Discussing your salary information with your coworkers can lead to serious problems at work. While it's not technically illegal to discuss your salary, this talk could damage your workplace environment and get you in trouble with your employer. There are a few situations where it might make sense to talk about your salary, but you should handle them delicately so they don't backfire on you.
Your right to discuss your salary information with your coworkers is protected by the federal government. According to The New York Times, the National Labor Relations Act states that employers can't ban the discussion of salary and working conditions among employees. This would prevent employees from organizing themselves effectively and give employers an unfair bargaining edge.
However, this law doesn't guarantee you access to salary information. Only your coworkers can tell you their salaries. You can't force the human resources department to release this information. In some cases, your employer may want you to sign an employee salary confidentiality agreement, which would bar you from discussing this information freely.
Reasons Not To Discuss
Discussing pay with coworkers might create problems if you discover that your coworkers make more than you, as you could start feeling jealous and resentful. If you make more, the reverse could occur and your coworkers might become resentful of you.
As such, this discussion could badly damage the morale and teamwork in your workplace. You could also get in trouble with your employer, especially if he asked you not to discuss salary information. While your employer can't fire you for discussing your salary, he could make your job unpleasant or start looking for other reasons to let you go.
Reasons to Discuss
Despite the risks, there are a couple situations when it's worthwhile discussing your salary with your coworkers. If there's a good chance that you're significantly underpaid compared to your coworkers, it makes sense to have this talk. This way, you have a range to keep in mind when you try to negotiate a better salary with your employer, according to Monster.
It also makes sense to tell your salary to coworkers if you think everyone is underpaid. There are websites where you can compare your workplace's average salary to salaries for similar positions in other companies. If everyone is underpaid, you can work together to come up with a plan to convince your employer to raise wages.
Handling the Talk
If you are sharing salary information, you need to do so with care. Make sure to only talk with coworkers you trust. Everyone involved in the discussion should promise to keep the information to themselves, no matter what they learn.
An even safer way to learn the salaries of coworkers is to talk with those who have already left your company or at least moved to another department. Lastly, never talk about your salary during work hours. You should save this discussion for an official break or after work. Otherwise, you're wasting company time in addition to having a risky discussion.