What happens when colleagues come clean about pay? It's complicated


Staff Member
4 Jun 2021
4,949 (4.44/day)
If ever there was a touchy subject, it's this one. Looks like in some cases it can help, but in others just hurts relationships and breeds resentment. However, it can help to know if you're being screwed over and get a better job elsewhere, as in this example.

When Martina, a 35-year-old IT analyst, told colleagues what she earned, they confirmed her worst suspicions. It wasn’t what they said, but what they didn’t say. Martina had seen similar roles to hers being advertised locally, all with a higher salary than her roughly £30,000 package. But when she brought it up with her co-workers, most of whom were men, “they all got uncomfortable”, she says. “None of them told me their salary, just that they were happy enough.” When a role was advertised in her organisation that sounded similar to hers, but with a higher salary, she took it up with management. “It didn’t go well,” she says.

Martina was told there was no budget for a pay increase. She went to HR to ask why new recruits were being paid more and was told all salaries had been benchmarked regionally. All, it seemed, except hers. Martina chased for this to be corrected, but there was always some problem or delay. Her morale was at rock bottom. “I’d had enough.”

She applied for another job. “I thought I would practise having an interview, but I ended up getting an offer.” Martina is now happy in her new, higher-paid role. But she reflects on how sour it became, not just with management but with her colleagues. “Some of them even told me they wished I had not said anything … I am from the Netherlands, where sharing your salary is not unusual.”

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