Pay transparency

How to Get Over the Taboo of Discussing Your Salary

How much money do you make? An awkward question, isn’t it? For the majority of people, inquiries about their finances do seem rather disrespectful and ill-mannered.

According to a poll conducted by, more than half of all US employees find it uncomfortable to discuss their salary. So, how can we achieve freedom in talking about wages? More so, how can we ask for a raise without turning red on the spot?

Well, there are practical tips on building toward pay transparency and openly turning tough talk about pay into constructive dialogue. Need a push to overcome the fear and anxiety of discussing money? Dive into the basic points that will help you feel more comfortable negotiating salary and get you prepared for a fruitful discussion.

But first: why is discussing your salary such a taboo?

Why are so few employers and employees willing to talk about concrete figures? Through centuries, social norms have changed drastically. But somehow when it comes to money, it’s often considered inappropriate or even rude to discuss your income. On the individual level, every aspect of our finances is closely connected with the negative feelings about money: worry, anxiety, and stress. On a cultural level in America, the subject of salary tends to be discussed as though it reflects your worth as a human—an equally troubling and uncomfortable subject matter.

Luckily, there’s a good piece of news here – you can build your own money-positive story. In fact, many communities have already built cultural norms around discussing money (for example - check out fishbowl chats). Younger generations are starting to break an unspoken ban imposed on disclosing salaries. So let’s learn how to demolish the taboo of salary discussion, shall we?

How to Discuss Salary Openly

  1. Prepare to negotiate
    Are you apprehensive about a salary negotiation? You’re not the only one. According to a survey by Harvard researchers, 48% of respondents admit they always get nervous before such a discussion. It’s much easier to get ready for a talk, if you know the basics and get expert advice on salary negotiations. David Patterson-Cole, CEO & Co-Founder of Moonchaser, says, “Transparency and clarity breed trust and that’s why we need to speak about salaries openly. Our preparation to negotiate should start with not fear, but honesty.” He also believes that accepting anxiety as a normal feeling is a preliminary step to any sensible and effective dialogue. “Acknowledge that you’re worried. That’s absolutely normal for a person. Then, analyze what exactly makes you so anxious. Most likely, it’s the lack of information,” he adds.
  2. Do research on salary ranges
    Most of the time salary ignorance keeps workers underpaid. “People are simply uninformed about the salary possibilities they have. In addition, they are embarrassed to open up about their income,” says Christopher Moore, CMO at QuietLight. “Social anxiety about financial status has undergone noticeable transformations in the digital era, though.”

    Indeed, with some minimal research on the internet, you can get some data about the pay range at a particular company. Sometimes you can even learn about their total rewards system which may also include commissions, bonuses, benefits, and other perks. Some agencies do share this information publicly. If not, you may ask questions during the negotiation itself.

    Don’t forget to check salary ranges for digital, creative, and marketing jobs while also breaking down salaries by the cost of living and city. PS - Glassdoor or a chat with a recruiter are both great resources for salary research.
  3. Turn Tough Talk into Constructive Dialogue
    Pay negotiation is a pivotal step for both an employer and an employee. Let’s see how you can discuss salary explicitly and benefit from it depending on which seat you’re in during the salary negotiation conversation.

Discussion checklist for an employer:

  • Prepare and document all data about internal compensation ranges and payments.
  • Be ready to explain employee benefits, promotion plans, and policies at your company.
  • Create an individual promotion plan for an employee.
  • Make a list of alternatives you can offer if salary is non-negotiable past a certain point. (We even have help on what benefits employers may want to offer)

Max Wesman, COO at GoodHire, suggests that if we could get past this immensely powerful taboo of discussing salaries and get prepared more thoroughly up front, we would all benefit. “Salary transparency reduces discrimination, jealousy, and unexplained awkwardness at the workplace,” he says.

Discussion checklist for an employee:

  • Prepare a list of questions, remarks, arguments, etc. beforehand.
  • Do a rehearsal of the negotiation.
  • Talk as naturally and confidently as you can. (The more research you do, the easier this will be!)
  • Be honest with yourself and your employer at all times.
  • Indicate specific numbers. (don’t use any vague phrases)

But how do you price yourself? How to figure out the sum you deserve? You can easily determine your pay rate by learning the fundamental mechanisms of price adaptability.

TLDR; How to Cope with the Taboo around Discussing Money

Perhaps, you’re browsing open jobs in search of the best one with the highest salary right now. Or you might be an employer trying to find talent and pay for the job accordingly—no more, no less. In any case, talking about salaries is a highly sensitive and tricky topic, that’s for sure.

Pay transparency is something that is starting to become a new social norm, though it’s going very slowly. Strikingly, inadequate pay is one of the major reasons people are still leaving their jobs. Some simply leave their jobs, never bothering to negotiate salary with their bosses just because of the strong taboo around discussing money.

A robust preparation before the talk, as well as research on the pay ranges, will help eliminate the most common fears and organize a productive dialogue after which both sides will see advantages in their cooperation.

Do you still have doubts or worries? A recruiter may be just what you need to help you find a job that meets your salary and benefits expectations. Luckily for you, we’re right here!

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