really be able to haggle for a decent deal.

Breaking the Salary Sharing Taboo [Susan Dominus / The New York Times]

Image: Evan Jackson / Flickr (CC 2.0)

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