Should you really share your salary?

Discussing one's salary was once a taboo talking point, frowned upon as bad professional etiquette. Times may be changing, with some provinces even passing laws requiring pay transparency—but volunteering your salary info could come with downsides.

Driving the news: A survey from 2022 found that 84% of Canadians favour a nationwide pay transparency law requiring employers to list a salary range in job descriptions. 

  • Fairness was one of the top reasons cited for supporting pay transparency.  
  • Promoters of the practice argue that it closes pay gaps, increases competition for workers, and enhances morale. 

Yes, but: They might be overlooking some of the negative impacts it could bring about, one of which could be envy over earnings, according to a white paper from Western University’s Ivey Business School

  • It highlights a "self-serving bias" theory as a potential problem—people overestimate their performance and underestimate others.

  • So how would you feel if a colleague you think is less productive was making more than you? Probably resentful and demotivated, which isn't great for morale, productivity or career growth.

Why it matters: An even bigger problem might be that pay transparency might cost you a raise. A 2021 Harvard paper found that forcing employers to disclose salary resulted in a 2% wage decline across the board. 

  • It theorized that employers will refuse to boost wages for one worker to avoid paying others the same rate, resulting in lower wages for everyone.
  • However, employees with collective bargaining power (go unions!) or in markets with posted wages saw less of this effect.

Bottom line: Knowing what you're worth is vital to negotiating the salary you deserve, especially as the cost of living continues to rise. But you also want to maintain camaraderie with colleagues. Disclose your salary judiciously to avoid engineering an uprising in the office that could cost you.