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Schmolke Investment Team

The Taboo Subject of Pay

Pay. Let’s talk about pay for a minute. To an employee, it is the most important aspect of a job. To the employer it is as well, just not for the same reason. It is also a taboo subject to speak about. So much so that some employers have policies against talking about it and will threaten disciplinary action against anyone they find speaking about it. But why shouldn’t we talk about pay? I mean it is the REASON we go to work. We need to make money to participate in society. So shouldn’t an employer ENCOURAGE talk about pay, since they are the one who is paying you, after all? It is ultimately is the thing that makes this behemoth economy go.

Do you want to bomb an interview? Ask about what the position pays before the “proper time” (who even knows what the proper time is?). The interviewer wants you to care about the company and working, not how you are going to feed your family. That’s why American Express (click here for story) is adding pay ranges to it’s job postings. It won’t give an exact amount a certain position is going to pay but honestly, they really can’t. It will depend on whatever experience and qualifications a candidate has. I would expect to pull a higher salary if I have 10 years of experience than if I was brand new to the industry/position.

Why is it such a taboo to talk about? The answer to that lies in inequality. Most of these companies know that they want to pay certain people more than others and don’t want to have to justify it. Whether it comes from internal biases, nepotism or something else, some people are just going to make more money than others. Well, what if someone has the exact same qualifications and experience and job title as the next person? Shouldn’t they be compensated equally?

What I am trying to do here is to normalize talk about pay. Only when we can talk about it is when we start to see some real change for pay equality. That is one positive thing that has happened in the very recent past, this kind of talk is becoming more and more common among people. It will make this country a better place for all of us to work and raise families.

Let me tell you a personal story. A former employer of mine hired me on to an entry level position. They also gave me a small pay bump because I had a Master’s degree and that was above the minimum qualifications. A coworker of mine was in grad school for the same exact degree. This individual started working at this organization about 2 months before me, so other than the degree, our qualifications and experience were pretty much the same. Well, they graduated with their MBA and received the same pay bump as I did. OK, you thought it would be this easy? No, they got more than me. I knew this because we could look up other employees’ pay on our system. That was the moment I started a new job search and my performance went down to the minimum. Same qualifications, almost identical experience, same job title. Different pay. This didn’t sit right with me, especially since I was on the short end of it. I “quiet quit” that position, even though that wasn’t a saying back then, it’s exactly what I did and I wouldn’t blame anybody else for having the same reaction.

Pay secrecy breeds resentment. Let’s do better.


Keep being kind to each other!