Christiaan Lam – over de dagelijkse avonturen van een mobiele manager
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The S-word

What is YOUR salary?Last week I was having a phone conversation with one of my employees. Nothing special you should say. I was sitting in the hallway next to a soda-machine, that was whirring as soda-machines do, so I had to raise my voice a bit. I was unwary of the fact that I was sitting with my back to a very thin wall, that let my voice pass with ease. This employee of mine was getting a raise any time soon, and I told him so. I don’t think I mentioned his name, nor did I mention a specific amount. What I did do, was say the S-word.

While I was explaining this employee why he was getting a raise, a colleague walked up to me and hushed me. He said something akin to ‘hush, we can hear you through the wall, and you are having a salary-conversation!’. Surprised, I lowered my voice by several decibels and finished the conversation.

Later, it struck me. The question popped into my mind. Why the hush hush when the S-word is mentioned? For some reason there is a somewhat secretive air about salaries. And yes, I can understand it from an enterprise-intelligence point of view (other companies would probaly love to know what we pay whom exactly). But from any other point of view.. why the secrecy?

That secrecy is in my opinion not warranted because you should be able to explain to everybody why this salary is higher than that one. Why ones salary is higher than the one of the next person or vice versa. If it is company policy to shut up about salaries, would that company have something to hide? Probably not (and it is most likely not official company policy anyway but unwritten policy), but it is still somewhat strange that we are so secretive about it. Must be a cultural remnant of… something…

For me personally, I am not ashamed of my salary and people around me may know it. Just mentioning the S-word should most certainly not send the proverbial pigeons flying up in indignant surprise.

If you, as a company, have a fair, transparant and just system of salaries, there should be nothing to be ashamed of and no need to be overly secret or touchy about salaries. How secret is your salary?

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