Why you should know how much your coworkers get paid

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From time to time, I come across a TED talk that is notable in terms of challenging traditionally-held views, and widely-spread conventional business practices.

David Burkus’ TED talk on salary openness and total pay transparency is one such talk.

Think about it.

If I were to give a TED talk on how teams should work better together, how managers should listen to their employees more, how important innovation is to organizational success, few people would resist the message or openly disagree. Putting those ideas into practice might be a more difficult task, but conceptually I would have virtually all of my audience on board from the outset.

If, however, I were to give a TED talk on how every employee in an organization should know what every other employee earns… excuse me? You’re joking, right? This is a concept that challenges even the most progressive of us, and would immediately be met with open resistance by many.
And yet, this is exactly what Burkus’ TED Talk recommends.

Even more remarkably, he explains how this model can benefit, and not hurt, organizations as a whole. Pay secrecy leads individuals to assume they are underpaid, or paid less than their colleagues, even when they are not. Remove the secrecy, Burkus contends, and organizations provide an increased sense of fairness and collaboration inside the company. He claims this makes happier more motivated employees, contrary to the assumption that such a practice might cause jealousy and discord.

From the employee’s perspective, removing pay secrecy and information asymmetry allows parties to negotiate in better faith, and not feel taken advantage of. It may, in fact, prove to be the easiest way to eliminate the gender wage gap, and other arbitrary, real or imagined, pay disparities in the workplace.

This is definitely a thought-provoking TED talk worth watching.

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